Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Obama's State of Union Pledge: I'll Bypass Congress to Fight Inequality

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Obama's State of Union Pledge: I'll Bypass Congress to Fight Inequality

Article excerpt

Byline: David Gardner in Los Angeles and Joe Murphy Political Editor

BARACK OBAMA today threw down the gauntlet to Republicans blocking his legacy by vowing to steamroll policies past Congress with executive orders.

"America does not stand still and neither will I," the President declared in his annual State of the Union address. He won standing ovations from fellow Democrats but only muted applause from Republicans.

Backing up his threat, he signed orders to raise the minimum wage for government workers, and outlined more than a dozen initiatives he is planning without backing from Congress. He said: "Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do."

Mr Obama said he was driven to act by the widening gap between rich and poor, and the fact that while Wall Street profits have soared, average wages have barely budged: "Inequality has deepened.

Upward mobility has stalled.

Even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all."

He said he intended to flex his muscles in a "year of action" to "reverse these tides" of economic inequality.

His list included modest starts to infrastructure projects and a plan to bring next-generation broadband to 99 per cent of children within five years. But his bullish tone came in the face of falling approval ratings, and a possibility Republicans could wrest the Senate from Democrats in November's midterm elections. More ambitious plans to secure his legacy still need Congressional support, including his hope of extended unemployment benefits for Americans who have lost their jobs.

Mr Obama also wants laws guaranteeing workplace equality for gays and lesbians, sweeping immigration reform, and more early-years education. …

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