Did you hear President Obama’s speech on inequality and upward mobility?

obama_upward_mobilityThis week President Obama made us proud and gave us hope by signaling, with conviction, that his administration will prioritize fixing the nation’s fundamental flaw: growing inequality.

In a speech full of insight, he embraced the wisdom of knowledgeable economists, the demands of activists committed to fairness and justice, and the aspirations of millions of Americans who have been wondering if anyone was paying attention to what has been happening to them and their communities.

The speech echoed what many have been saying for years: Inequality thwarts the nation’s ability to grow and prosper. To secure the future, we need to create ladders of opportunity and remove barriers so all can contribute their skills, creativity, and leadership to building America’s next economy.

Acknowledging that inequality hurts Americans of all races and in urban and rural communities, the president emphasized the importance of strategies that range from  the Affordable Care Act and tax reform, to food stamps and raising the minimum wage. He also acknowledged the need to address the lingering racial discrimination that holds too many people of color down.

In recent years, PolicyLink has been highlighting the urgency for the nation to adopt an equitable growth agenda as we rapidly become a nation that is majority people of color. This agenda would ensure that everyone has access to the ingredients of social and economic success. Our economy cannot thrive when so many people cannot access the basics: a good education, stable housing, a healthy environment, transportation, health care, and a job that pays enough to save money and provides opportunities to move up. These things are not luxuries; they are necessities.

America’s strength is rooted in the strength of its people. To be a strong nation, we need to enable our children to start school ready to learn. Our students need to graduate high school ready for college or careers. Our families need the financial security to weather downturns and the supports to escape poverty. And our unemployed and underemployed workers need pathways back to full-time employment with family supporting wages.

An equity agenda—one that creates opportunities for all to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential—can achieve these goals. It is what America needs to live up to its ideals.

The president clearly believes in that agenda. And a recent national poll demonstrated overwhelming support for new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality.  More than 70 percent of the respondents said they would support an equity agenda that would invest in education, job training, and infrastructure, among other things.

We’ve heard it from the president and we’ve heard it from the people: Equity—just and fair inclusion for all—is the antidote to inequality.

9 Responses to “Did you hear President Obama’s speech on inequality and upward mobility?”

  1. avatar

    There are many in Congress, and even the Senate, who will stand in the way of this agenda, but the President is right. And the need is great. The younger generation and women seem to be more open to this than the "old white men" who are entrenched in American politics. Making progress will required determination, persistence, and compassion. Yes, compassion even for those who stand in the way,

  2. avatar

    Obama wants to fiddle around at the edges hoping to get the rich to be fair. That will never happen. They are constantly rewarded for not being fair. Like rats in a cage, they go for the cheese because they are normal people. Our system inherently encourages unfairness. It's built in. The Constitution failed to address this fundamental issue because it included so many rich founding fathers. So what is to be done? The answer is straightforward, and it will preserve both Democracy and Capitalism. We need a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw being rich. The maximum income and the maximum in assets must be made a multiple of the median individual annual income (currently $36,000). That would give the wealthy an incentive to raise the incomes of everybody else, and it would prevent buying elections as at present. I suggest a maximum income of 10 times the median (= $360,000), and maximum assets of 50 times the maximum income (= $18,000,000). This is enough to incentivize anyone.

  3. avatar

    Unfortunately, too many poor people live under the illusion that one day they will become rich, and therefore believe the hype and propaganda in the media and vote against their interest, i.e. that they vote for candidates that strip union rights and retard social advancement (the Affordable Care Act, Immigration reform, reasonable gun control …).

    Society must reach outside of its communities and bill coalitions across class and race if we are going to break the current cycle.

  4. avatar

    HI policy link family, we have shared this with teens and are discussing it on our way to a dinner.for united multicultural delegations, youth , mentors and elders, community builders and advocates, at the Rural Coalition winter forum. How do wehold the lresident accountable

  5. avatar

    The government can’t stand on the sidelines in our efforts. Because government is us. It can and should reflect our deepest values and commitments. And if we refocus our energies on building an economy that grows for everybody, and gives every child in this country a fair chance at success, then I remain confident that the future still looks brighter than the past, and that the best days for this country we love are still ahead.
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