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Obama: ‘Give America a raise’

January 30, 2014
President Barack Obama addressed members of Congress at the 2014 State of the Union on Tuesday night. – Associated Press

President Barack Obama addressed members of Congress at the 2014 State of the Union on Tuesday night. – Associated Press

Austin Vining
Contributing Editor

 

Numerous policy changes lie on the table in Washington as politicians vet different strategies to help the American people.

 

President Barack Obama said making sure the economy works for every working American is the defining challenge of this generation.

 

“It’s why I ran for president,” he said in a statement last month. “It drives everything I do in this office.”

 

In the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Obama said even the health care policies underlying the Affordable Care Act is rooted in expanding the middle class and cutting America’s increasing income inequality.

 

“Upward mobility has stalled,” he said. “The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

 

According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of people living below the poverty line during 2008-2012 was more than 15 percent higher in Ruston (34.6 percent) compared to the rest of Louisiana (18.7 percent).

 

Tech economics and finance department head Otis Gilley said mobility is not an issue like it has been historically with most people in the top 1 percent being there because of their families’ wealth.

 SOTU Info Graph

“If you look into the top 1 percent now, most of those people aren’t there because of their families,” he said.

 

“Think of all the people who are wealthy because of the dot-coms or think of all the people who are in that bracket because of technology. There are a lot of people in the top 1 percent who didn’t come from wealth.”

 

Obama said the current way of life is being threatened by the culmination of issues caused by increased inequality and decreased mobility.

 

“I’m not arguing that we have an equal distribution of income,” Gilley said. “I’m arguing that we wouldn’t want it. That would be foolish.”

 

Gilley said his argument stems from the fact the policies to reduce income inequality are essentially an attempt to redistribute wealth.

 

“All those things are just different ways to justify taking money from one group of people and giving it to someone else,” he said.

 

Gilley gave an example of one such potential policy change that has garnered much media attention recently: increasing minimum wage.

 

“There’s only a tiny percentage people who earn minimum wage who are actually poor,” he said. “Most of the people who earn minimum wage are young individuals that are going to school, that are living with their parents, and they’re not poor. Raising the minimum wage is not a good way to attack poverty if that’s what we’re after, but it’s a popular idea because it’s something that if you don’t think through you don’t see the unintended consequences of it.”

 

Gilley said there is not a question of income inequality, and many policies on the table in Washington are not the solution.

 

“Is (income inequality) a result of some inherent unfairness in our system or is it the result of a whole bunch of other things,” he said. “I would argue that there’s really nothing inherently unfair about our system.”

 

Email comments to acv001@latech.edu.

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