WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says his travels beyond the capital and his visits with selected letter writers demonstrate the need for Congress to act on his stalled economic agenda.
In his weekly radio and Internet address Obama cited meetings this week with a college student and with owners of a Colorado sandwich shop franchise. Obama went to Colorado and Texas this week, continuing a practice of meeting with chosen pen pals whose letters catch the eye of the White House.
Obama says the economy is better off. But he says Republicans in Congress have blocked measures, such as an increase in the minimum wage, that would improve people's lives.
Republicans argue Obama's proposals would hurt business and have proposed their own measures that have also stalled in a divided Congress.
Read Obama's full address below:
Hi, everybody. This week, I spent some time in Colorado and Texas, talking with people about what’s going on in their lives.
One of them was Elizabeth Cooper, who’ll be a college junior this fall. She wrote to tell me something I hear often: how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington. She said she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”
I ran for President to fight for Americans just like Elizabeth – people who work hard, do everything right, and just want a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.
And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008. By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago.
But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999. It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up. Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.
And I believe America does better when the middle class does better. And I’ve laid out an opportunity agenda to create jobs, train workers, educate our kids, and make sure hard work actually pays off.
These are the things we should be doing to grow the middle class and help folks work their way into the middle class. And it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. I hope we can work together on it. And I’m always willing to compromise if folks have other ideas or if it advances generally the interests of working Americans.
But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform – they’ve said no to all of it. And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own– when Congress won’t act.
I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more. And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me – instead, it’s to sue me. That’s actually what they’re spending their time on. It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time. And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars.
I have a better idea: do something, Congress. Do anything to help working Americans. Join the rest of the country. Join me, I'm looking forward to working with you.
You know, on Tuesday, I met with Carolyn Reed and her husband David, who own six Silver Mine Sub shops in Colorado. Two days later, they announced they’re giving their hourly employees a raise to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.
They’re not waiting for Congress. Carolyn said, “We are happy to be a part of what I hope will be a growing voluntary trend in increased wages.”
Carolyn and Americans like her all across the country are happy to do their part. Congress now needs to step up and do its part. And next week, I’ll travel to a couple of job sites to talk about how Democrats and Republicans can work together to grow the economy and protect nearly 700,000 jobs by passing a highway bill by the end of the summer.
I’m here because hardworking Americans like Elizabeth and Carolyn. That’s something I’ll never forget – it's something I’ll never stop fighting for. Thanks, and have a great weekend.