During his second inaugural address Monday, President Barack Obama painted a picture of a nation that boosted its middle class.
But the reality is that America isn’t a much better place for the middle class than it was four years ago, and there’s still a long way to go before the nation is truly a champion of that demographic.
In his inauguration speech, Obama touted the importance of a decent middle-class job, a notion he cheered on election night and that Michelle Obama praised his progress on during the Democratic National Convention.
“We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work,” he said during the inauguration. “When the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”
But creating middle-class jobs hasn't been so simple for Obama. Three-fifths of the jobs created during the economic recovery were low-wage, according to an October study from the National employment Law Project. While most of the jobs lost during the recession paid middle-class wages.
Obama also argued during his speech that a successful America is one where the super-rich continue to gain while the poor struggle.
“We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” he said.
Though Obama has tried to address income inequality through tax increases on the rich like the ultimately failed Buffett rule and his fiscal cliff tax proposals, income inequality was worse under Obama than under George W. Bush. Between 2009 and 2010 the wealthy took home a greater share of income growth than between 2002 and 2007, according to an April analysis from a University of California-Berkeley economist.
Obama’s speech also noted the importance of regulating the free market, a goal he is still working to achieve.
“Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play,” he said.
Congress passed the sweeping Dodd-Frank financial reform law in 2010, but two-thirds of its rules have yet to be finalized. In addition, the “too big to fail” banks are bigger now than they were before the crisis.