Obama calls for economic boost for working families

The Obama administration continued to address economic issues with the announcement of several new proposals, Jan. 25, designed to help ease financial anxieties for working families. In a meeting with the White House Middle Class Task Force, President Obama outlined five new proposals with a pledge to fight “every single day to put Americans back to work, create good jobs, and strengthen our economy for the long-term.”

The proposals included an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to double its current value for most families earning $85,000 or less annually. This includes an expansion of subsidies to low-income families to cover child care expenses, to help an additional 235,000 children.

In addition, the administration proposed an expansion of its already ambitious student loan reforms. The new plan would limit student loan re-payments to 10 percent of a person’s income with possible debt forgiveness after 20 years. Currently, the federal student loan program requires a minimum 15 percent monthly repayment.

The new middle-class proposals also include the creation of an automatic workplace individual retirement account (IRA), which would require all employers to provide the option for employees to enroll in a direct deposit IRA. The President also wants to expand tax credits and enact tougher regulations to protect retirement savings from speculators or the vagaries of the financial markets.

“For a year, our Task Force has been hearing that they are struggling with soaring costs and squeezed family budgets. These common sense initiatives will help these families cope with these challenges,” said Vice President Biden, who chairs the Middle Class Task Force.

In a press briefing, Jan. 25, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said, these “initiatives go directly to dealing with the challenges facing middle-class families, challenges that many of them have been dealing with for decades and that have been exacerbated by the financial crisis.”

Vice President Biden’s top economic advisor, Jared Bernstein, told reporters that these proposals are a piece of the administration’s fight for economic recovery and new jobs. He described job creation as the administration’s “most urgent and pressing” task. Initiatives such as those outlined by the President on Monday are designed to ease the financial “squeeze” working families have been experiencing for years now, Bernstein explained.

More direct assistance for working families should not wait until the unemployment rate has fallen to “acceptable level” before action on them is taken, he said.

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden convenes the White House Middle Class Task Force. (White House Photo)


Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of The Collectivity of Life: Spaces of Social Mobility and the Individualism Myth, and a former editor of Political Affairs.