President Obama sat down with the New York Times for an interview The Atlantic describes as “rare,” speaking candidly about what’s really fraying the fabric of America after his “Better Bargain” speech this week.
It seems President Obama presides over a period of great divide, where roughly half of Americans feel as he does (that policies unfavorable to directly aimed at reducing the middle class have caused great suffering), and the other half blame lack of God and “tradition” as what ails the country.
In the sit-down, Obama says that a thriving, strong and secure middle class “was part and parcel of who we were as Americans,” and candidly admits that the decline of that bracket far predated the economic meltdown of the Bush years.
He explains that “that’s what’s been eroding over the last 20, 30 years, well before the financial crisis,” boldly addressing the income gap when saying:
“If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise. That’s not a future that we should accept.”
Obama went so far as to say not only will middle class security bolster the American way of life, but he added that he believes it will reduce tension between racial groups that has been brewing since (let’s face it) he was elected.
“Racial tensions won’t get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they’ve got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot. If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested. Everybody feels as if we’re rolling in the same direction.”
President Obama also told the NYT that he keeps a framed copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in the Oval Office, but not perhaps for the reasons you might think. The President says that it is to remind him that the speech stemmed from “a march for jobs and justice; that there was a massive economic component to that… when you think about the coalition that brought about civil rights, it wasn’t just folks who believed in racial equality. It was people who believed in working folks having a fair shot.”