I can stand alone for middle class – Obama

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The American middle class and the sharp economic battering that it has faced in recent years was a key point of focus in the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama this evening, a speech in which he also signalled his intention to take action to improve ordinary Americans’ welfare even without help from Capitol Hill.

Setting what could well be the tone for the remaining three years of his second term in office, Mr. Obama would say to his colleagues in Congress, “Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.”

Arguing that the American Dream, with opportunity for all, had “suffered some serious blows,” Mr. Obama’s speech referenced weaknesses in the ongoing economic recovery admitting, “Too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

Although in his address the President offered his colleagues in both houses of Congress a “set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class,” he warned, “Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I.”

To this end Mr. Obama used his address to announce that in the coming weeks he proposed to issue “an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour,” higher than the present rate of $7.25.

In the context of middle class welfare policies he stoutly defended the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the landmark healthcare reform that his administration got passed in Congress in 2010, saying, “I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So… let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.”

While foreign policy issues did not get the kind of top billing in the address that domestic economic policies did, Mr. Obama’s focus regarding global engagements was on getting the U.S. to “move off a permanent war footing.”

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