President Obama has devoted the last year and a half of his presidency to being a champion of the middle class by touting the perils of economic inequality. Unfortunately, he’s only talking about the problem, not issuing any executive orders or proposing legislative actions that would fix it.
At a Workers Summit last week, the President acknowledged that the economic balance of power has shifted dangerously in favor of the already wealthy, and that this was creating an unsustainable economy for American families. This is absolutely true, but we need more than populist talking points – we need action. He’s the president, and if there’s one person on this planet that has the power to do something, it’s Barack Obama.
But this has become the trademark of the Obama administration. They talk about the problems, say that we need to fix them, and then do absolutely nothing. The best example is climate change – President Obama has been talking about the dangers of a warming climate since before he took office, but rather than giving orders to tackle the problem head on, he’s allowed the oil and gas industries to begin drilling in areas that even the Bush administration considered off limits. His EPA’s power plant emissions rule will be completely offset by the amount of new coal extraction projects that the administration has green-lighted.
But back to the issue of income inequality, President Obama absolutely has the power and the authority to do more about this problem than just talking about it to a crowded room. He could raise the federal minimum wage, he could send the Department of Justice to prosecute wage theft, and he could facilitate the creation of new, low-cost loans for low-income families. Those are all things that he could do right now if he wanted to. Not only would it help the economy and struggling families, but it would put Republicans on the defensive by trying to explain to the voting public why helping needy families is a bad idea.
Sadly, it won’t happen. At least not right now. We may see a new Obama emerge as the Presidential campaign heats up, but any move he makes at that time is going to be a calculated effort to help the Democratic nominee and to shore up down ballot votes ahead of the election. It’ll be for political reasons, not economic reasons, and that’s just not good enough.