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Gap between rich and poor: Income gap threatens U.S. 'way of life,' Obama says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a major economic speech this week, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the divide between the nation's very rich and very poor threatens to undermine the American way of life. The wide disparity, he says poses a "fundamental threat" to the American dream.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Directly alluding to the work of Pope Francis alongside recent statistics reflecting a growing income gap between the wealthiest Americans and most others, Obama urged lawmakers to adopt policies to address the economic divide.

"The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe," Obama said at a speech hosted by the progressive think tank Center for American Progress.

President Obama assured the audience that "we are a better country than this" and these injustices should compel citizens to action. 

Obama called for a higher minimum wage, stronger labor laws and a budget which promotes both education and social safety programs. He said that this would provide a far brighter economic outlook for American families still reeling from the Great Recession when he took office in 2009.

The comments comes as Congress once again approaches a mid-January budget deadline that could threaten another government shutdown or further spending cuts. Obama says that addressing inequality was a more urgent challenge than further cutting the budget.

"A growing deficit of opportunity is more of a threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit," he said.

Obama's proposals are highly unlikely to go anywhere on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are gearing up for their own re-election efforts in 2014. Republicans appear disinclined to help advance the majority of the president's agenda.

The president in turn challenged Republicans in Congress to detail their own proposals to address health care or wages instead of simply opposing his own plans. "You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for," Obama said, "not just what you're against."

Many of Obama's initiatives have stalled in the Republican-held House of Representatives. Much of the year has been consumed by fiscal showdowns and an unwillingness in the House to even bring up some of Obama's top economic priorities, like comprehensive immigration reform or the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

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