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. joe

    president obama is right! go get mr. president. america is with you all the way.

    December 6, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. alex badme

    How about Middle class cant afford to pay for any of his dinners to get a chance to voice their opinion to the President. How about he invites and surrounds himself with the rich and famous and not the average middle class person. How come he needs $1Billion to campaign and set thre record for campaining by selling access to the rich. Good talk but directly contradicts his action. I would love to have lunch with him and let him know my opinion but I'm not rick enough to afford thehigh price of admission to talk to the President....................

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

    He is so out of touch with reality he hasn't got a clue. It hurts us all??? He doesn't seem to be hurting. Blah blah blah. More rederich and speedches. A leader who can't lead leads to followers who can't follow. Sound familiar. Just look around. I'd respect him more if he would pick a side. Preferrably the repulicans. We (Dems) have enough bull on our side.

    December 6, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  4. 712608

    I grew up in a family of 9 children. We all went to the same grade school. We all went to the same high school. We all got an education because my parents (one is high school educated, one is not) knew education would help determine our lot in life. 7 of the 9 went to college (paid for by working jobs). We all turned out different in terms of socio-economics – some are better off than others, a few are much better off. We all had the SAME OPPORTUNITY. We all have DIFFERENT OUTCOMES associated with our own individual decisions. A major commonality between us all (outside of the fact we are siblings) is the set of values that our parents instilled in us – respect for others, respect for self, integrity and discipline – but even those have stuck to some differently than others because we are individuals making individual decisions. Our family despite these different individual outcomes is extremely strong because we share a closer bond as family and don't simply focus on the outcomes that one's decisions have led them to. Our country despite different individual outcomesof its citizens (poor, rich, etc......) is STILL STRONG (despite the rhetoric, fear mongering and class warfare taking place) because we value FREEDOM (to make decisions for ourselves). The desire for equal outcomes (also known as ENVY) is not the solution and is attacking the family called THE UNITED STATES AMERICA.

    December 6, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  5. Brendan

    Re-instate Glass-Steagall. Overturn the Citizens United ruling by amendment or whatever it takes. Get the money out of politics. Get the money into our infrastructure.

    December 6, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. Steve H.

    I think what saddens me the most about the whole situation is the fact that my 4 year old daughter's generation will be paying for the fact that our elected leaders haven't worked together. Our president is doing what he should be doing: going to the American people about his beliefs and trying to get Congress to do their job. Remember folks, the POTUS is only one branch of the gov't. This Congress has done nothing but fight over everything. If our gov't was a corporation, Obama would have fired the majority of them. However, in this democracy, our elected officials hold onto their positions and simpy pass the buck.

    What we need are solutions to quickly get the problem under control. There is not a single answer. The answer is a combination of strong sacrifices that will get our debt PAID OFF, meaning we must all sacrifice. This includes the same thing that any family would do: cut spending, however also includes raising revenue (where ever possible) and overall tax reform, and also quite frankly looking at all of the social services and making some hard decisions. Once the debt is paid of, let the next generation figure out how to keep it from happening again because quite frankly our generation has already failed.

    For those who say "raising taxes hurts jobs," others feel the same way about cutting spending (and to say that the stimulus didn't save or create jobs is an obvious lie; the problem was much bigger than even the large stimulus could handle). We need to do it all: cut spending, raise taxes for those that have the money, get out of the other countries and focus national security on our physical land, secure and enforce the border, airports and ports, and start engaging our business leaders in dialouge about regulations and how they are affecting job growth/loss (this should be done while debating new laws as well).

    In closing, strong beliefs are the foundation of the freedom that we as Americans have. However, with that freedom comes the understanding and responsibility that we respect the same freedom for all others. It's those that infringe on that responisbility that will destroy the world. Think 9/11: while Americans look at that day as the day the world stopped turning, the terrorists felt it was a justified action. It's that extremist view to act that caused destruction. In today's Congressional climate, the same extremism on BOTH SIDES will cause destruction of the greatest nation every known.

    Please, for the sake of our children, it's time to get along and all agree that we need to do the things that we don't want to do so that way we can allow our children the lives that we want.

    December 6, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. George

    He speaks the truth. People should just think. A strong middle class makes a strong America

    December 6, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. harry

    Take a look back over the Bush presidency (?) if you really want to know when the economy started to head into the toilet and the Rebumlickers are determined to keep it there. There hope is that ignorant people will continue to blame Obama so they can "fix" it when they regain the white house. They don't care about the "common" folk, just their rich cronies. They oppose anything that will help the economy, but are all in favor of helping themselves.

    December 6, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. SW MN

    We should all be ashamed of ourselves, its time for people to act like civil and stop pointing fingers. The issue at hand is the middle and lower class are struggling because cost of living has increased over the years. We need to find a way to lower the price of food and the cost to heat a home. For instance corn used to be heavily used to feed livestock, however it is now used to produce ethanol. This has caused beef prices to skyrocket because ethanol plants will pay more for corn and increased demand. With population continuing to rise we need to find ways to produce healthy foods that are affordable. This isn't a fix all, but its at least a start.

    December 6, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. Lisa

    Obama is doing it once again! Anytime he wants to try and pass one of his useless bills he tries to scare the American people into it. He has ruined this country, three years ago I was living a normal life now I am doing everything I can to stay afloat. I guess this is the CHANGE he promised.

    December 6, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Don D

    Our President points out the oh so very obvious to us, time and time again. We get it, we understand. However as our President, shouldn't he be doing something about it instead of constantly telling us about it? Three years have now passed and nothing is any better than before. If anything, it's worse. If the President wants US to fix the problem, I'll do it! On election day I'll vote for a NEW President!

    December 6, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. Bruce

    Legalize marijuana. It would create more revenue for the government, and also, create jobs. There problem solved, your welcome.

    December 6, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Mammy

    Such an idiot.

    December 6, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. Chris

    Great words. Can't wait to see the reaction.

    December 6, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. matrix09

    It may be a great depression for us but as for the top 1%, they are doing better than they have ever done before. That's why they have no incentive to work with you or the rest of us to improve the economy, for them the economy has never been better. Any economy depends on the movement of money to purchase goods and services and in doing so " create jobs". As long as we continue to allow the top 1% to funnel all of the money to the top, where they hold it or use it to speculate with, this economy is going to continue to deteriorate until we are a third world country. These people have simply gained to much power because we have allowed them to buy our government. If we can't fix it at the ballot box it may be time to take a page out of French history and they know that. Thats why our internal Gestapo, Opps, Homeland Security, was created. I'm afraid it's going to be a long ugly battle.

    December 6, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. son of john

    We have seen the problem and it is us.

    December 6, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. Jackie

    WOW. Now I remember why I don't look to CNN post for competent accurate discussion. You all are IDIOTS if you think the GOP and KOCH brothers are your pathways to a better America. Part of me wants a Republican to win the next election and implement all the policies that got us here in the first place and some so you maybe what Pres. Obama is saying can be more clear to you. Apparently you don't read so maybe living it can draw a better picture. Man I hate ignorant Americans and it seems like they are congregating on this blog. See ya.

    December 6, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  18. Obamajoe

    God bless America.

    God bless President Obama.

    December 6, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. Ron Paul 2012!

    Why does America hate Barry Soetero so much?

    December 6, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. JB

    In the end politicians are simply managing there career and not servicing those they represent. I am not saying its wrong or right it is what it is by design. America has long taken the persona of looking good is all that matters. If the majority is truly dissatisfied then Revolution is the only Solution. I vote for pure democracy then we all have no one to blame but ourselves and once we all realize that we will then begin to truly progress.

    December 6, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  21. streetdude66

    Once upon a time there was a scorpion that came upon a Pond and wanted to cross it but couldnt swim so he asked a frog to piggyback him across it. the frog asked"How do I know you wont sting me with your tail and kill me?" to which the scorpion said" If I did that then I will drown" So the frog gave him a piggy back ride across and when he did the scorpion stung him with his tail. " why did you do this to me when I only wanted to help you" the frog said in his last breath, to which the scorpion replied," Because Im a Republican, dummy"

    December 6, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  22. genesis

    The canidates have the right plans for our economy.knowing china manufacturing was going down again,Obama signed a fair trade with 22 other countries.so he isn't just playing golf. Meanwhile US manufacturing is hurting because of 22 countries manufacturing for USA. No buisness experience. Im from Nevada,keep him and administration away from our solar programs. Why did he black out birth certificated for donald trump.

    December 6, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. J-Alabama

    Some of these comments against President Obama are ridiculus...it let's me knw just how unaware some of you are....the POTUs can only do so much and by my eyes he is on the right path...some people in America need to go back to elementary school..look up the 3 branches of government..which are: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches....RESEARCH them...learn them...embrace them...memorize them and then comment...period.

    December 6, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. scott bennett

    I AGREE with the Pres. on every thing he said we need to bring back the American dream and reward hard working people get ahead and create a greater future for our children

    December 6, 2011 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  25. Name spence

    Obama is heads and tails better than the alternative.

    And the last republican president had nothing to do with this mess...

    December 6, 2011 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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