Obama rolls out initiatives to help middle-class families

President Barack Obama is offering new ideas meant to help struggling people pay bills and care for their families, aiming to help a middle-class he says has been "under assault for a long time."
By Anne E. Kornblut and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 25, 2010; 2:58 PM

Promising repeatedly to "keep fighting" for average Americans, President Obama rolled out new proposals Monday to help struggling middle-class families, setting the stage for his first State of the Union address Wednesday night.

"Unfortunately, the middle class has been under assault for a long time," Obama told a gathering of his Task Force on Middle Class Families at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. "Too many Americans have known their own painful recessions long before any economist declared that there was a recession."

Previewing key themes of his upcoming address to the nation, Obama unveiled initiatives to help the middle class by making it easier for people to care for dependents, repay student loans and save for retirement.

The proposals are part of broader themes that the White House said Obama would tie together in his State of the Union speech, including the importance of job creation, the need to reduce the deficit and, as ever, the urgency of changing the way Washington works.

But his focus on the middle class will be critical as Obama tries to regain momentum after a series of political setbacks. To that end, he announced several concrete proposals, including:

-- nearly doubling the child and dependent care tax credit for families making under $85,000 a year;

-- limiting a student's federal loan payments to 10 percent of income above basic living allowance;

-- creating a new system of automatic workplace retirement savings accounts;

-- expanding tax credits to match retirement savings; and

-- expanding elder care help for the "sandwich generation" of baby boomers caring for parents and children.

In his remarks to the task force, which is chaired by Vice President Biden, Obama touted successes so far in creating jobs but made clear that the efforts have fallen far short of what is needed.

"These steps have saved or created about 2 million jobs so far," he said, "but more than 7 million have been lost as a consequence of this recession."

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