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. mickey

    so it's only class warfare if the middleclass attempts to defend itself?

    December 6, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. james darnley

    no one commenting here has any answers.so don;t knock the president .a president who is truely out for the working man and the middle class.the republicans are out for there rich friends who along with them think there better and smarter then everybody else.they only believe all men are created equal if your one of them and everybody else is beneath them.this president can;t get anything done because the stupid voters saddled him with a republican controlled house.

    December 6, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. Tony

    If the republicans want to go back to 50's, this guy wants to go back to the 30's. This country's different just 10 years ago, let alone 70 years ago. The problem with both parties is that the're both living in the past.

    December 6, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Jtre

    Don't try selling me vegetables when you've fed me Chicken Nuggets.

    December 6, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. Humpty dumpty

    Says the great "speechifier" as he's on his way out the door to yet another campaign contribution "do" with the wealthy he's castigating. He is the hypocrite in chief. And no matter how you slice it he and the democrats are promoting a campaign rooted in class warfare! Jobs are outsourced simply because there is no penalty only benefit for doing so. Lay enormous taxes on outsourced jobs and you'll see them beat it back home.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. seebofubar

    Doea anyone give a rodents behind what this goof says any more? What's the news out of Wisconsin? Obama's good friend and jobs czar Jeff Immelt just anounced he's moving the entire GE X-ray division out of Wisconsin and over to China. Did anyone tell Jeffy boy he's supposed to create jobs here not in China? Obama is good at one thing.....pulling the wool over gullable americans eyes.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. ReallY!!?

    So the only way we can have INCOME EQUALITY is to change our economy fr capitalism where the hard working motivated and educated are successful to communism where everyone whether you work or choose not to are equal. That way the govt owns everything. Your house, your money, all the businesses and they distribute everything equally to all of us.

    We should try it right? Well Cuba did and look how well that is working out for them.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  8. T-Mac

    The only inequality in this country is there are a lot more people who want something for nothing than there are those who are willing to work for it.

    I am so sick of this guy and all his deadbeat, loser rhetoric.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. John

    I don't see many soup lines around the country. Do you? Boohoo, can't buy a new flat screen for Christmas.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  10. Michael

    It seems that everyone wants to heap blame on the shoulders of the President when he inherited a turd of an economy from a President who started a war based on a lie, costing the country TRILLIONS of dollars. He also has a Republican party who blocks EVERYTHING that he tries to do without even so much of a thought to a compromise. I find it hard to believe that if this was a WHITE Democrat as President, he/she would have nearly the attacks that have been made on him. When I voted for Obama, I knew full well that it would take his entire first term to undo some of the decisions made by previous administrations. However, we have become such a "what have you done for me lately" society, we lose sight of the long term. Yes, there is high unemployment, but those numbers are improving slowly.

    Class warfare has been around long before Obama took office. The rich want to stay rich and refuse to give their money away (or pay ANY kind of equitable tax rate) and the poor and middle class just want a chance to succeed.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. zappafrank

    Does he realize then that he'll be forever associated with it? Or will he do everything he can to pass the buck and claim that he 100% inherited it and didn't contribute in any way, shape, or form to it?

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. poorcollegestudent

    If America would transform into a self-LESS country and stop blaming your neighbor (Repub and Democ) for a problem that we both committed, progression would be possible. Until the day we realize that it is a collective effort on both parties, we will continue to remain stagnate.

    December 6, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. Duane - St. Pete FLA

    Obama has brought over regulation to the private sector in order to "be fair" to the working classes. He thinks him self a union leader of sorts. That's why you see high unemployment and lack of jobs. You can demonize the rich and the corpoations all you all want, but until the goverment backs off nothing will change. CNN had an article asking all you liberals if 70% taxation of the rich was fair....most said "yes". Fine, the rich will continue to take their business elsewhere while all you scrach your heads and wonder why? Please try and remember that goverment can not happen without tax dollars....and tax dallars come from productive people....not the poor.

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. cris

    Absolutely right, Mr. President! I'm so proud I voted for you. And the comments from the morons spewing Fox news talking points are super entertaining too!

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  15. dw

    Everyone is trying to blame Obama for all this but maybe we should be looking at our own legislators. This was happening long before Obama was elcted it just came to a head when he was in office. Our congressmen have been allowing all this to go on for years allowing companies to go to other countries to have cheap labor, allowing oil companies to have highest profits ever even in the midst of the worst recession in recent times. Maybe the system of checks and balances is severly flawed in government and the private sector by allowing this to happen.

    Thats all I have to say.

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. tinraleigh

    The thing that gets me the most is that if businesses would just pay people enough to live off of, they wouldn't need to raise taxes. Instead, big business is stuck with "What's the least amount we can pay these people and still get the same result?" There's something really wrong when the employees that make the product can't even afford to buy it.

    We have a president that actually works for the middle class and they're nothing but ungrateful. He doesn' t deserve us but he never stops working for us. Quite admirable I'd say. Bring on 4 more years!!!! You've got my vote AGAIN!!!!

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. buddyX

    Some things our government must do:
    Shrink government and imporve its OWN productivity(nothing like long DMV lines and government employees who unable to make a connection between their paycheck and people they are servicing), reform tax system, protect US jobs by not allowing companies outsource so easily (take example from China). Global economy sounds great only if every country played fair.

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  18. jrdee

    I would say that each political party is to blame. Perhaps its time for a new party; one that has the American people's best interest at heart.

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. chuchsheen9

    Who is he blaming now?

    December 6, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. Inthemiddle

    Obama is wrong to spend more, The Republicans are wrong to push AGAINST tax increases. Spending cust and tax increase both have to happen. If our budget isn't balanced ASAP -with all of us taking a big painful hit. Then we are all going to take a much, much larger hit shortly as our government can't pay its bill.

    Republican or Democrat doesn't matter. This mess started when Reagan decided we could run a deficit in the 80s. Since then every politician, republican or democrat has had to keep that deficit growing in order to keep our population happy and prospering on a house of cards. Any politician who platformed to take away our comfort did not get elected. That means the real problem is not the politicians, but our entire greedy, consuming society. We elected these people, we forced them to spend wrecklessly and we stopped them from fixing their mistakes (or we removed them from office if they tried). Look it the mirror everyone – its our fault, its our debt and now payment is due. People who blame others, deserve what they get – myself included.

    Cater to the middle class. Look through history, as the middle class goes, so goes the society as a whole. This is not class warfare. Any "rich" person calling it class warfare is doing so only to keep their pockets overflowing. Its shortsighted too, as the middle class fails miserably, it turns on the upper class. Not saying we are exactly the same, but we can see what happens, as the middle class suffers, in the middle east right now..

    December 6, 2011 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. DaveVB

    Here we go a year+ of speachafying......WAKE UP PEOPLE!! And here's a novel idea MEDIA.....every item you bring up and critique for a republican running for POTUS – demand the equivalent from President Obama so (in the words of The Who) WE DON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN!!!!!! Cause if we end up with the new boss same as the old boss (to quote The Who again) we are all gonna be bossed!! Bye Bye freedoms.....hello learning Mandarin.

    December 6, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. pelegrim

    I'm not quite sure which makes me sicker, politicians or the clergy.

    December 6, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. Saboth

    He's right. The income inequality in our country is insane. The rich recovered from the recession many months ago. The middle class are just now coming out of it. The poor won't recover. In the time the rich have increased their wealth 300%, the middle class have increased it 40%. Now...how to fix it is another problem. Increasingly, companies see employees as mere cogs in a machine. Spend the least amount on pay. Expect top results. The old adage: "You get what you pay for" applies to employees too, not just machinery. Companies fall further and further away from that as time goes on.

    December 6, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. ethandy

    I am sooo behind this President. Everyone should be.

    December 6, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. Cory

    Why is "inequality" in quotation marks? I find that amusing. The "inequality" we currently have is as obvious as I'm a "white guy" who lives in "Texas."

    December 6, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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