Since his inauguration, a key component of President Barack Obama’s platform — and particularly his State of the Union addresses — has been promising that everyone gets a “fair shot,” emphasizing strengthening the middle class and education to fight poverty and general inequality.
Take, for example, these four iterations of the president’s “fair shot” promise:
“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.” (State Of The Union Address, 2/12/13)
“Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.” (State Of The Union Address, 2/12/13)
“The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” (State Of The Union Address, 1/24/12)
“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.” (State Of The Union Address, 1/27/10)
“The success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.” (State Of The Union Address, 1/27/10)
The president has made his position abundantly clear — notice that these quotes are take from three different addresses. But when the results are simply not there, all we’re left with is rhetoric. Here are five particular, and very real, failures of the “shots and ladders” promises:
1) The kids are not all right
As much as the president has gushed over the potential of America’s children or the importance of world-class education, there have been times that his administration has acted in ways that have stunted that mission.
For example, this past August the Justice Department filed a law suit that would block Louisiana from awarding vouchers in 22 districts without the permission of the court. In other words, the government was instituting measures that would make the voucher process more complex, thereby complicating things for families and the very children that were promised help.
According to The Washington Post, approximately 86 percent of the students in Louisiana’s voucher program came from schools that were rated D Or F, which shows that the children with potential were being helped regardless of where they lived. Restricting that progress is precisely what the Justice Department was doing.
Luckily, public outcry made that lawsuit disappear.
2) Poverty is rising not falling
According to the U.S. Census, the rate of poverty-stricken Americans rose from 13.2 percent to 15.2 percent from 2008-2012. In raw numbers, that’s a 6.7 million spike. So much for ladders.
3) More Americans are on food stamps
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the food stamps number has gone up by 19,413,000 under President Obama’s watch (from 28,223,000 In 2008 To 47,636,000 In 2013), for a 69 percent increase.
4) The median household income has declined
A Sentier Research study shows that the median household income has declined by $3,827 the last four years — that’s down from $56,124 to $52,297. This suggests that the middle class that the president wants to thrive and rise is hurting instead.
5) More Americans are out of work longer
As Bloomberg has reported, almost 4 million people have been out of work for more than six months, which results a number three times as large as the pre-recession average.
Thanks to many of the Obama Administration’s policies, more Americans who need work are out of work for longer, resulting in casualties to the median household income, a rise in food stamp usage and increases in overall poverty. The very groups that have been promised fair shots and ladders are being hurt by the people who promised to help — and the same applies to the education of our young.
The ladder is clearly broken.