How President Obama's Economic Message Could Backfire in 2012

Publication: The American Prospect

Author: Jamelle Bouie

12/16/2011 - A majority of Americans believe the government is helping the "wrong" people. Whether Obama's message succeeds depends on who those people are.

If there was anything notable about President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas last week, it was the extent to which he attacked economic inequality in the United States, and its deletrious effects on income mobility:

[O]ver the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk.  A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50–50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult.  By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%.  And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal.  But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. It flies in the face of everything we stand for.

This, in essence, is President Obama’s message for the next year, and the Obama campaign hopes that it will appeal to the large swath of voters that the president needs to win reelection. As part of their most recent report, the Pew Economic Mobility Project polled Americans on their attitudes toward their finances, their economic futures, and the broader economic climate. The electoral implications of the poll are obvious; if Americans are receptive to the notion that the wealthy have an unfair advantage, then Obama has every reason to double-down on his populist rhetoric. If they aren’t, then the campaign is in for a little revision.

Read the full article, How President Obama's Economic Message Could Backfire in 2012, on The American Prospect's Web site.

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