Weekly Address: President Obama – Continuing to Strengthen the Middle Class

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, President Obama highlighted wage growth over the course of his presidency. Since 2012, real wages have grown about 20 times faster than they did for almost three decades between 1980 and 2007. Last year, typical household income rose by $2,800 – the single largest increase on record. Across every race and age group in America, incomes rose and poverty rates fell; and 3.5 million people were lifted out of poverty – the largest one-year drop in the poverty rate since 1968. Thanks in part to states and communities that have raised the minimum wage, lower- and middle-income families saw the biggest boost in incomes. Although we’ve made significant progress, the President said more work needs to be done to strengthen the middle class – and this starts with a Congress that will put politics aside and act on commonsense ideas.

Transcript: Weekly Address: Continuing to Strengthen the Middle Class

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address, The White House, October 8, 2016

Hi, everybody. Eight years ago, we were in the early stages of what would become the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. It was a scary time. We didn’t even know where the bottom would be.

But thanks to your hard work and determination, and some smart decisions we made, today’s a different story. We turned a recession into a record streak of job growth, creating more than 15 million new private-sector jobs and cutting the unemployment rate in half.

Getting wages to rise again was a harder task. Even before the recession, working Americans faced decades of slow wage growth. Between 1980 and 2007, real wages barely grew each year. But because the policies we’ve put in place are working, working families are finally seeing their wages and incomes rise, too. Since 2012, wages have grown around 20 times faster than they did over the almost three decades between 1980 and 2007.

Last year, folks’ typical household income rose by $2,800. That’s the single biggest increase on record. And across every race and age group in America, incomes rose and poverty rates fell. We lifted 3.5 million people out of poverty – the largest one-year drop in the poverty rate since 1968.

What’s more, lower- and middle-income families saw the biggest boost in incomes – in part because 18 states and the District, as well as more than 50 communities, have given millions of Americans a raise by raising the minimum wage. And states that have raised their minimum wage have seen stronger earnings growth in low-wage jobs compared to states that have not.

Strengthening benefits at work helps, too. Last week, for example, I took action to make sure up to one million more workers can earn seven days of paid sick leave on the job. We’re also helping states expand opportunities for workers to save for retirement. But there’s a lot more we should do to strengthen the middle class and help more Americans get ahead. Making childcare more affordable, for example. Making sure women earn equal pay for equal work. Guaranteeing paid family and sick leave. Increasing the federal minimum wage. Preparing workers for the jobs of the future. And closing tax loopholes that benefit just the wealthy and big corporations.

Now we just need a Congress that cares about these issues – one that will finally put politics aside and act on these commonsense ideas. That’s how we’ll build on the progress we’ve made over these past eight years, and achieve one thing we should all agree on – securing a brighter future for all our children.

Thanks everybody. Have a great weekend.

Bolding added.

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  4 comments for “Weekly Address: President Obama – Continuing to Strengthen the Middle Class

  1. JanF
    October 8, 2016 at 6:34 am

    President Obama:

    Now we just need a Congress that cares about these issues – one that will finally put politics aside and act on these commonsense ideas. That’s how we’ll build on the progress we’ve made over these past eight years, and achieve one thing we should all agree on – securing a brighter future for all our children.

    Wait, wait, call on me! I know exactly where we can find a Congress that cares about these issues – on our ballots this election cycle. Vote for Democrats … up and down the ticket and give President Hillary Clinton a Congress that will work for the American people instead of for the special interests.

  2. JanF
    October 8, 2016 at 6:41 am

    President Obama in The Economist – The way ahead:

    WHEREVER I go these days, at home or abroad, people ask me the same question: what is happening in the American political system? How has a country that has benefited—perhaps more than any other—from immigration, trade and technological innovation suddenly developed a strain of anti-immigrant, anti-innovation protectionism? Why have some on the far left and even more on the far right embraced a crude populism that promises a return to a past that is not possible to restore—and that, for most Americans, never existed at all? […]

    Much of this discontent is driven by fears that are not fundamentally economic. The anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment expressed by some Americans today echoes nativist lurches of the past—the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Know-Nothings of the mid-1800s, the anti-Asian sentiment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and any number of eras in which Americans were told they could restore past glory if they just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. We overcame those fears and we will again.

    But some of the discontent is rooted in legitimate concerns about long-term economic forces. Decades of declining productivity growth and rising inequality have resulted in slower income growth for low- and middle-income families. Globalisation and automation have weakened the position of workers and their ability to secure a decent wage. Too many potential physicists and engineers spend their careers shifting money around in the financial sector, instead of applying their talents to innovating in the real economy. And the financial crisis of 2008 only seemed to increase the isolation of corporations and elites, who often seem to live by a different set of rules to ordinary citizens.

    He goes on to outline his ideas on the steps the next president should take – a progressive vision. He concludes with this:

    For all the work that remains, a new foundation is laid. A new future is ours to write. It must be one of economic growth that’s not only sustainable but shared. To achieve it America must stay committed to working with all nations to build stronger and more prosperous economies for all our citizens for generations to come.

  3. JanF
    October 8, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Labor Secretary Tom Perez on an economy that works for everyone:

    The American economy in September again continued its strong recovery from the greatest economic crisis of our lifetimes, adding 156,000 jobs. All told, the private sector has added 15.3 million jobs since February 2010; this month’s report continued the longest streak of overall job growth on record.

    This month’s report shows more people getting back to work and finding jobs. As more people moved into the labor force, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.0 percent. The labor force participation rate in September rose to 62.9 percent. Over the last 12 months, more than three million more people have entered the workforce.

    Other measures affirm the strength of the economy. Consumer confidence is now at the highest level we’ve seen during the recovery. Initial unemployment insurance claims remained near historic lows in September. For 83 consecutive weeks, these initial claims have remained under 300,000 – a streak we’ve not seen since 1970.

    Though I am encouraged by our continued progress, we have more work to do to ensure that everyone gets a chance to share in this recovery. Sensible policy recommendations such as expanding access to paid leave and raising the minimum wage are critical to sustained and shared economic growth. With just over 100 days left in this administration, we remain as committed as ever to building an economy that works for everyone.

  4. JanF
    October 8, 2016 at 7:02 am

    First Lady Michelle Obama on her White House Kitchen Garden and Let’s Move initiative:

    Remarks:

    I had this crazy idea that what if we planted a garden on the White House lawn to start a conversation about where our food comes from and how it impacts our children’s health. Well, fast-forward to spring of 2009 — Barack actually won; he won twice. (Applause.) And we finally got settled in. Girls were in school. We knew which doors went to which rooms, and that’s when we decided to move forward on this idea of planting a garden. […]

    I take great pride in knowing that this little garden will live on as a symbol of the hopes that we all hold of growing a healthier nation for our children — aspirations that have their rightful place here, in this beautiful spot outside of our nation’s home.

    I take pride in knowing that this garden will serve as a reminder of what we all started, but also what we all have left to do. And as we dedicate this garden here today, I am hopeful that future First Families will cherish this garden like we have, and that it will become one of our enduring White House traditions.

    Let’s pass this on to a Democratic president, one who would cherish that garden and celebrate the energy that went into creating it.

    From the White House: Dedication of the White House Kitchen Garden

    Underneath the new arbor rests an inscription stone, which reads:

    WHITE HOUSE KITCHEN GARDEN
    established in 2009 by
    First Lady Michelle Obama
    with the hope of growing a
    healthier nation for our children

    More at the link.

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