WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama uncovered fresh plans Monday to help “reverse the overall erosion in middle-class security,” despite continued high unemployment and a Democratic blow in the Massachusetts elections last week that was widely perceived as a referendum on the Obama administration.
Although Obama has often spoken of the middle class in terms of the larger economy, as seen in his push for job creation and health care, Monday’s address to the Middle Class Task Force seemed to reflect a new focus.
Speaking from the Executive Office Building, Obama noted that during the last decade, median income fell and the economy lost almost the same number of jobs it had made, but he announced new efforts to partly restore a healthy middle class.
“Unfortunately, the middle class has been under assault for a long time,” he told the task force, which he established shortly after taking office.
The speech may be an effort to get back in touch with the American people after Republican Scott Brown won against Democrat Martha Coakley in liberal Massachusetts in a bid to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s seat on the U.S. Senate.
Obama’s past efforts to stimulate the economy and raise standards of living have been politically difficult. Opposition to Obama’s health care plan has served as a rallying point for conservatives, while some liberals have grown dissatisfied over what they perceive as ineffectiveness in pushing health legislation through.
And the hefty bonuses given to executives of bailed-out companies, the persistently weak economy and towering unemployment rate have also chiseled away at Obama’s support.
In an interview with ABC News last week, Obama said, “If there’s one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people.”
The president is now refocusing attention to new programs that could have a more direct effect on Americans. Obama said the budget, which he is expected to submit next week, includes programs to help with student loans, retirement and access to childcare.
“None of these steps alone will solve all the challenges facing the middle class,” he said. “But hopefully some of these steps will reestablish some of the security that’s slipped away in recent years.”
Obama is expected to address middle-class issues again during his State of the Union speech on Wednesday.