Obama says economic 'inequality' hurts everyone
December 6th, 2011
02:25 PM ET
3 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. Roland

    Yes I seriously believe the economy is busted by only the GOP. All of their policies are based on a flawed ideological idea. That is if you give the top money it will trickle down. It doesn't work that way. History has proven that time and time again. Anytime the imbalance becomes too out of wack then you have economic collpase. This goes back to to many slaves causing the French Revolution and the over throwing of the monarchy system.

    December 6, 2011 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. george of the jungle

    dude romney care is to much like obama care. So the repos won't get behind it. Even if it is great. So far the health care has helped me a lot. Also Mitt is a mormon which to most born agains is like the devil incarnate. They consider mormonism a cult. I mean they only came up with this religion about 100 + years ago. Repos don't really care about the middle class or the poor. The whole thing is set up for people with money to make more. Now we have Trump telling them what to do. This is not reality TV people need jobs and help to improve this economy.They signed the pledge so screw all of us.

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

    Isn't he supposed to be vacationing in Hawaii for the next up-teen days?

    December 6, 2011 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. JohnRJ08

    Everybody here needs to the movie "Inside Job". About the collapse of the banking system in 2008. It is devastating. And it doesn't make Obama look too great, either.

    December 6, 2011 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. Jack

    Terribly misleading headline. He didn't compare the current economy to the Depression. He compared the economic inequality - the disparity between the very rich and everyone else - to the way it was during the Depression. Big difference! Please write an accurate headline!

    December 6, 2011 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. jay

    Does Capitol One seriously need to buy up 2/3 of the front page advertising space? Is that what all that bailout money went to?

    December 6, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  7. Dennis

    Hammerer, I case you have not noticed "class warfare" has been with us for a long, long time and the middle-class is just beginning to wake up and take action. Tax-cuts for the rich while they send jobs overseas???? Eliminate pension plans and employee benefits while they pay themselves HUGE bonuses??? Play heads I win and tails the taxpayer losses games on Wall Street. So Hammerer you can try and spin the Obama thing, but the working class Americans are a little smarter than that.

    December 6, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. JustaDad

    This president talks a Great game. His policies and neither match his speeches nor comprehend that stealing from the rich to give to (his campaign to re-elect)the labor unions just simply fail.

    December 6, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. matt

    This sounds more like the "great occupy speach"

    December 6, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. NotPartyControlled

    Great more finger pointing while giving a speech about the obvious with no personal responsibility. He should just take another vacation.

    December 6, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  11. prettywordsmeannothing

    Isn't this the same rhetoric that he used in his last campaign? Sounds like he thinks that nothing has changed. What has he been doing for the last 3 years? 2 of which he had the advantage of both House and the Senate. Oh, that's right, giving money to his buddies.

    December 6, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  12. TheBigT

    Wait, didn't Obama spend more on his campaign then anyone else in history. 750 million dollars. Guess he is one of those top people who can afford it that he speaks so lowly about.

    December 6, 2011 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. American Me

    What I never hear and always hope for – is that someone is going to put an end to corruption in Congress.
    Congress is now nothing but self-serving and corrupt politicians who are doing their best to destroy this country because that's what they've been bribed to do.
    I was hoping to hear news of a crackdown on Congress, but the President has always been hands-off. I cannot respect him for this even if he thinks it's not his job. It IS his job to enforce the law, and the laws are being broken.
    I liked what I saw of the speech. The President is a good speaker and has some of the best speechwriters I've ever seen, but this glaring lack of legal duty to enforce the bribery laws or to even call for an end to lobbying once and for all is just maddening. I cannot respect him for failing to do his whole duty to end the overwhelming corruption that also keeps him from doing those duties that he IS willing to do.
    It's just a macabre joke to do all this other stuff right and then cut everything off at the knees because you couldn't enforce the law and throw out the corrupt criminals masquerading as legislators.

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

    then stop giving bailouts to the rich bankers.

    December 6, 2011 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  15. J0nx

    Yep he's right. Most of it thanks to him and CONgress for felating the banksters instead of arresting and trying them for fraud. The politicians are all selling out the American people for the promise of 'power' and a few shillings. Probably always been that way but it's certainly more in your face nowadays and more evident due to our current financial predicament.

    December 6, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. GoUSA

    I think this is a good speech by President Obama. I think something was definitely right about it– people are working hard. I had some trauma back in 2001 that led ME to a slow recovery. However, I never did give up about trying to get myself back to work and to stay in school, although it was tough along the way considering the degree to which I was hurt. Today I just landed a job again and I'm glad. "Occupy" movement is freedom of speech, and everyone has their own idea/opinions about it. Hope everybody's safe, though!!!
    -–
    I am sure that we can do this, God is a great God and I see Him as part of our Nation. As long as we keep praying, keep trying, and keep respecting each other with love that is really in all hearts, we will make it and succeed. We all see success differently, but success in my opinion is lifting others up and trusting in God to keep you together.

    December 6, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  17. somebody

    Isn't he and his family supposed to be vacationing in Hawaii for the next up-teen days?

    December 6, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    the guy is right! Republicans will nitpick at this and nitpick at that, distort almost all of what he's saying; we've seen that plenty of times before. They'll try to simplify his message and say that he's just for increasing taxes. They'll take his message out of context and say that he is trying to blame Republicans when Democrats also have blame. It's not about any of that. Listen to what he's saying. He's talking about inequality, just like one of the greatest Republican presidents this country has ever known: Teddy. Republicans: Put your distractions and distortions aside, and just listen to what he's saying.

    December 6, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. Voice of reason

    How anyone can defend the Republicans is beyond me. It was under their watch the economy failed. It was Republican Neo-Cons who got us into Iraq war for no good reason, I have been their twice so shut the F up I saw that dump first hand. The current POTUS has done a hell of a job when it comes to the Obama doctrine of killing the terrorist that are actually trying to kill Americans. Blaming Obama for the economy is like blaming the tow truck driver trying to get your car out of the ditch and then a bunch of Republicans come running up trying to push the car back in the ditch. Republicans are ALL a joke and it would be funny if it wasn’t for it being real life.

    December 6, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. 1crusader

    Great speech. The president is the only person in the race who is fighting for , and the voice of ,the middle class.There is no one else; and if middle class or poor people vote for Romney, Gingrich, or any other of the GOP candidates for president( and even for Congress); they will vote against their own best interests ( because all of the policies that they embrace will have a negative effect on the average voter), and they will end up with exactly who, and what they deserve.

    December 6, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  21. RealGlaird

    I just love this guy. Yes it is just like the Great Depression. But I guess he and his advisors are so stupid, they literally repeated every single gov't folly tried in the Great Depression that failed. And look at this, it failed again. Now, I guess I'm suppose to trust him to muck up the next 4 years even worse. And since we are repeating history, mindlessly, stupidly, thoughtlessly, in about 5 years from now, we will solve all of our economic problems with a world war.
    Okay casting calls for the next Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin. Line forms to the right.

    December 6, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. Tina-Kansas

    It started way before Obama. Can't solve it in 4 years let alone when Congress can't work together. Used to be middle class. No longer........Just feel that the United States is backwards at times..who's getting the big bucks...and the workers' are losing.............I feel for my daughter's the next generation and she is college educated........

    December 6, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. Clayton Kelly

    Taxes have been pretty low for quite some time. They've been lower under Obama...at least I know mine have. I'm starting to think the "job creators" might be doing something with all the money other than creating jobs. That's their business I suppose but I don't think they're worthy of all the kisses on the rear they've been getting from congress. If we cut government spending before the "job creators" decide to "create jobs" it will just make the economy worse. I like teachers and I like garbage collectors. Hedge fund managers don't do much for me.

    December 6, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. oreo

    So I guess you are going to spend more money we do not have. smart.

    December 6, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  25. Shankar Parajuli

    Although I share most of his views, what about people that intentionally don't work hard or don't contribute to the society? I fear those people might become free riders when we stress too much about equality, not responsibility which I think is equally or even more important.

    December 6, 2011 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
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