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. Aaron

    Nailed it.

    December 6, 2011 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. Jerry Senzee

    Great speech. Why do so many people whine about high taxes. The real issue is where are the tax revenues going. And why should the "capital-gains crowd " get to hide so much of their revenue while working people don't have that opportunity as the withholding is deducted from your paycheck beforehand.

    December 6, 2011 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. Joe

    There's a difference between class warfare and class frustration. Warfare means I hate you for being rich. Frustration means I hate you for being rich at my expense.

    December 6, 2011 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  4. TEDDY

    we are in the second Gilded Age. Where the rich and powerful controlled everything and the rest of us were left in the dust, The first time they exploited everyone for the sake of becoming rich and powerful. This led to the Great Depression. Seems like the same thing is happening again. This idea of no taxes on the very wealthy because it will stop job creation is so bogus. They have had 10 years of BUSH tax cuts but I see no job creation for us little people. Is this what we become a country with no future for our children. A country where only the children of the rich and powerful will have a future. Such a shame it is.

    December 6, 2011 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  5. tstorm

    The GOP has created the worst recession in US history and they won't lift a finger to get us out of it. How do conservatives honestly believe they will get the middle class vote? The Republican policy is simple: tax and spend. Tax the middle class and spend it on the rich!

    December 6, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  6. Byron

    As I recall the Dems had 2/3 majority under Obama after Obama was elected. They didn't repeal the Bush tax cut etc when they had the chance so now their words are just hot air.

    December 6, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. Nameb Willis

    A barf bag, please! Mr O is the worst offender in dividing this country ! He is evil

    December 6, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. Jerry Senzee

    There are only a handful of true democratic now in congress. Most have become Republicrats.

    December 6, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Mikey

    @Big George – Discretionary spending is down under President Obama. The big spender was GWB. Also, doesn't Congress, particularly the House, control speinding? Why don't you tell Boehner to do something?

    @david – so you don't think there are people going hungry? And you think they are running around with $400 phones? Please buy a clue?

    @howcouldIhave – I for one, don't believe you did. Nice try, though.

    @Steve-Ill – That's it, just blame the poor. You and clueless Newt.

    @citizenUSA – He can only propose. Congress has to act. He's doing as much as he can by Executive order, but it's not enough.

    December 6, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  10. Basia

    Stop blaming and start doing something about it !!! That is what a leader does.

    December 6, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Four and The Door wrote:
    ...and when businesses need to cut back, where do they do that? Pay less taxes? No. Pay less rent? No. Cut payroll? Yes. Eliminate jobs. That's the problem isn't it?
    Nope, that is not the problem. The people have already been laid off. The economy is stuck in rut waiting for demand to return. In fact, I've heard rumors that business have a couple of trillion saved up waiting to invest once the economy gets moving again.

    Conclusion, putting money into the pockets of corporations isn't a viable solution for stimulating the economy. There's no more room for it. The problem is lack of demand. Demand drives growth. Growth does not drive demand. Going out and hiring a bunch of people is not going to create customers out of thin air.

    December 6, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. rich

    So let us manufacture or step down and let a PRESIDENT clean up the mess.

    December 6, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Rick

    Equality for all. Bring us all down to the lowest common denominator. Right.This clown thinks he can win the elecvtion based on class warfare...

    December 6, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. JonathanGraham

    Looking for an instant fix for an economic crisis that took many years to create. It will not happen. The economy is sick not dying. The middle class needs to rise again. Obama is on the right path. Time and patience will see a better America.

    December 6, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. LOL

    Funny coming from someone that's exactly like Bush and hasn't done squat.

    December 6, 2011 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  16. daveil

    "The problem is the worst ever so It's not my fault I can't fix anything. And, by the way, Bush and the Republicans caused it." Same old excuses before he takes a vacation for 17 days in Hawaii. I'd actually be more upset if I though he would actually do anything but campaign if he stayed here. Beside Hawaii being his birth place and sunny and warm in December, it helps that the islands are 5 hours ahead of the East Coast so he can fire off a campaign speech for prime time news and still have most of the day left for the beach.

    December 6, 2011 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  17. CJ

    Obama is not the reason we had the worst financial crisis hit our country months before he was elected into office.
    We will not come out of this crisis within his first 4 years of office. The Great Depression took 12 years to get the unemployment rate below 10%. A reasonable expectation is that we will get unemployment down to under 7% by 2015 no matter who the President is. We need to spend more time focusing on who we vote for in Congress. That is where the real problem is.

    December 6, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. John

    My parents grew up in the Great Depression and are still alive, just from talking to them I get things were much different back then than they are now. The biggest difference is back then life was much harsher by working standards, but at the same token being poor or near poor didn't mean you were an outcast like you are now. What I mean by that is there wasn't such a big class divide as there is now and most everyone helped people back then who were in need. I'm not saying that there aren't people today helping the poor and needy, but there isn't as many. You have a some of the rich saying that the poor are lazy bums and should get a job, while at the same time saying are economy is bad. However, you have some of the poor not being motivated in looking for a job and looking for Government handouts and pointing fingers at the rich for being greedy. Instead of pointing fingers at each outer, everyone should be helping each other out and not relying on the Government to help them out. The rich need to start taking chances in hiring people and stop worrying if the Government is going to raise their taxes and also stop shipping these jobs overseas. In the same token the poor are going to have to stop relying on living on the Government Dole, by actively looking for work and swallowing their pride an accept private charity. I know what I wrote is a little simplistic for our nations troubles run deeper than this, but I firmly believe if we stop worrying who will win the 2012 election and start helping each out then we all can turn this economy back where most of the 15 million people who currently are unemployed have jobs.

    December 6, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. kim johnson

    O'Bama 2012! The president is right. I am tired of paying taxes while the rich tare getting richer. Any fool that wants that is crazy. I can't beleive that alot of people are poor, and can't see there way out of paying bills and keeping food on the table. But they are still against what President O'bama is trying to do. How can you not know where your next meal is coming from becasue you are paying high taxes. But you will still be a republican and know that they are rich becasue you are paying higher taxes. They don't care if you can't feed your families. As long as they can feed theirs. Most republicans can't even send there children to college because of paying higher taxes, while the republicans leaders childrens education is well taken care of because you all are dumb enough to keep paying higher taxes so the leaders can get tax breaks. How dumb can you be. I will never vote republican becasue all they care about is there selves, and their families. Forget yours!!!!

    December 6, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. David

    Obama again is demonstrating greatness, the repubs and dems in the senate and congress are the problem – it is not a dictatorship so stop blaming Obama for the moronic actions/inaction of the house and senate.

    December 6, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. mike a.

    wow never been so proud to be an american as today, thanks to our president ! barack obama 2012 !

    December 6, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. Goooo

    Obama 2012!

    December 6, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. D Moore

    Obama is a Socialist , and has come close to admiting it. Just look at the EU today. Going broke because of excessive spending on citizens who want something for nothing. The same crap Obama preaches. He has to be defeated at the polls.

    December 6, 2011 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. son of john

    How many morons does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    December 6, 2011 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. newbloodindawhitehouse

    He is most eloquent BSer in the history of politics. This narcissist takes no responsibility for his actions or inaction, which have contributed the most for the worsening and deepening of our current situation.

    December 6, 2011 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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