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5 Startling Statistics From President Obama’s Income Inequality Speech

Memo Pad Politics

5 Startling Statistics From President Obama’s Income Inequality Speech


President Obama made the case that expanding opportunity for the middle class has become the key goal of his administration. He vowed he would continue to pursue it for the remainder of his time in office by reducing inequality, in his speech at The Center for American Progress on Wednesday.

The president began by summing up the birth and growth of America’s middle class, leading up to the subtle unraveling of the “social compact” in the late 1970s, which has now brought us to a state of inequality not seen since before the Great Depression.

“As values of community broke down and competitive pressure increased, businesses lobbied Washington to weaken unions and the value of the minimum wage,” he said. “As the trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither.”

To illustrate how the rapid transfer of wealth since that time not only was stifling the economy but putting a strain on democracy itself, the president used the five statistics that follow.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb


  1. charleo1 December 4, 2013

    A depressing article by Robert Reich in the Huffington Post today, suggests the bulk
    of tomorrow’s workers may be in for a very rough time of it, indeed. Much of it due to automation, and the trend of so called brick, and mortar retail outlets, directing an ever greater amount of their future investment dollars toward their internet sales. So, if the opposition to President Obama’s ideas magically dissolved tomorrow, we
    would still have an impending crisis in wage, and wealth disparity upon us. For which there are, so far few, if any viable options. A prime example is Boeing’s 95 billion dollar contract with the Saudis to build more than 100 of their new 777 passenger jets, comes as good news, with a troubling trend. Unable, or unwilling to come to terms with it’s unionized workers in Washington State. Hungry, non-union States, Texas, South Carolina, and Missouri are vying for the corporation’s business. Some, no doubt see this as Capitalism at it’s finest. And an example of Unions pricing themselves out of the competition. However, as the talks with these and other States turns from wages, to real estate, and tax deals, State funding of the necessary infrastructure, energy deals, and just plain old cash bribes, for the new plant. Plus of course, bragging Rights for the politicians who’s State finally lands the deal. At the end of the day, it’s not hard to see why one group is getting vastly richer, while the vast majority, continue to lose precious ground.

    1. Vazir_Mukhtar December 10, 2013

      Surely you cannot be implying that should Boeing locate its new plant in Texas, South Carolina, or Missouri, the Boeing employees there will grow rich while the Boeing employees in Washington state will “continue to lose precious ground.”

      If not, then I fail to understand why you raise the issue of where Boeing may put its new 777 plant. I thought it was the über rich and the rest of the top 5% who were becoming outrageously rich, whereas all the rest of us were either barely treading water or getting a very short end of the stick.

      If the income of possible Boeing employees in one of the three competing states goes up, why is that bad? Should better paying jobs be located only in certain states, whereas those living elsewhere have little chance of bettering their situation? Will the unionized Boeing employees in Washington state take a cut in wages or benefits? I think not.

      As to bragging rights, do you think Senators Patty Murphy and Maria Cantwell will say nothing if Boeing overcomes apparent obstacles and decides to locate the new plant in Washington state?

      1. charleo1 December 11, 2013

        My point on Boeing is, that it’s very typical of one of the reasons the rich are getting richer, and the rest of us are going to be in very deep trouble, and soon, if this trend continues. As I said, some will
        tout the fact that non-union, Right to work States, like Texas, can
        offer it’s labor for less, as an example of the Capitalistic system at
        it’s competitive best. But, there is a price that comes with those
        lower wages. Firstly, the employees will not get rich, regardless of where Boeing decides to build the planes. Unions are not about bleeding the rich. But they are about wage, and benefit support.
        Wages that buy things like houses, and pay into things like,
        retirement accounts. Federal, State, and Local taxes. Positions that pay enough, that government doesn’t need to step up, to keep the full time employed from becoming homeless, and hungry, as a
        consequence of living on the margins. That’s the wage part. Secondly, this competition between State Governments to procure jobs, doesn’t end there. It also becomes about taxes, State budgets, and National debt. And, how the race to rock bottom between States, has been a major factor in the shrinking margins, between having a strong economy creating jobs, or a weak one. When too many are living paycheck, to paycheck, the least blip in the market, sends strong reverberations throughout the economy.
        So, contrary to certain assumptions, lower wages do not result in
        more employees being hired. Lower wages, tends to eliminate the need for additional numbers of them, by suppressing demand.
        Lower wages also erode the tax base. Leaving fewer dollars for
        vital government functions. Thirdly, I have nothing aganist those folks in MO. TX. SC, or any place else. Except to say, if Boeing relocates, their jobs came at the expense of Labor in general,
        across the board. Not just those workers in Washington State.

  2. FT66 December 6, 2013

    Putting middle class first by providing them opportunities, makes a lot of sense. First of all, this group is larger/bigger than the rest. They are the ones if are utilised very well as required, they can make the economy thrive in such a way its growth will benefit not only them BUT also everybody. By doing so, it might be harder to notice the difference between who have and who have not. It is so sad that those who were elected to tackle problems especially from both Chambers, are lacking the knowledge of how to prioritise things. As we all know economy trumps everything. Why can’t they sit down and think, it is time to be serious and make sure middle class problems are our priority and must be solved first. Solving middle class issues, will solve the number one key issue, that is ECONOMY!

    1. RobertCHastings December 6, 2013

      Many respected economists (including Robert Reich) look at the Middle Class as the true job-producers, rather than the wealthy. And in an economy based upon consumerism, if the middle class does not have jobs and improving wages, the entire economy suffers, including the wealthy. There are, truly, a very few actions that can and should be taken to reverse the trend begun in the 1970s, resulting in the Crash of 2008, and continuing,unabated, today. The movie “Elysium” is a science fiction/fantasy that is on its way to becoming actuality.

  3. elw December 6, 2013

    The really bad news is this trend of destroying the Middle Class is also the destruction of the Country. Just look at what else has happen in the last several decade as the Middle Class has grown poorer and smaller. !. We have lost our standing as “best” in the world in Education, Medicine, scientific advancement, math and in longevity. 2. While we remain the strongest military might, we have lost respect worldwide and are no longer the envy of the world. 3. And related to #2, our politics are the laugh of the world, we have a population that has lost confidence in its government and walks around in fear everyday of being shot, going hungry, or losing their jobs. And through it all, the Rich have continued to grow richer and more selfish – a decades old trend that started with Reagan. You get what you vote for.

    1. Barbara Morgan December 7, 2013

      I believe that has been the goal of the Republican Party and now the Tea Party since they gained control of Congress when Clinton was President. They want to destroy our Country and try to make a different Country, one where their rich selves, rich donors(owners) and all the rest of the rich have all the money and all the rest of citizens are their serfs with no rights of any kind. They show that intend everytime they speaks, the laws that they pass or try to pass, they show their contempt for all but the very rich in all they say and do. So help get the vote in 2014 and get rid of them before this Country is destroyed.

      1. RobertCHastings December 7, 2013

        What you say is correct, but you don’t go back far enough. The slide for the middle class began in the late 1970s, and the distribution of wealth today looks like it did just before the Great Depression, over 80 years ago.

        1. elw December 7, 2013

          Seems we are destine to always repeat our mistakes.

    2. RobertCHastings December 7, 2013

      Yes, you get what you vote for. However, what happens when what you vote for is not really what you are voting for? One issue that the OCCUPY movement brought out is the public relations of the government. As a Christian nation, we were all taught to feel compassion for those in need, regardless of why they were in need or what circumstances brought them to need, or whatever safety net they availed themselves of. Due to much of what Reagan did during the 1980s, that compassion was morphed into seeing the millionaire welfare mother in the Cadillac in every person who applied for public assistance. Since Reagan, a similar assault has been mounted (by ALL administrations) against the unions. Every one of us who is today a working stiff owes a great deal to the union movement – the 40-hour week, overtime pay, paid vacation and sick leave, job security, etc. However, in the home area of unionism (especially Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan), unions just recently received huge setbacks, by the very people who should have been supporting them. This happened because the government and business aligned media were able to effectively portray the unions as taking jobs and pay from those who were not unionized.

      1. elw December 7, 2013

        I do not recall anywhere in the Constitution where this Country was established as a Christian nation, in fact as I recall it clearly forbids the establishment of a State Religion and places a wall between religion and the Government. Nor do I agree that compassion is only or always taught to people of the Christian religion. I know compassionate people who are not Christians and people who Claim to be Christians who are not compassionate at all. As far as the dishonesty of how politicians misrepresent what they stand for – I agree that happen far too often and very few pay for their deceptions. The only advice I give to you on that point is never vote twice for anyone who does that. My brother use to say, may he rest in peace, never vote for anyone twice.

        1. idamag December 8, 2013

          Actually a hand full of so-called Christians came to this country for religious freedom. The driving force was empire building and seeking wealth. If such a hateful, violent nation is a Christian nation, then maybe they should reconsider religion.

          1. elw December 8, 2013

            Interesting thoughts.

        2. RobertCHastings December 8, 2013

          The Founding Fathers judiciously avoided the trap of establishing a state religion, with very good reason. Most of the original colonies had their own state religions, and those who were not devotees were treated harshly or just excluded. That being said, the values we espouse as a nation are those espoused by Jesus, including compassion. In many cases, today’s “Christian” faith does not quite adhere to the teachings of Jesus. Regardless, compassion is a trait ALL major religions value, and ALL societies ascribe to. It is a value that even the ancient Greeks valued because of its importance in the smooth functioning of government and society, and they certainly were NOT Christians.

          1. elw December 8, 2013

            Your statement about compassion being a common thread throughout all major religions is my point. To say we are a Christian nation and therefore compassionate is a misleading statement on your part. My experience has shown me that most compassionate people have many different backgrounds as is true of the most selfish people I know. I was not brought up religious, but my parent were very caring people and taught the value of compassion by their example. We are not a Christian nation and have always been one of people of multiple races and religious backgrounds, many of whom were poorly treated by the White, Christian majority of the Country. I do however, believe that the majority of people in this Country, regardless of the color of their skin or religion are compassionate, it is why we have the ACA and have moved continually forward toward justice and equal treatment for all. However, we have a way to go until we get there.

          2. RobertCHastings December 8, 2013

            My intent was to point out the disconnect between what “Christians” say about our values and what many of them actually practice. Christians want to insist we are a Christian nation, basing our values system upon Christian values. Robin Meyers drew the distinction between religious and spiritual, between being “Christian” and following Jesus. Many “Christians” follow the teachings of the Christian church, which are not necessarily the teachings of Jesus. The dogma of the Christian church was established long after the death of Jesus, by people who did not even know Jesus. Our Bible was devised more than three centuries after His death, and excludes many gospels that were considered heresy because they included women on an equal basis. Being religious (ie. – attending church and following established rituals) does NOT make one spiritual. Following the teachings of Jesus is, however, an entirely different matter from being religious.

          3. elw December 8, 2013

            I hear what your saying, I just do not think that religion is a “WE or an OUR” as much as it is a personal thing. It is that personal thing that causes the disconnect between what people say and do and why organized religion is such a joke.

          4. RobertCHastings December 8, 2013

            “WE”all have a spiritual base that moves us to be compassionate (or not), that moves us to behave ethically (or not), neither of which has anything to do with our “religion” but which says a great deal about our spirituality. I agree with you about organized religion, and the point you make is precisely why millions in this country have left pretty much ALL sects of Christianity over the past two or three decades. Many people who thought “religion” was required have come to the realization that spirituality is what is required. Belonging to an organized church does not make one spiritual, or compassionate, or caring, contrary to what so many conservative Christians would have us believe.

          5. elw December 9, 2013

            We agree

    3. idamag December 8, 2013

      Economy is consumer driven and most of the consumers are the middle class.

      1. elw December 8, 2013

        Exactly, the corporation driven politics are biting off the noses of corporations to feed their pocketbooks. Eventually they will lose most of their income stream, as more and more people are unable to buy the products they sell. I believe the issue will spread world wide.

  4. 788eddie December 6, 2013

    All of the articles putting forth economic information regarding economic inequality remind me of other times when such inequality existed; just before the French revolution and the Russian revolution.

    Let’s hope we can encourage our elected officials to make adjustments so that history does not repeat itself.

    1. RobertCHastings December 7, 2013

      History IS repeating itself. In the 1920s in this country (prior to the Great Depression), there existed the same wealth inequality that we are facing today. It took us over a decade to recover from the Depression, and it took many convolutions by an entrenched system of the wealthy and powerful to make it happen. The safeguards put in place and the rise of the unions made the American middle class secure. Since the late 1970s, that security has been continuously eroded, and what wealth the middle class had amassed was drained off to the coffers of the top 1-3%. Currently, the top 400 families in this country control MORE wealth than the lower 150,000,000 individuals (that is half the country). When we expand that to the top 1% (just over 3 million individuals), the wealth they control in comparison to the lesser 90% is, well, you figure it out. There are very valid reasons for the collapse in 2007/2008, and nothing has been done to effectively preclude a repeat performance.

      1. Vazir_Mukhtar December 11, 2013

        And whom do we have to thank for our plight? Those we elect to represent us in Congress and those who are charged with monitoring compliance with the laws governing banking, investments, and the like.

        We in the middle class want our entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, relatively low taxes on our earnings from interest and dividends, a deduction for mortgage interest, to name but a few. We don’t want to pay more taxes; yet we allow our representatives to enact laws that favor the ultra rich.

        “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”

        1. RobertCHastings December 11, 2013

          Our tax code is an extremely complicated and convoluted set of rules designed to transfer wealth from the middle class to the top 1%. Thousands of pages of the Code are devoted to acts that benefit ONLY specific individuals or entities, to the exclusion of the rest of taxpayers. While the right deplores anything that could be seen as benefiting those less fortunate, they have no trouble with wealthy “farmers” being paid millions to NOT utilize their land. Those of us who invested years of our labor building our retirement through contributions to both Social Security and Medicare funds are accused of sucking at the public teat, while companies like GE, beneficiary of specific acts in their favor, pay virtually no taxes on their profits – and GE is NOT an isolated company. Mineral rights are sold by the government to fossil fuel agents for ridiculous sums, while these precious resources of the entire nation become the exclusive asset of wealthy corporations for their sole exploitation. National parks, ste aside for the benefit of ALL Americans, are now being eyed as just one source of income for the government to assure that taxes on the wealthy will not be increased. Until the Reagan administration, the top rate for the wealthiest taxpayers was 70% – today it is less than half that. Nixon decided to pay for the Vietnam war through borrowing, rather than by raising taxes, thus raising the public debt by trillions. The wealthy have for generations been the ones to really benefit from wars, and, until Vietnam, they were the ones to pay for wars through their taxes. Had taxes on the wealthiest remained at the level set by President Kennedy, our debt today would be less than 1/4 what it currently is, and the budget deficit would be nil. Why are these policies in place today, even though we have seen the damage they have caused?

  5. Montesquieu December 12, 2013

    Most Americans recognize that Hussein Obama has no credibility.

  6. Montesquieu December 12, 2013

    Where unleashed by liberty, the impersonal forces of competitive free enterprise are proven to deliver better standards of living than those preaching centralized control could even begin to imagine.


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