Mary Kate Cary
U.S. News & World Report
January 15, 2014
President Obama recently declared that income inequality is “the defining challenge of our time,” one that “drives everything I do in this office.” In fact, he mentioned it 26 times in one speech (to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, last month), telling the audience that it motivates his decisions on everything from formulating our federal budget to reforming our health care, housing and financial systems. You can bet income inequality will be the theme of his State of the Union address later this month, as well as most of his speeches for the next three years.
Obama correctly points out that stagnant incomes for the middle class have hurt the ability of many Americans to move to better jobs. What he doesn’t usually mention is that the combined trends of increased income inequality and decreasing economic mobility have worsened during the five years he’s been in office. According to the Census Bureau, this is the first time since 1965 that the poverty rate has remained above 15 percent for three straight years; since 2009, median household income in America has fallen 4.4 percent to $58,000 per year; median household income for black Americans has dropped nearly 11 percent to just $33,519. After five years of “recovery” under the Obama administration, a shocking 46.5 million Americans still live in poverty.
There is a reason more people live in poverty now than when President Obama took office, and that reason is the economic policies he is pursuing. The explosion of federal regulations, the lack of corporate tax reform, the uncertainty as to which federal laws will be enforced and which will not, and the disastrous rollout of health care reform have all taken their toll on consumer and business confidence. The best way out of poverty is a job, and unemployment has remained stubbornly high since Obama took office.