Today in his home state of Illinois, President Obama returned to the topic that is Americans’ number one priority but where he’s struggled to make progress: the economy. With Black and Latino joblessness in double-digits and wealth for these communities at the lowest level ever, the President’s renewed attention to the nations’s economic health is welcome news for people of color.
In the Knox College address Obama laid out the challenges facing working families, echoing many of the same themes he put forth during the campaign. The talk centered on “four cornerstones for a strong middle class” namely infrastructure, education including college affordability, home ownership, and retirement savings. Specific details on each of these is available at the White House official website.
But Obama’s challenge is not in framing what’s at stake for the American people. This is something he has long excelled at and has two election victories to prove it. Rather it’s in dealing with a recalcitrant Congress which believes that their obstinacy will bend him to their will at every turn. When it comes to the economy the Republicans continue to have their way.
The GOP successfully fought for sequestration which has held down job and economic growth this year. The Republican Congress has preserved tax cuts for the rich and blocked the president’s proposals on transportation and education. Moreover, the House GOP has vowed to cut back even more on Obama’s priority areas laid out today in 2014.
Today’s speech is the first in a series that Obama will give on the economy over the next couple of months. But these talks will collide with hard deadlines this fall. On October 1, the US government will need a new budget or face a possible shutdown. In mid-November the country’s borrowing authority will run out and government operations could quickly grind to a halt.
The bottom line is that today’s speech was a heartfelt reiteration of the ideas that catapulted Obama to victory last year. But what the country still needs is in effective plan and political strategy to bring them about.