Obama vows to strengthen middle class, fight income inequality

Washington, PTI | Updated : 28 July 2013, 08:49 PM

A feisty US President Barack Obama has vowed not to "sit around and twiddle my thumbs for the next 1,200 days" in the face of opposition from his Republican rivals in Congress who are blocking his efforts to improve the lives of weary Americans.

Obama also said the widening income inequality and the lingering effects of the financial crisis have frayed  America's social fabric and undermined Americans' belief in opportunity.

"I will seize any opportunity I can find to work with Congress to strengthen the middle class, improve their prospects, improve their security," he said.

Obama, 51, now in the seventh month of his second innings at the White House, he vowed not to be cowed by his Republican adversaries in Congress and said he was willing to stretch the limits of his powers to change the direction of the debate in Washington.

"I'm not just going to sit back if the only message from some of these folks is no on everything, and sit around and twiddle my thumbs for the next 1,200 days," Obama told The New York Times.

Speaking a few days after the acquittal in the Trayvon  Martin case prompted him to speak about being a black man in America, Obama said the country's struggle over race would not be eased until the political process in Washington began  addressing the fear of many people that financial stability is unattainable.

"Racial tensions won't get better; they may get worse,  because people will feel as if they've got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot," he said.

"If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested. Everybody feels as if we're rolling in the same direction."

Upward mobility, "was part and parcel of who we were as Americans. And that's what's been eroding over the last 20, 30 years, well before the financial crisis," Obama said.

"If we don't do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise," he said, underlining that "that's not a future that we should accept."

The US economy is "far stronger" than four years ago, he said, yet many people who write to him still do not feel secure about their future, even as their current situation recovers.

"That's what people sense," he said. "That's why people are anxious. That's why people are frustrated."

First Published: Sunday, July 28, 2013 08:45 PM
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