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President Obama arrived in Denver Tuesday afternoon for a two-day trip that included eating pizza at Wazee Supper Club in Lodo, shooting pool with Governor Hickenlooper at Wynkoop Brewing Company, a stroll down 15th street (that led to this unfortunate photo), a speech in Cheesman Park, and a Democratic fundraiser. The man can fill an itinerary.
The speech Wednesday morning in Cheesman Park focused on the economy and the efforts President Obama and his administration are making to improve the quality of life for middle class Americans. “America does better when the middle class does better,” Obama said.
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The half-hour address in front of a closed audience of about 200, touched on issues such as wage equality, job creation, and student debt, mixed in with more than a few shots at Republicans. Here, five messages:
1. Things are changing. The president cited job growth numbers of 10 million new jobs over 52 months, a housing market in recovery, a booming auto industry, and a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. He also noted that unemployment (6.1 percent) is at its lowest since before the Great Recession.
2. We should increase minimum wage to a liveable rate. Though the country has created jobs, Obama noted, many of these jobs aren’t paying a livable wage. “I want to make sure that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can get ahead,” he said.
3. Obama’s first minimum wage job was at Baskin-Robbins. Talking about the difficulty of living on minimum wage and the necessity of an increase to our federal $7.25 rate, the president shared this anecdote with the crowd: “I remember my first minimum wage job, at Baskin-Robbins by the way. I had to wear a cap and an apron. And a little raise would have really helped.”
4. If Republicans in Congress won’t help, Obama will go around them. The president said Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down serious bills that would help bolster the middle class, including raising the minimum wage, fair pay legislation for women, immigration reform, and education. “I’m not going to stand by while partisan gridlock or political games threaten the hard work of middle class Americans,” Obama said.
5. Denver summers are the best. When the president’s speech began, the sun was bright, the grass and trees in Cheesman Park shined a radiant green, the humidity of swampy Washington, D.C. nowhere to be found. “I think we should stay here all afternoon and have a picnic,” Obama said. “It’s really nice around here. Wow, what a gorgeous day.”