WASHINGTON – The growing gap between rich and poor, and its effect on Americans' ability to achieve their goals, will be President Barack Obama's focus Wednesday as more attention falls on the plight of low-wage workers, according to White House officials.
In an address sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, Obama will again return his focus to the persistent issue of his presidency: an economy that's still struggling to recover from the downturn of 2008.
In his speech, the President will argue that income disparity threatens the wellbeing of middle class Americans as well as the larger chance for upward mobility, and he'll make another pitch for raising the minimum wage.
"President Obama will discuss the twin challenges of growing income inequality and shrinking economic mobility and how they pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream," a White House official said late Tuesday in describing the speech, adding the remarks would serve as an economic blueprint for the president's final three years in office.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have pushed an increase in the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour. A proposal would boost it to about $10, and the White House has said Obama supports such a measure.
On Wednesday, Obama will also make a general push to simplify the tax code, provide more work training in high schools, and make it easier for Americans to save for retirement.
The speech comes as public approval of Obama sinks to new lows. The botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, coupled with stories of people losing their health plans, has contributed to the drop, but more Americans also say they disapprove of the President's handling of the economy, five years after the downturn.
A CNN/ORC Poll taken in November showed 59 percent of respondents said things were going badly in the country today. Thirty-nine percent -- a plurality -- said economic conditions are getting worse.
While Wall Street indexes and corporate earnings have reached new highs, the situation for low and middle class Americans has largely remained dire, including a jobless rate that remains high and scores of people who have given up looking for work.
The problem of income disparity, and the fight for a higher minimum wage, have gained renewed attention in the past weeks -- low wage fast food workers have staged one-day strikes across the country demanding higher paychecks, and protesters stood outside Wal-Marts and other box stores on Black Friday demanding employees be paid better.
Obama's remarks Wednesday will take place at a theater and arts facility in Washington's Southeast quadrant, an area of the capital where incomes remain low and 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.