Last June, a woman in Charlotte named Dianna sent me a letter. She wrote, “As part of the middle class, I know how it feels to work hard every day, and even with a college education and a full-time job, to find it harder and harder to make ends meet.”
It’s the kind of letter I get every day. Americans work hard, and in return, they just want the chance to get ahead. That’s the basic bargain at the heart of our country. Making sure that we honor that bargain is one of my most important responsibilities as president. And I know it’s on Americans’ minds – especially working parents who know firsthand how hard it can be to pay the bills, hold a job and raise a family.
On Wednesday, I traveled to Charlotte to talk with a group of working moms about that struggle. And with the help of the online companies BlogHer and SheKnows, I got to hear from working moms all across the country. (Plus, I met Dianna, who wrote me that letter last year.)
Here’s what I said. Thanks to the grit and determination of hard-working Americans – as well as decisions my administration made – we’ve made real progress since the Great Recession. Our businesses have created more than 12 million new jobs over the past five years. The unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 10 percent to 5.5 percent. More kids are graduating from high school. More Americans know the security of health care. And wages are beginning to rise again.
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Now that the recovery is reaching more Americans each day, we have a choice to make. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we choose an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead?
For me, the answer is clear. Our economy works best when it’s working for everyone – when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same set of rules. That’s the idea behind what I call “middle-class economics.” It means helping working families feel more secure in a constantly changing world. That’s the approach that fueled America’s comeback. And it drives every policy I pursue.
For example, in today’s economy, having both parents in the workforce is an economic reality for many families. But in 31 states, including North Carolina, high-quality childcare costs more than a year of tuition at a state university. My plan would make childcare more affordable for every working and middle-class family with young children.
In today’s economy, higher education has never been more important – or more expensive. So I want to bring down the cost of community college for responsible students to zero.
In today’s economy, women hold most low-paying jobs, which often demand the hardest work. My administration has successfully worked with states, cities and companies to raise workers’ wages without waiting for Congress.
In total, I’ve proposed cutting taxes for millions of Americans working to get ahead in the new economy. I want to cut taxes for more than 5 million middle-class families to help pay for childcare, more than 8 million families and students to help pay for college, and 13 million low-wage workers. I also want to cut taxes to help 30 million workers save for retirement. All told, my plan would cut taxes for 44 million working and middle-class families.
Republicans in Washington have a different approach. Their tax plan would give millionaires and billionaires a $50,000 tax cut. They’re also pushing a new $270 billion tax cut for the top fraction of the top 1 percent of Americans. In North Carolina, that’s only 120 households.
Simply put, their plan would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and let taxes go up on 25 million working families and students.
It’s the wrong approach. We have the opportunity to make the recovery real for more working families. The way to do that isn’t by cutting taxes for a few Americans who’ve already succeeded. It’s by cutting taxes for folks like Dianna and the millions of Americans who are working hard to earn their own chance at success.
That’s my tax plan. That’s middle-class economics. That’s what I’m fighting for.
President Obama was in Charlotte last week. He wrote this for the Observer.