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Sunday, October 23, 2016

In his State of the Union address next week, we expect that President Obama will discuss the Affordable Care Act, NSA reform, immigration reform, and climate change. More important, we anticipate that he will renew his commitment to mitigating economic inequality — a theme he began emphasizing last month. We have discussed here and elsewhere the perilous trend of rising inequality. Stan and James devoted much of their book It’s the Middle Class, Stupid to diagnosing and offering solutions for this defining issue of our time.

When the president turns to this theme next week, we hope that he does not dwell on the successes of the economy, which may be apparent in employment statistics, the GDP, and stock market gains, but are not felt at the grocery store.

When he talks about jobs, he should talk only about good jobs. The country needs more jobs, but not jobs that pay $7.25 an hour — a wage that falls short of the federal poverty level for a family of two. The president ought to renew his demand that Congress raise the minimum wage. But he should also demand much more.

Americans need opportunities — real opportunities for affordable education, high-quality job training, and jobs that will invest in their skills.

Americans need economic security. While the housing market has recovered and the credit crisis of 2008 seems long gone, Americans live with more long-term debt than in the past — a drag on middle-class mobility.

Finally, he should call on the private sector to once again invest in its employees and in the American economy — not by sucking all the rewards up toward the top few, but by seeking to decrease inequality with better wages and opportunities.

We know about this because we hear it in our focus groups. This is not the wisdom of people with PhDs, but the wisdom of people who clip coupons:

  • “Back six years ago, I was making double the income I’m making now.”
  • “Raises aren’t happening, the cost of living continues to rise, bills continue to go up, child care continues to go up.”
  • “Cost of food going up but raises aren’t happening in the workplace so it’s going to be really hard for people to afford food.”
  • “[The new jobs] are those jobs…you can live off of?  Does it balance with the cost of living…how many of those are actual livable wages?”
  • “Places are having two part-time workers versus one worker.”
  • “Most of my family and friends are…making ends meet, but they’re struggling so I would say they’re pretty much…average people in the economy.  They’ve got financial…worry in the back of their minds: ‘if something happens, what am I going to do?”
  • “The best word to describe my household finances is ‘precarious.'”

This is the wisdom of people who experience the economy not through macroeconomic data, but through their everyday lives. And these are the policies that will make a tangible difference for them.

We doubt, however, that John Boehner and the House Republicans will allow any of these policies to come to a vote on the floor of the House in 2014. We can only hope American voters will hold them to account for their inaction next November.

For more polling and expert analysis, visit

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  • Geek Hillbilly

    We can hope that voters will come to their senses in November,but in the Deep South,there is still much insanity over policies.The GOP/Teanderthals will do ANYTHING to stop any help the average American and deny Obama even the slightest chance of improving anything.

    Maybe after the November elections after voters have spoken and put out of office the Conservaturds who sabotage any attempt for improvement will the GOP realize how wrong they are,but living as they are in an alternate warped version of reality,I’m not that hopeful.

    • Dominick Vila

      It is not only in the South. I just read a disgusting attack against Michelle Obama, ridiculing and distorting her accomplishments, ignoring her involvement in veteran’s causes, and ending with a pseudo poll of President Obama’s performance which, not surprisingly, show that most responders disapprove and a tiny minority approve of his performance and character. The relentless attacks the President and First Lady have been subjected to by organizations owned or dependent on the Koch brothers are influencing the opinion of those too lazy to make an effort to form an opinion based on facts, or too intolerant to even try.

  • Dominick Vila

    First and foremost, he should highlight the contrast between where we were in January 2009 and where we are today. After doing that, the emphasis must be place on themes close to the heart of most Americans: income inequality, investment in infrastructure and modernization, job growth, and opportunities for all.

  • itsfun

    He should say I resign effectively immediately

    • ProudACLU

      the day [email protected] freezes over

    • danmurphy2011


  • Mark Forsyth

    The President needs to make sure that the conversation for the next two years focuses on the economy and jobs rather than the ACA.The gop is blind regarding the methods to address the national debt but always dons those rose colored glasses when looking at the remains of the middle class.

  • Allan Richardson

    He should say to Congress what bosses say to disobedient employees: either YOU do the work or your REPLACEMENT will; then remind voters that they have the power to replace those clowns with decent Representatives and Senators next year.

    He should also say he is giving up on the TPP fast track, because the top business leaders have been bamboozling him and the American people with a secret agreement that Congress cannot debate, which will take our REAL (Main Street) economy even further down the road to feudalism, and he has just realized that big mistake.

  • Pat Dressel

    I don’t care for articles that have ‘quotes’ from un-named and unidentified ‘sources’. Honestly, both my immediate and extended family are doing reasonably well, for which I am grateful. Get tired of the doom & gloom and constant tit for tat between both sides of the political aisle.

    • 788eddie

      Nice that you’re doing well, Pat.

      I know of quite a few young people who are working two and three jobs but still can’t afford the basic necessities.

      In the United States of America, that should be a rare situation, not a common one.

      • kmkirb

        Absolutely concur, not to mention all the folks heading into their late 40’s & beyond that have constantly & consistently been denied employment due to losing their jobs after the crash in 2008.

        Ahh, but there we go with that ‘me, me, me is all that matters’, mentality of too many other people simply because they aren’t going through it &/or don’t know anyone else who may be. Just shows what small, if any, circles they run in. The utmost of selfish disregard!!

  • Kurt CPI

    “Americans need opportunities — real opportunities for affordable education, high-quality job training, and jobs that will invest in their skills.”
    *Sounds great. Now that we all agree, here’s a few things that won’t happen by talking about them:
    1) Financing education at its ridiculously inflated rates.
    2) Graduating people from the public school system that have the basic tools to participate in “quality job training”.
    3) Expecting jobs to appear when virtually every policy discourages investment by US companies in domestic sourcing.

    “Americans live with more long-term debt than in the past”
    * While unemployment and underemployment are significant factors, some of the blame has to go to people who use their credit card as if it were free money.

    “…call on the private sector to once again invest in its employees and in the American economy”

    * Ain’t gonna happen – not for the idealistic reasons cited anyway. Corporations are not going to do anything that doesn’t have a positive effect on the bottom line. If fact, to do so is illegal. If you want domestic investment you have to make it more profitable to invest at home than abroad.

    • danmurphy2011


  • HMax53

    Why is our DEMOCRAT POTUS not only forcing the TPP down our throats but fast-tracking it too? If we know it’s a job killer, why doesn’t he? Did we learn nothing from “the great ‘sucking sound'” of NAFTA?

  • danmurphy2011

    Everyone has to make the effort to maximize his potential. Look around, there are plenty of well paying jobs. Relocate to places that are in need of skills. If you do not have any then go the welfare root. I think bettering your self by education and on the job training is a way out of depending on the government. Life is not a bowl of cherries. But today is by far the most exciting time in my 80 years on this earth.

    • 4sanity4all

      You are 80, so you had plenty of time to store up money before this recent economic crash. I am in my 60’s, and my husband’s diligent saving puts us in a comfortable place. But my college educated children, who are great savers, and very hard working, have lost the money they were able to save and invest because of the way Wall Street was able to make money disappear with no consequences to Wall Street. My son’s good job in finance disappeared; he is now working at a gym. My daughter’s job as a store manager disappeared, so she is working 3 babysitting jobs and seeking one of those ‘well paying jobs’ to which you referred. Their generation is working as hard, or harder, than we did, with little pay, no benefits, and a very uncertain future. How could my daughter relocate? She has used her savings to pay her bills, and is struggling just as millions in this country are. Glib suggestions from smug people are not real solutions.

      • danmurphy2011

        I suffered through many severe down turns in the market. Recovery was painful, I guess the fear of losing everything. Faith in capitalism made me buy when everyone was selling. My children are girls, Last year two son in laws lost their employment. We all pitched in to help them. One got a new job this week. Why, because he had a skill the new internet world needed, The other a musician went on tours backing up small bands, His regular job was in a law firm and paid better. I am not glib. I know how hard it can be. Lost my job in a down turn with four kids under my care. I did not blame the government or expect legislation to get me a job or pay my mortgage off. Hope your children find something soon. One of my daughters started Vagabond on 3rd Street in downtown Philly. Look it up on the internet. It represents 15 years of work learning how to buy and make a profit.

  • 4sanity4all

    I read elsewhere that the President will announce that he will use Executive Orders as needed when Congress will not co-operate, and the Republicans are already critical of him. I am all for the President using any legal means to get our economy going again, addressing immigration, and gun control. If Congress does not want to work with him, he will have to do what he has to do. Republicans love to call the President weak and ineffective; perhaps this is what they need to see how strong and effective he can be.

    • danmurphy2011

      What can he order to create jobs. It will only be effective until the end of his term. The Fed has been putting billions into the banking system for years. This was suppose to make businesses expand and hire. It hasn’t. Obama needs to get some of the so called 2% down to Camp David and listen to them. This inequality crap will not get your children jobs. What did excessive, retirement benefits do to Detroit and many other cities. Everyone is greedy. Not just Wall Street.