BETTENDORF, Iowa – Democrat Barack Obama offered a package of proposals Wednesday aimed at halting growing income inequity, including an overhaul of bankruptcy laws and tax breaks to make college more affordable for middle-class.
The presidential candidate and Illinois senator said his proposals, part of an "American Dream Agenda," are designed "to put some wind at the backs of working people, to lower the cost of getting ahead and to protect and extend opportunity for the middle class."
"Americans don't expect government to solve all of our problems," said Obama. "But you're tired of a government that works for special interests and not for you."
Obama said the goal of his package is to reverse a growing trend in government policies favoring the wealthy. He tied together some proposals he'd already offered with a new focus on bankruptcy and college costs.
"We need to give working families a break," said Obama. "For 25 years we've seen gaps in wealth grow larger while our tax code favors wealth over work."
Obama said he would reverse recent changes in the nation's bankruptcy laws which he said favored credit card companies over consumers, giving new protections for those who go into debt for medical expenses.
"I don't accept an America where we let someone go over a cliff just because they get sick," Obama said.
Obama said his credit card bill of rights would ban unilateral changes to a credit card agreement, prohibit changes in interest rates in debt already incurred and ban interest on late fees.
"Americans need to pay what they owe, but they should pay what's fair," said Obama.
In his speech, Obama said much of the effort toward ending income inequity is tied to expanding access to higher education.
"That's the best investment we can make in our future," said Obama. "I'll create a new and fully refundable tax credit worth $4,000 for tuition and fees every year, which will cover two-thirds of the cost of the tuition at the average public college or university."
Obama also called for new pension programs that would force employers to enroll workers in a retirement account that puts a small percentage of each paycheck into a retirement account.
That "will dramatically increase the number of Americans who save for retirement and lift up the amount of savings in the country," Obama said.
Obama's speech came as he opened a five-day swing through Iowa, where precinct caucuses open the presidential nominating season in January, and come at a crucial phase of his campaign.
Despite his prodigious fundraising and the large crowds he draws, Obama trails rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in national polls, and by a smaller margin in polls in Iowa.
He is stepping up his grass-roots effort in Iowa just eight weeks before the precinct caucuses in hopes of reversing that standing.
Matching his effort, Clinton just wrapped up a four-day swing in the state.