Barack Obama says part of the problem with continued poverty in America is misplaced middle-class resentment of the poor, fueled by false media narratives. The president made his remarks at a summit on poverty Tuesday afternoon at Georgetown University in Washington.
"There’s always been a strain in American politics where you’ve got the middle class and the question’s been, ‘Who are you mad at?’ if you’re struggling," said Obama. "And over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top or be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction."
Obama added that this belief about an undeserving poor is "still being propagated" by media outlets like the Fox News Channel. "They will find folks who make me mad," the president admitted. "I don’t know where they find them. ‘I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obamaphone,' or whatever."
Watch Obama's comments below:
Obama also blamed "class segregation" for what he considers a lack of commitment to fighting poverty.
"Part of what’s happened is that elites in a very mobile, globalized world are able to live together, away from folks who are not as wealthy," he said. "And so they feel less of a commitment to making those investments."
Prices matter. They are the economists’ canary in the coal mine, an indicator of what is to come. Not necessarily as grim an indicator as when we have here a dead canary, but a pointer that cannot be ignored. When oil prices plummeted, analysts paid attention, hunting for causes and effects. Wages are the price of labor.
Last week’s surprising report that the value of all the goods and services produced in America did not grow in the first quarter, which will be subject to two revisions as firmer data come in, tells us one of two things.
Until Hillary Clinton decided to destroy 33,000 allegedly personal e-mails, all was quiet on the document-retention front in her selected home State of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo was quite happy with the secrecy provided by his own refusal to send written memos or e-mails, and the practice followed by his staff and state agencies (at his insistence) of destroying e-mails older than 90 days. No footprints. Which is the way the famously secretive Cuomo likes it.
President Obama can’t run again, as he noted in the State of the Union last month, but he sought to use his address to set the tone for the 2016 campaign. His repeated references to “middle-class economics” were tactful code, speaking in front of a Republican-controlled Congress, for that perennial Democratic favorite, the inequality debate.
Congressional Republicans can reasonably be accused of prioritizing issues about which middle-class voters care little. The president can reasonably be said to have his priorities perfectly in order, with counterproductive proposals that won’t achieve them.
We know that supply-side economics emphasizes serious cuts in tax rates and Keynesianism relies on massive amounts of government spending. But how in the world does “middle class economics” work? After President Obama cited it repeatedly in State of the Union speech, I waited and waited for him to explain how it works. He never did.
At minimum it is unseemly, at maximum an example of chutzpah as practiced in Silicon Valley. Having shot themselves in the foot, some prominent tech billionaires want the president to bypass Congress and minister to their wound. They have poured cash into his campaign coffers, and now is payback time. They want him to increase the number of H-1B visas that allow them to hire high-skilled foreign tech workers. Which he has promised to do, never mind that Microsoft has just laid off thousands of workers.
Two weeks ago the Commerce Department released its final estimate of Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter. That marked five years since the recession ended—a period of massive experimentation with expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. While those policies were doubtless well intended, all they did was what standard economic theory says they would do—move future economic output to the present. They did not by any means increase long-term economic growth.
The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has written that Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty’s new book on inequality and wealth, “will change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics.” Clive Crook describes the raptures with which intellectuals have greeted the book as almost “erotic.” President Obama’s advisers have been buttonholed about Piketty at speaking appearances from here to Dublin. Capital has reached number one on Amazon.com.
The Scrapbook cited Gary Becker last week, in a list of outstanding recipients of the Bradley Prize. We’re sorry to have a sadder reason to mention his name this week: He died May 3, at the age of 83. “He was perhaps the greatest living economist,” George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen eulogized. Becker’s influence is felt far beyond his own field, however. If the basic lesson of economics is that incentives matter, Gary Becker taught the world that incentives matter everywhere.