Obama Goes Solo in His 2nd Term





Peniel E. Joseph, a contributing editor at The Root, is founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a professor of history at Tufts University. He is also the Caperton fellow for the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University. He is the author of Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama and the newly released Stokely: A Life.

In the weeks since his State of the Union, President Barack Obama has issued a series of executive orders designed to stem a tide of growing economic and racial inequality that threatens to undermine the fabric of American society.

Obama’s efforts to pivot the political narrative toward a focus on economic injustice reflects the fact that, despite his winning two national elections and saving Wall Street and the U.S. economy from the depths of the Great Recession, our national economy no longer works for tens of millions of poor, working- and middle-class families.

The Obama administration’s stewardship of the nation’s economic recovery favored Wall Street over Main Street and banks over homeowners. The administration also realized, too late, that corporate capital preferred to sit on trillions in profits and reserves rather than invest in the economy.

Faced with a dysfunctional and highly partisan Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the administration’s new approach—what might be called Obama 2.0—is an attempt to utilize muscular executive action to make inroads on pressing issues of employment, immigration and racial justice for black youths.

This month the president ordered the Labor Department to revamp rules that shortchange millions of low-income wage earners out of overtime pay. The changes will enable millions of Americans to receive more income. Obama’s directive comes on the heels of his SOTU support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10....



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