Obama aims to put human face on economic struggles
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama, in an attempt to put a human face on the economic policies he and Democrats are championing, is spending a day with a Minneapolis mother who wrote the White House about her struggles to make ends meet.
The president on Thursday begins a two-day visit to Minnesota, where he plans to take part in a town hall meeting before headlining a fundraiser for House Democrats in the evening. On Friday, Obama will highlight his push to increase the minimum wage during an economic speech at a waterside band shell.
But the centerpiece of the trip is the time Obama will spend with Rebekah Erler, 36, of St. Anthony, Minnesota. The accountant and mother of two wrote to the president about the ongoing financial struggles that she and her husband face despite the economic recovery. Her note made its way into the pile of 10 letters from Americans that Obama reads each night.
Erler's letter reflected a sentiment shared by others who have written to him, Obama said in a video message, that despite working hard and taking responsibility for themselves and their families, many Americans feel it's harder than it should be to get ahead.
"What I'm hoping to do when I get a chance to see Rebekah directly is tell her that not only am I listening and paying attention, but that there are actually policies out there that could end up making a difference in her life — if we can get Washington to work on her behalf," Obama said.
Obama is scheduled to join Erler for lunch and a town hall meeting before the two make a number of unannounced stops in the Minneapolis area. The White House said it's the first of a series of "Day in the Life" visits that the president plans to make over the summer in communities across the country.
The attempt to show presidential empathy with the plight of everyday Americans puts a fine point on two harsh realities for Obama: His influence is waning two years into his last term, and despite a booming Wall Street, the economic recovery has yet to filter down to many of the middle-class families who were hit hardest by the recession.
Obama's event Thursday evening is the sixth fundraiser Obama has held so far this year for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with more in the works. All told, Obama has held dozens of fundraisers for Democrats as the party seeks to protect its fragile Senate majority and gain seats in the House amid tough political terrain.
In his speech Friday, Obama plans to highlight Minnesota's decision to hike its minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 by 2016. Obama's push to get Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour hasn't gained much traction, but the president has sought to use his bully pulpit to encourage states to raise wages on their own.
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