As I See It

August 3, 2014

President Barack Obama: Congress harms millions of Americans

“As I heard from Victor, Mark, Valerie and Becky in Kansas City, there is more work to be done,“ President Barack Obama writes. “Folks across the country tell me that if Congress just had the same priorities that ordinary Americans did, we could help a lot more families right now.”

A few days ago, I visited Kansas City to say a few words about our economy and meet with folks who wrote me letters -- and I snuck in some good barbeque, too.

On Friday, we learned that our economy added about 200,000 jobs in July. Our private sector has added 9.9 million jobs over the last 53 months, the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our country’s history. Companies are investing. Consumers are spending. And for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the world’s number one place to invest isn’t China; it’s the United States of America; and our lead is growing.

None of this is an accident. It’s thanks to the resilience and resolve of ordinary Americans that our country has recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced country on Earth. And the decisions we make now can keep things moving in that direction. They will determine whether economic gains go to a few at the top, or whether a growing economy fuels growing incomes and a growing middle class.

That’s why I’ve been pushing for common-sense ideas that would make sure the progress we’ve made is here to stay. We should rebuild our infrastructure in a way that supports millions of good jobs. We should raise the minimum wage. We should make it easier for working people to pay off their student loans. We should make sure women can earn fair pay.

All of these policies would help working families feel more stable and secure. And yet, all of them have been blocked or ignored by Republicans in Congress. By standing in the way of policies that would help millions of Americans right now, Congress harms millions of Americans right now.

That’s why, this year, my administration has taken more than 40 actions aimed at helping hardworking families like yours. We’ve acted to make sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace. We’ve acted to give millions of Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. We’ve acted to require federal contractors to pay their workers a fair wage of $10.10 an hour.

But as I heard from Victor, Mark, Valerie and Becky in Kansas City, there is more work to be done. Folks across the country tell me that if Congress just had the same priorities that ordinary Americans did, we could help a lot more families right now. But the same day I was in Kansas City talking about ways we could work together to grow our economy, Republicans in Congress were wasting time voting to use taxpayer dollars to sue me for doing my job. The American people are working harder than ever to support their families and strengthen their communities, and they deserve a Congress that helps, not hinders, those efforts.

Rather than double-down on top-down economics; rather than fight to make sure a fortunate few get to play by their own rules; we could do so much more if we embraced an economic patriotism that says we rise or fall together, as one nation, and one people. Rather than more tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or college.

Rather than reward companies that ship jobs and profits overseas, let’s reward companies that create jobs right here in America. Let’s make sure our fellow citizens have access to preschool, and college, and health care. Let’s make sure women receive fair pay. Let’s make sure that, in America, nobody who works full-time has to raise a family in poverty. These ideas aren’t un-American. They’re how we built America -- together.

Cynicism can seem fashionable these days. But despite the cynics, America is making progress. Despite unyielding opposition, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before. There are families with health insurance who didn’t have it before. There are students in college who couldn’t afford it before. There are troops who served tour after tour who are home with their families today.

Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice. And the people I met last week, from the Uptown Theater to Main Street in Parkville, give me hope. Every single day, I see the inherent goodness and generosity of the American people, and I know that together, we can build up our middle class, hand down something better to our kids, and restore the American Dream for all who work and study and strive for it.

Barack Obama is president of the United States. For a news story and photo gallery from the president’s visit to the Kansas City area, go here.

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