Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In inaugural address, Obama outlines second-term economic plans

In the rich oratory of an inaugural address, President Obama sketched out a vision Monday for addressing the problems that have been afflicting the American economy — not just since the financial crisis and recession but for long before.

Obama said the government must play a bigger role in ensuring that the middle class benefits from the nation’s economic growth, after many years when middle-class wages stagnated. He argued that the country needs better railroads and highways to make it more attractive to businesses and better schools and colleges to train students for the jobs of the future — which often demand math and science skills. And amid calls to impose discipline on the federal budget, he defended the value of a costly social safety net, describing it as a critical support for Americans willing to “to take the risks that make this country great.”

The words were geared toward a different economy than the one he inherited four years ago. Then, he faced a crisis that threatened to cause another Great Depression and a colossal breakdown in Americans’ quality of life. His first-term economic achievements were largely in response to that challenge.

In his second term, Obama is looking to tackle problems that were festering long before the financial crisis that immediately preceded his first term. The country faces a fast-growing national debt as a result of waves of retiring workers who expect health care and pension benefits. Businesses see crumbling infrastructure and a workforce whose education and skills have begun to trail that of many countries’ workers. Globalization and advances in technology threaten to further push down wages for middle-class Americans and exacerbate inequality. Read more....

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