By Ben Geman - 08/31/13 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama on Saturday called for “bold steps” to help U.S. workers, remarks that arrive two days before Labor Day and ahead of the fall’s fiscal policy battles with Republicans.
“But if we take a few bold steps – and if Washington is able to come together with common purpose and common resolve – we’ll get there. Our economy will keep getting stronger and more Americans will be able to join the ranks of the middle class,” he said.
His pre-Labor Day remarks steer clear of criticizing or even mentioning Republicans (or Democrats for that matter), but seek to cast Obama as a champion of workers.
They also politically position Obama on pocket-book issues as lawmakers prepare to return to Washington in a week after their summer break, and as Republicans continue their assault on his healthcare law.
Obama – who has been pushing proposals aimed to checking college tuition costs and revamping the home mortgage system – noted that he’s been traveling the nation “laying out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class.”
“A good job that pays a good wage. A good education. A home of your own. Healthcare when you get sick. A secure retirement even if you’re not rich. And more chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they’re willing to work for it,” he said.
Obama, in recent speeches, has focused heavily on the economy and touted proposals around infrastructure spending and other steps.
Obama said that on Labor Day the nation will come together to honor “the working men and women of America who, across the generations, built this country up and helped make us who we are today.”
“We’ll pay tribute to the values working Americans embody – hard work; responsibility; sacrifice; looking out for one another. And we’ll recommit ourselves to their cause; to securing for them a better bargain so that everyone who works hard in America has a chance to get ahead,” Obama said.
The speech also shows Obama touting the ongoing recovery while acknowledging that many workers still face major struggles.
“[O]ver the past four and a half years, we’ve fought our way back from the worst recession of our lifetimes. And thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve begun to lay a foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth. But as any working family will tell you, we’re not where we need to be,” he said.
“For over a decade, working Americans have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar and the pay of a fortunate few explodes. For even longer than that, inequality has steadily risen; the journey of upward mobility has become harder,” he said.
“Reversing that trend needs to be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly mine,” Obama said.