Obama says economic 'inequality' hurts everyone
December 6th, 2011
02:25 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama says economic 'inequality' hurts everyone

(CNN) - President Barack Obama said Tuesday that economic inequality in America is at "a level we haven't seen since the Great Depression" and "hurts us all."

"When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom," Obama said in a speech pushing for Congress to approve provisions of his jobs package.

"Inequality also distorts our democracy," he continued, sounding a theme expressed by Teddy Roosevelt in a speech more than a century earlier. "It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them - that our elected representatives aren't looking out for the interests of most Americans."

Obama said that congressional Republicans "want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years."

"Their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules," Obama said in a speech pushing for passage of provisions of his jobs package. "Well, I'm here to say they are wrong."

Sounding a theme from a speech more than a century earlier by Teddy Roosevelt, Obama said: "I'm here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own."

"I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules," he said. "Those aren't Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They're American values, and we have to reclaim them."

Filed under: Economy • President Obama
soundoff (253 Responses)
  1. JusticeforALL

    Obama is AWESOME! Everything he says is sensible.
    Don't blame Obama if Congress holds up his plans for advancing America.
    BLAME YRSELF for voting for them!
    BTW, how can anyone still be a REPUBLICAN?!? ewww

    December 6, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. hes a jerk

    When did you become a millionaire? You made more money than most during your these last three years while playing a victim. Dont you have a birth certificate to hide?

    December 6, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  3. rudeawake

    This is the 2nd Great Depression. Economists and politicians need to study that era. Just a reminder of how gvt is unprepared to represent the people. History repeats itself. Just like the 30's educated middle class people are out of work, business is lacking, and food is an issue. Only difference is now the drought is financial, and people are unable to purchase food. Obamas message is clear, realize the current need before there is chaos. He can't do it alone. He is a vocal president. Bush didn't talk about the economy until the end of his presidency.

    December 6, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  4. elpmet66

    The democrats and Obama will not be happy until they take all of our money and we are communist. It will not work, nwver has, never will. This guy needs to be shown the door. The republicans could put up Mickey Mouse and he would win. We need a leader not a joker like him.

    December 6, 2011 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Can we not have a political conversation without someone bringing up racism? I am an African-American, and I get tired of hearing that same tired excuse time and time again. When will we stop making excuses and and take responsibility for our own actions?

    December 6, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. JR

    If the people screaming bloody murder over getting their taxes raised 2 or 3 % somehow woke up tomorrow morning with income near or below the poverty line like many Americans, I don't believe they'd think marginally raising taxes was so outrageous. Yes, we as Americans have it a lot better than most other places in the world, but working for practically all day and still barely being able to afford the most basic luxuries and pleasures doesn't really sound too appealing, does it?
    And don't give me that bull about "if you're not rich it's your own fault." Our economy NOR our education system is stable or efficient enough to make a general statement like that. I can see why there would be some disapproval, especially with all of the unnecessary spending the government does, but the tax raise (if implemented effectively) would benefit the majority of Americans. There are a lot of businessmen and companies complaining about their products and services not generating enough money, but refuse to believe (or care) that a big part of the reason is because their consumers are struggling.

    December 6, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. Betty

    It's obvious to any true Christian: Democrats are on God's side; Tea/Republicans are on Satan's side.

    December 6, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Texas Billy

    The Republicans had better listen to this speech. Obama has thrown the first punch in the war for the presidency.

    Give them hell BARRY!

    OBAMA 2012

    December 6, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. dew

    Cant belive that

    December 6, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    CanadaOne wrote:

    WOW!!! he made republicans look REAL STUPID! Can they really be that stupid – their record with Bush did show it.
    If I was an Amercian I would vote ALL REPUBLICANS OUT OFFICE and leave not one in Congress or the Senate
    Republicans are not that stupid. They know that most of the people who vote for them are that stupid. Study after study has shown that the average registered Republicans has a much lower level of education than the average registered Democrat. While that alone is not a measure of stupidy, it is a measure of experience in independent problem solving and decision making. Most Republican voters want someone to make their decisions for them, while most Democrats tend to be much better informed than their counterparts.

    December 6, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. whatajoke

    If he really believed, "I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules," then there would be NO WELFARE! Not for the corporations and not for the "poor".


    December 6, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. steven

    We are in a great depression. Only thing making it not look like it is unemployment benefits, welfare and social security. All that did not exist in the beginning of the great depression. Take away those govt checks and we would have bread lines all over the nation once again.

    December 6, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Name al2.0

    All true, 11 years of not raiseing taxes has not worked bill era taxes worked and this will too

    December 6, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  14. John

    This is coming from a multi-millionaire. Please he knows nothing of what the rest of us are going through. He should try paying what I have to for health care these days, all thanks to his plan to raise prices for all.

    December 6, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Al

    I loved his speech, students need an education so that when they graduate they are not in debt, but at the same time in the same speech he wants banks to make loan process easier for students. Which is it Obama? He wants everyone to do their fair share, does that include the career rats on welfare for over 6 years? Or does it only apply to those that are working? It's time to let people decide what they want to do with their lives, it's not up to the government it's up the individual, PERIOD.

    December 6, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. Atticus Finch

    Save the middle class via tax cuts? I don't think that $1500 is going to save anyone. Not much is going to save anyone in the short run. We need to balance the federal budget, promote job growth, end these wars, stop expanding the federal budget, end the deficit – all things Obama is not doing. You can be a hard core Dem or Rep, but in the end you have to realize both parties are spending and war mongering this country into a depression. We need to end these stupid party loyalties and vote someone in office that will do what they say – and we as individuals need to take action.

    December 6, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  17. Kalikush

    I liked the person who said she/he was fine 3 years ago and now is in deep crap and it's all Obama's fault!
    I don't know whether I want to kick that person or feel extremely sorry for him for being so STUPID.
    PLS read up on a some current history past 3 year (lol) and maybe what you could have done to prevent yr current state of events, before spreading your ignorance, my GOD!

    December 6, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  18. JB

    People let's be honest I work in a underprivileged neighborhood by definition low income, high unemployment and so on. I sure don't see any starving people in fact quite the opposite many are over weight and should eat less. They seem to manage to have mobile phones and other items that are not essential to survive.

    December 6, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. Chris

    It's crazy how many of these comments blatantly lie/use patently false info or state facts then somehow manage to support the opposite position. It's conspiracy theorist-esque, but if the rich's plan was to suck up the money and leave the middle class too stupid to defend itself.... It's working.

    The old boys network that has lead to our current situation can be defeated, we have instant access to a world's worth of information.... Start using it to rate people on their actual worth – based on actual facts and objectively against a target. A meritocracy where your pay is determined by what you do not who you know is all Obama is talking about. In the information age, it's the logical evolution of our society. Instead, most of you take the easy way – gut feel, angry, BS claims, arguments, and votes often out of touch with your own interests had you actually taken the time to think through/understand them.

    December 6, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  20. Obama2012portland, oregon

    Obama is so right. Quit placing party before your country republicans (and some democrats), and placing the dollar above your countrymen. you cant get rid of govt, its the glue thst holds our socciety together. We are far off from a 1984 type govt, so... Republicans.... Get a grip. In theory you guys got points, in reality... Look around. Bush got us here, and you blame obama even know he has made more economic gains in 4yrs than all of bush's 8. Oh... And republicans PIZZA MAY BE A VEGGIE IN THE SOUTH, BUT NOT IN THE REST OF THE WORLD.

    December 6, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  21. amnotin1%

    I just don't get it why a lot of ppl got mad because of the tax increase to those in the 1%. Unless u r in that group u should be happy because ur tax goes down. I think, if u r not in the 1% u have no reason to cry about the tax increase. Don't worry about the 1%, because those who stay here with their biz will stay. But those who will take their biz to China they'll regardless of ur fight for them. So, plz don't cry their cry for nonsense reasons.

    December 6, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  22. cab

    obama has done more for special interest groups than anyone in congress. He's also collecting the largest campaign fund in the history of america, yet he is telling us how it's the republicans who are the offenders. The scary thing is that most of you posting here aren't smart enough to see the truth. You blindly believe it all, while it is him and the dnc who are committing these offenses. Please open your eyes to the truth. It's not that hard.

    December 6, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Bigdoglv: The GOP (you) wants to cut spending because that puts the burden on the middle class. Most spending benefits the middle class. By saying the problem is spending, you are saying that asking the top 1% to do their fair share is not an option. You are the problem.

    December 6, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  24. Nash

    Reading comments from right wingers makes you wonder if we live in the same country. My question to these idiots is who started two wars that were unpaid for and hid the costs out of the federal budget? Had Obama done that he would have been crucified alive. What is amazing is as with many great Presidents this President will be vilified to no end but when it is said and done he will pass down in history as one of the greatest Presidents. His speech channelling Roosevelt just shows how a once great party of ideas has been hijacked by loons hell bent on destroying this country. It is pity that many fight against their own self interest to further an ideology that is losing steam fast. Can these people think 2050 when they will have to either rig elections or beg minorities to vote for them?

    December 6, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. Jerry

    This is the 2nd Great Depression. You can hide it under all the rhetoric and financial wrangling and double talk you want. He is finally saying something that is true. Until we deal with this "economic crisis" like the DEPRESSION that it is, nothing is going to get fixed.

    December 6, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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