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Remarks of President Barack Obama

Remarks of President Barack Obama

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Published by Kyle Balluck
A Better Bargain for the Middle Class
Galesburg, Illinois
A Better Bargain for the Middle Class
Galesburg, Illinois

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Published by: Kyle Balluck on Jul 24, 2013
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03/02/2015

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THE WHITE HOUSE
 
Office of the Press Secretary
 
EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY
 
 July 24, 2013
 
Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery
 
A Better Bargain for the Middle Class
 
Galesburg, Illinois
 
 July 24, 2013
 
Eight years ago, I came here to deliver the commencement address for the class of 2005.Things were a little different back then. I didn’t have any gray hair, for example. Or amotorcade. I didn’t even have a teleprompter. It was my first big speech as your newestsenator, and I spent my time talking about what a changing economy was doing to themiddle class – and what we, as a country, needed to do to give every American a chanceto get ahead in the 21
st
century.
 
You see, I’d just spent a year traveling this state and listening to your stories – of proudMaytag workers losing their jobs when their plant moved down to Mexico; of teacherswhose salaries weren’t keeping up with the rising cost of groceries; of young people whohad the drive but not the money to afford a college education.They were the stories of families who worked hard and believed in the American Dream, but felt that the odds were increasingly stacked against them. And they were right.In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our  prosperity. Whether you owned a company, swept its floors, or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain – a sense that your hard work would berewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement,and, above all, to hand down a better life for your kids.
 
But over time, that engine began to stall. That bargain began to fray. Technology madesome jobs obsolete. Global competition sent others overseas. It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the rich andsmaller minimum wage increases for the working poor. The link between higher  productivity and people’s wages and salaries was severed – the income of the top 1%nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, while the typical family’s barely budged.
 
Towards the end of those three decades, a housing bubble, credit cards, and a churningfinancial sector kept the economy artificially juiced up. But by the time I took office in2009, the bubble had burst, costing millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, andtheir savings. The decades-long erosion of middle-class security was laid bare for all tosee and feel.
 
Today, five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back.
 
 
 Together, we saved the auto industry, took on a broken health care system, and investedin new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil and double wind andsolar power.
 
Together, we put in place tough new rules on big banks, and protections that crackeddown on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. We changeda tax code too skewed in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families,locking in tax cuts for 98% of Americans, and asking those at the top to pay a little more.
 
Add it all up, and over the past 40 months, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs. This year, we are off to our strongest private-sector job growth since 1999. And because we bet on this country, foreign companies are, too. Right now, more of Honda’scars are made in America than anywhere else. Airbus will build new planes in Alabama.Companies like Ford are replacing outsourcing with insourcing and bringing more jobshome. We sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.We now produce more natural gas than any country on Earth. We’re about to producemore of our own oil than we buy from abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years. Thecost of health care is growing at its slowest rate in 50 years. And our deficits are fallingat the fastest rate in 60 years.
 
Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubblefrom the financial crisis and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durableeconomic growth. In our personal lives, we tightened our belts, shed debt, and refocusedon the things that really matter. As a country, we’ve recovered faster and gone further than most other advanced nations in the world. With new American revolutions inenergy, technology, manufacturing, and health care, we are actually poised to reverse theforces that have battered the middle class for so long, and rebuild an economy whereeveryone who works hard can get ahead.
 
But I’m here today to tell you what you already know – we’re not there yet. Even thoughour businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all theincome gains of the past ten years have continued to flow to the top 1%. The averageCEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009, but the average American earns lessthan he or she did in 1999. And companies continue to hold back on hiring those whohave been out of work for some time.Today, more students are earning their degree, but soaring costs saddle them withunsustainable debt. Health care costs are slowing, but many working families haven’tseen the savings yet. And while the stock market rebound has helped families get back much of what they lost in their 401ks, millions of Americans still have no idea howthey’ll ever be able to retire. In many ways, the trends that I spoke of here in 2005 – of awinner-take-all economy where a few do better and better, while everybody else justtreads water – have been made worse by the recession.
 
 
This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics. When middle-classfamilies have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers. When wealth concentratesat the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungson the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of thiscountry.
 
That’s why reversing these trends must be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainlymy highest priority. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years in particular,Washington hasn’t just ignored the problem; too often, it’s made things worse.
 
We’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they wouldn’t vote to paythe very bills that Congress rang up – a fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, andone we can’t afford to repeat. Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel – bycutting programs we don’t need, fixing ones we do, and making government moreefficient – this same group has insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called thesequester that has cost jobs, harmed growth, hurt our military, and gutted investments inAmerican education and scientific and medical research that we need to make thiscountry a magnet for good jobs.
 
Over the last six months, this gridlock has gotten worse. A growing number of Republican Senators are trying to get things done, like an immigration bill thateconomists say will boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars. But a faction of Republicans in the House won’t even give that bill a vote, and gutted a farm bill thatAmerica’s farmers and most vulnerable children depend on.If you ask some of these Republicans about their economic agenda, or how they’dstrengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to “out-of-control” governmentspending – despite the fact that we have cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of theeconomy since I took office. Or they’ll talk about government assistance for the poor,despite the fact that they’ve already cut early education for vulnerable kids and insurancefor people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Or they’ll bring upObamacare, despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs inthis recovery as they had at the same point in the last recovery, when there was noObamacare.With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals,Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop. Short-term thinking and stale debates are not what this moment requires. Our focus must be onthe basic economic issues that the matter most to you – the people we represent. And asWashington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes for our middle class couldnot be higher. The countries that are passive in the face of a global economy will lose thecompetition for good jobs and high living standards. That’s why America has to makethe investments necessary to promote long-term growth and shared prosperity.Rebuilding our manufacturing base. Educating our workforce. Upgrading our transportation and information networks. That’s what we need to be talking about.That’s what Washington needs to be focused on.

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