WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday economic "inequality has steadily risen" and "reversing that trend needs to be Washington's highest priority."
In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president praised working people, saying they "built this country up and helped make us who we are today."
"On Monday, we'll celebrate that proud history," he said. "We'll pay tribute to the values working Americans embody -- hard work; responsibility; sacrifice; looking out for one another. And we'll recommit ourselves to their cause; to securing for them a better bargain so that everyone who works hard in America has a chance to get ahead."
Obama credit "the grit and resilience of the American people" for helping bring the country back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, but also noted that wages and income have stagnated during the past decade, "even as corporate profits soar and the pay of a fortunate few explodes."
"For even longer than that, inequality has steadily risen; the journey of upward mobility has become harder," the president said. "And in too many communities across this country, the shadow of poverty continues to cast a pall over our fellow citizens.
"Reversing that trend needs to be Washington's highest priority," he said. "It's certainly mine. That's why, over the past month, I've traveled all across America, laying out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class. A good job that pays a good wage. A good education. A home of your own. Healthcare when you get sick. A secure retirement even if you're not rich. And more chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they're willing to work for it."
Obama said it will be difficult to "reverse the forces that have conspired -- for decades -- against working Americans."
"But if we take a few bold steps -- and if Washington is able to come together with common purpose and common resolve -- we'll get there," the president said.