State of the Union 2014: Obama to focus on income inequality

WASHINGTON – Saying it’s the “defining project of our generation,” President Obama will call on Americans on Tuesday night to try to bridge the gap between rich and poor in a State of the Union speech that will focus on restoring the promise of upward mobility and economic opportunity.

“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,” Obama will say, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House. “The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, 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.

“Our job is to reverse these tides. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” Obama plans to say. “America does not stand still – and neither will I.”

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The White House says the president will outline an agenda that includes initiatives aimed at helping low- and middle-income families benefit from the economic recovery. His plan will include proposals that need congressional approval, but also actions the president can take without cooperation from Republicans in Congress, who have largely opposed his economic strategies.

“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action,” Obama plans to tell lawmakers in the annual speech. “That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.

“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise,” Obama will say.

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