So these were stories of families who had worked hard, believed in the American dream, but they felt like the odds were increasingly stacked against them. And they were right. Things had changed.
In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our prosperity. Whether you owned a company or swept its floors or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain, a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and decent benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement and -- and most of all, a chance to hand down a better life for your kids.
But over time that engine began to stall, and a lot of folks here saw it. That bargain began to fray. Technology made some jobs obsolete. Global competition sends a lot of jobs overseas. It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the very wealthy and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor.
And so what happened was that -- (applause) -- the -- the link between higher productivity and people's wages and salaries was broken. Used to be that as companies did better, as profits went higher, workers also got a better deal.
And that started changing.
So the income of the top 1 percent nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, but the typical family's incomes barely budged. And towards the end of those three decades, a housing bubble, credit cards, a churning financial sector was keeping the economy artificially juiced up, so sometimes it papered over some of these long-term trends.
But by the time I took office in 2009 as your president, we all know the bubble had burst. And it cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes and their savings. And I know a lot of folks in this area were hurt pretty bad. And the decadeslong erosion that had been taking place, the erosion of middle-class security, was suddenly laid bare for everybody to see.
Now, today, five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back. We've fought our way back. (Cheers, applause.) Together we saved the auto industry, took on a broken health care system. (Cheers, applause.) We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil. We doubled wind and solar power. (Cheers, applause.)
Together we put in place tough new rules on big banks and protections to crack down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. (Applause.) We changed a tax code too skewed in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families. So we changed that. We locked in tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, and we asked those at the top to pay a little bit more. (Applause.)