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Obama pledges support for the middle class and is prepared to bypass Congress

Wednesday, January 29th 2014 - 21:20 UTC
Full article 26 comments
“Average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled”, said the president in his State of the Union speech to Congress “Average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled”, said the president in his State of the Union speech to Congress

US President Barack Obama displayed his strategy for getting around a divided Congress starting with a wage hike for federal contract workers in a State of the Union speech on Tuesday that reflected scaled-back legislative ambitions after a tough year.

 Obama made clear in his address that he is willing to bypass US lawmakers and go it alone in some areas by announcing a series of executive actions aimed at boosting the middle class, many that do not require congressional approval.

Obama told the Congress that he is eager to work with lawmakers, “but America does not stand still - and neither will I.”

“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do,” Obama said.

The president announced that he is issuing an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers with new contracts. Obama also called on Congress to pass a bill to increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 and index that to inflation.

Issuing the order allows the Democratic president to bypass Congress, where Republicans oppose a broad increase in the minimum wage. But liberals felt Obama's move did not go far enough, arguing that he should have extended the wage hike to existing federal contracts.

Obama also said he is offering a set of “concrete, practical proposals” to speed up economic growth and strengthen the middle class, which he says has lost jobs because of shifts in technology and global competition.

“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.”

“The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by - let alone get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all,” Obama added.

To help Americans prepare for retirement, Obama will use executive authority to create a “starter” retirement savings account available through employers. He also wants to drop retirement tax breaks that apply to wealthy Americans already well positioned for retirement and increase the earned income tax credit for people without children.

To strengthen the long-term US fiscal position, Obama committed to paying for new initiatives and supporting more budget deficit reduction. Using his executive authority, Obama will start four more manufacturing innovation institutes this year and wants Congress to create up to 45 more. He also will pursue a trans-Pacific partnership and an agreement with the European Union to boost US exports.

The US President also urged Congress to pass an extension of emergency unemployment insurance. His efforts to get the long-term unemployed back to work will include a meeting this week with leading CEOs, and federal job-training programs will be reviewed to bring them in line with market demands. He also called for bringing outsourced work back to the United States and advocated discrimination protection for women and gays in the workplace.

Among other issues Obama renewed his call for securing US borders, cracking down on those who hire illegal immigrants and offering a path to citizenship, saying such reforms would create thousands of jobs and boost the economy by $1 trillion dollars over two decades.

The US President is trying to recover from a difficult fifth year in office, when immigration and gun control legislation failed to advance in Congress, his healthcare law struggled out of the starting gate, and he appeared uncertain about how to respond to Syria's civil war.

Categories: Economy, Politics, United States.

Top Comments

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  • ilsen

    Bypassing Congres with an “an executive order ” is that similar to a Decree? hmmm...

    Still, some of the Immigration Reform looks promising at first glance...

    Jan 29th, 2014 - 11:12 pm 0
  • Captain Poppy

    Kind of ilsen. However the President is very limited of what he can do. What he can do is declare an order that enables him to run, operate and administer the government. What he can't do is decree laws. If they are too outlandish, the opposing party will not allow it or groups like the ACLU will sue.
    As for immigration reform, I am all for easier immigration with sponsors, but I am not for rewarding people that came here illegally. While I agree something must be done but not citizenship, perhaps a path to it. It's a slap in the face to everyone who follows the law.

    Jan 30th, 2014 - 12:25 am 0
  • ilsen

    @2 Dear Poppy
    Much obliged for your considered response, Cap'n!
    Nice to know that some 'checks and balances' remain. Should update myself on US political legislation etc!
    I am all for CONTROLLED immigration, much good can come of it, if properly handled. Open, or uncontrolled borders, can lead to many problems. Too many to list here...
    However, I believe that to attempt the out-right prevention of the migration of people seeking a better life, for themselves and future generations, well, is going against nature itself. By that I mean Human Nature, the basic survival instinct. One can not prevent flocks of birds flying South for the Winter... or the reverse...
    Therefore it needs to be managed by properly-elected democratic governments who truly have the ‘mandate of the people’.
    There is a great need for firm and fair policies to be enacted now.
    However, IMO, the USA, EU and many other countries/ communities across the Globe have to recognise that they already have many ‘illegals’ in ‘in situ’.
    There lies the rub. They are human beings, They are ‘here’ so to speak. What would you do with them? hmmm...
    So, perhaps a tightening of US borders (surely Dept. Homeland Defense/NSA is on the case, these days?) and, as you suggested, “ a pathway” to citizenship is the answer? IMO there must be a way to 'regulate' these people so that they can become a part of
    'everyone who follows the law'
    as you rightly put it.
    PS: I was typing “ a pathway” too fast and it got Auto-Corrected to ‘apathy’ !!! hmm.. dare not comment on that! (see above)

    Jan 30th, 2014 - 03:06 am 0
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