Obama; US wealth gap shows need for fairer approach

Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:00am EDT

* Obama: middle class getting left behind in America

* Says Republicans "not getting the message" on jobs

By Alister Bull

WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, seizing on a report that showed America's rich getting richer while the rest of the country struggled to get ahead, said on Saturday that Republicans were thwarting a fairer approach.

"Republicans in Congress aren't paying attention. They're not getting the message," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Obama, a Democrat, has tried to tap anger at the super-rich, which has sparked Occupy Wall Street protests nationwide, to push congressional Republicans to pass his $447 billion jobs bill.

Republicans oppose his jobs bill because it is funded by raising taxes on Americans earning more than $1 million a year, which they say would hurt, not help, employment creation.

The president, who must convince voters he has a better plan to cut the 9.1 percent unemployment rate than Republicans when he fights for re-election next year, has also been using the executive powers of his office to roll out smaller job initiatives all week to show he is striving to spur growth.

Citing a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this week, which found incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tripled between 1979 and 2007, Obama said most Americans agreed with his take on the problem.

"In this country, we don't begrudge anyone wealth or success -- we encourage it. We celebrate it. But America is better off when everyone has had the chance to get ahead -- not just those at the top of the income scale," he said.

Obama, trying to paint Republicans as the party of the rich, was hammering home a message likely to be key in his campaign to retain the White House next year.

'REPUBLICANS HAVE A JOB PLAN'

His opponents say the president is deliberately ignoring proposals to spur hiring that they have put before Congress in order to score political points as he eyes the 2012 election.

"Politics and pessimism won't get America back on track," said Representative Bobby Schilling of Illinois in the Republican weekly address. "Republicans have a jobs plan, one with some bipartisan support, but it's stuck in the Senate," he said.

That was a reference to 15 job measures passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives that have not advanced in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The White House says none would lift growth in the short run.

Estimates by private St. Louis-based research firm Macroeconomic Advisers found the Republican measures would mainly benefit the economy in the longer run by changing the incentives of people to work and invest.

Macroeconomic Advisers reckons Obama's jobs bill, if enacted in full, would raise U.S. economic output by slightly more than 1 percentage point in 2012 and create 1.3 million jobs.

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