Obama Retreating on 'Economic Inequality'

Saturday, 05 Jul 2014 12:46 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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President Barack Obama and many Democrats are backing away from the subject of economic inequality, instead focusing more on economic "opportunity" and lifting the fortunes of the middle class.

The shift is a marked shift the president's reelection year stance in 2012, when he called inequality a "fundamental threat the American Dream," reports The Washington Post.

Editor's Note: Govt Prohibited From Helping Seniors (Shocking)

Instead, the new focus on issues like the gender pay gap and minimum wage reflects concerns of a more broad number of voters.

According to White House officials, Obama is more interested in ways to address inequality issues rather than the problem itself, but others say Democratic polling reveals that complaints about inequality don't really register with the public and lead to complaints about class warfare.

Further, there is a dispute between the party's liberal and more moderate wings about the issue. The left seeks to focus on income gaps and the influence of Wall Street, but moderates call such issues divisive.

"It was clear in 2013 that income inequality was the top narrative for the White House, but they abruptly switched away from it," Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way told the Post.

Kessler's organization has advised the White House and Democrats on how to avoid divisions caused by populism, and the issue "is on the back burner now — at least in terms of their rhetoric."

Obama this week invited top economists to a private lunch at the White House, tapping a broad array of ideological views as he seeks to assemble an economic agenda for the remaining 30 months of his presidency.

The president has not been able to push his economic policies through the divided Congress, so he has been going beyond his White House economic team to search for ideas he can translate into executive actions or ways to nudge institutions and businesses to make changes that meet his economic goals.

Thirteen economists have been to the White House since June 18, offering Obama their take on issues ranging from banking and finance to technology and education.

Obama's shift away from income inequality will likely have implications for the midterm elections and even the 2016 presidential race, with House and Senate strategists also moving away from arguments about the wealth gap and more about giving Americans "a fair shot."

Editor's Note: Govt Prohibited From Helping Seniors (Shocking)

"Both the White House and the Senate agreed that the decline of middle-class incomes was the most serious issue we face in this country, but the focus had to be on how to get middle-class incomes up, rather than drive other people’s incomes down," said New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. "There are some who believe it’s better to talk about the negative parts of wealth that people have accumulated, but our polling data show people care less about that and more about how we’re going to help them."

However, John Schmitt, an economist with the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, says the new focus risks being more about opportunities for people at the bottom of the income levels to go up, but leaving others where they are.

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