Obama Pushes for Income Equality in Struggling DC Neighborhood

The president has crafted an agenda for the rest of his term to restore economic mobility.

Posted: 12/04/2013 02:15 PM EST

One of the consequences of the troubled Affordable Care Act for President Obama has been a drop in support even from members of his most loyal base. It was perhaps with that in mind that he traveled to Washington's Anacostia neighborhood, where unemployment and crime rates are high, to discuss economic inequity.

"He's fighting for his life now," activist Dick Gregory told BET.com, before the president arrived, quipping that he'd be shocked if the president didn't walk in with D.C.'s ethically-challenged former mayor Marion Barry, who now sits on the city council.

The site, an arts and education community campus funded and supported by private and public partnerships, reflected the theme of the president's remarks, which centered on the important role government can play in reducing inequality and helping individuals achieve their personal American dream.

"It's true that government cannot prevent all the downsides of the technological change and global competition that are out there right now and some of those forces are also some of the things that are helping us grow. And it's also true that some programs in the past, like welfare before it was reformed, were sometimes poorly designed, created disincentives to work," Obama said. "But we've also seen how government action time and again can make an enormous difference in increasing opportunity and bolstering ladders into the middle class."

The president also presented a road map to restore upward economic opportunity that included familiar themes, such as affordable health care, ensuring every child receives a quality education and investing in hard-hit communities.

Several times in his speech, Obama pushed for an increase in the federal minimum wage because, he said, "If you work hard, you should be able to support a family."

"Some say it actually hurts low-wage workers; business will be less likely to hire them. There's no solid evidence that a higher minimum wage costs jobs, and research shows it raises incomes for low-wage workers and boosts short-term economic growth," he argued.

The audience included Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray also was in attendance.

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 (Photo: Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

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