US PRESIDENT Barack Obama jetted off yesterday on a two-day tour of strongly Republican states Idaho and Kansas in a bid to convince citizens of his newfound commitment to “middle-class economics.”
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Mr Obama claimed that the “shadow of crisis” had lifted from the country and that it was the time to enact policies to help working people.
He spelled out plans for basic rights such as paid holiday and sick leave, increasing the woeful $7.25 (£4.80) an hour minimum wage and introducing a $3,000 (£2,000) child tax credit.
Also included was a pledge to provide students with two free years of community college.
Part of the money for these schemes would be raised through an increase in capital gains tax on couples making more than $500,000 (£330,000) a year.
But given the Republican control of Congress it is not clear how many of these policies Mr Obama will be able to get onto the statute books.
And his claim that the country’s economy had recovered from the bankers’ crash of 2007 was questioned by economists.
The US is five million jobs short of the pre-recession employment rate and millions of people who want full-time jobs are stuck in part-time work.
In addition, the average hourly wage has not increased for six years — part of a massive shift of money from wages to corporate profits that leaves Mr Obama’s suggestion that the country can “turn the page” sounding hollow.
Responding to Mr Obama’s statement, socialist Seattle councillor Kshama Sawant criticised his actions over the past six years and pointed out the growing gap between rich and poor.
She said that the grassroots campaign for a $15 (£9.90) minimum wage — more than double the federal rate — showed the gulf between the working class and the president.
“Despite Obama’s speech today, bitter experience has shown we cannot rely on him to deliver,” she said.