President Obama used a speech at a liberal think tank in Washington to declare that he will focus all of his administration's efforts in his remaining three-plus years in office on the task of reducing inequality in America.
Speaking at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, Obama discussed education spending, collective bargaining laws, the minimum wage, Social Security, Medicare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Obamacare, and other government initiatives as efforts to balance what he called America's "profoundly unequal" economy. His goal -- "the defining challenge of our time" -- is to build on those programs, and to create new ones, in the future. "That is our generation's task," Obama declared, "to rebuild America's economic and civic foundation to continue the expansion of opportunity for this generation and the next generation."
The effort to reduce inequality is not just one goal among many, Obama continued. For his administration, it is the goal. "It has been the driving force between [sic] everything we've done these past five years," Obama said. "And over the course of the next year and for the rest of my presidency, that's where you should expect my administration to focus all our efforts."
Obama has often spoken on the topic of inequality -- indeed, parts of his speech seemed a rehash from not one but many earlier speeches -- but has so far failed to deliver on his goal of reducing the vast differences in wealth between the top and bottom of the American income scale. In fact, by some measures, inequality has actually increased during Obama's time in office faster than it did during the presidency of Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Reporting on research by University of California Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, the Huffington Post wrote last year: "Saez…has highlighted a surprising and discouraging fact: during the post-recession period of 2009 and 2010, the rich snagged a greater share of total income growth than they did during the boom years of 2002 to 2007. In other words, inequality has been even more pronounced under Obama than it was under George W. Bush."