WASHINGTON -- On election night in Chicago two months ago, President Barack Obama triumphantly pledged to fight for a middle class he'd appealed to relentlessly -- and successfully -- on the 2012 campaign trail.
"I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class," Obama said. "I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard ... you can make it here in America."
The central challenge of Obama's second term is whether he can keep that founder’s "promise" to working Americans. It won't be easy, and in an era of divided government and amid cries for austerity and budget cuts, it does not seem likely that the president will offer sweeping new proposals to do so. The administration has said that its top two priorities at the outset of its second term are immigration reform and gun control. Despite an ongoing jobs crisis, creating quality jobs seems to have fallen a few slots on the president's to-do list.
As Obama implicitly acknowledged, the American middle class has fallen on hard times, saddled with historic levels of debt, skyrocketing health care costs and flat wages. By most accounts, middle-class Americans are no better off than they were when the president took office in 2009, in the wake of an unprecedented financial crisis and in the midst of the Great Recession.
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