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Obama: Economic critics 'peddling fiction'
President Obama gave a full-throated defense of his economic record in his State of the Union address, accusing his critics of "peddling fiction."
In remarks delivered before Congress Tuesday, Obama acknowledged that growing inequality has led to heightened economic anxiety. But he also said that anyone arguing the economy is struggling under his watch has it all wrong.
"The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world," he said, according to prepared remarks. "Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction."
Obama noted the economy was in the midst of its longest stretch of private-sector job growth in history, while the unemployment rate is now half what it was when he took office. He also cited job gains in manufacturing, strong performance by the auto industry, and a shrinking deficit to boost his economic bona fides.
Obama acknowledged challenges posed by the modern economy, and how the average American worker could feel squeezed. He noted that technology and globalization pose new challenges to workers.
"Today, technology doesn't just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition," he said. "All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing."
With that in mind, Obama called for additional steps to be taken to protect workers. For example, he said workers should be able to easily shift retirement savings from one job to another, and receive new job training if they become unemployed. He also called for a system of "wage insurance" that would protect workers that move from one job to another that pays less.
And he jabbed at big businesses enjoying record profits that may not be doing enough for their workforce.
"After years of record corporate profits, working families won't get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered," he said.