WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Wednesday laid out an aspirational agenda for the remainder of his presidency, looking past the opposition that has blocked much of his administration’s efforts for three years and toward a wealth of policies to reduce joblessness, lift median wages and fix persistent problems in the economy that have caused intense anxiety for Americans.
Obama’s remarks – calling for a higher minimum wage, more early childhood education and other measures – was his most specific road map for what he hopes to accomplish in the 37 months he has left in office, as he seeks to move beyond partisan fights over government funding and the launch of his health care law.
We know that people’s frustrations run deeper than these most recent political battles. Their frustration is rooted in their own daily battles, to make ends meet, to pay for college, buy a home, save for retirement, Obama said.
It’s rooted in the nagging sense that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them. And it’s rooted in the fear that their kids won’t be better off than they were.
Invoking the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope Francis, he again sounded the populist themes he has embraced.
But in describing the relentless, decades-long trend of a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility, Obama acknowledged that his administration so far has failed to arrest the stubborn trends of widening inequality and declining economic opportunity.
With few if any of his policies likely achievable without Democratic control of Congress, Obama’s speech also was the first clear sign of the issues Democrats will probably campaign on as they seek to retain the Senate and reclaim the House in next year’s midterm elections.
But though he touted his agenda – which his advisers said would be the basis for the State of the Union and for the rest of his term – Obama did not provide a legislative playbook for accomplishing it.