GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, but you do all these things and still, 95% of the gains go to the top 1%. Do you look at that, four and a half years in, and say, â€śMaybe a president just canâ€™t stop this accelerating inequality?â€ť
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, I thinkâ€“ I think the president can stop it. Iâ€“ the problem is thatâ€“ thereâ€“ continues to be a major debate here in Washington. And that is: How do we respond to these underlying trends? Ifâ€“ if you look atâ€“ atâ€“ at the dataâ€“ couple of things areâ€“ areâ€“ are creating these trends.
Number one, globalization. Right? Capital, companies, they can move businesses andâ€“ and jobsâ€“ anywhere they want. And so theyâ€™re lookinâ€™ for the lowest wages. That squeezes workers here in the United States, even if corporations are profitable. Technology. If you go toâ€“ a lot of companies now, theyâ€™ve eliminated entire occupations because theyâ€™re now robotized. We donâ€™t have travel agents. We donâ€™t have bank tellers.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Itâ€™s bigger than Washington.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right. Soâ€“ so thereâ€“ thereâ€™s a whole bunch of stuff thatâ€™s happening in the marketplace. But if we have policies that make sure thatâ€“ our kids are prepared for higher skilled jobs, if we have policies that make sure that weâ€™re rebuilding our infrastructure, â€™cause a robot canâ€™tâ€“ build a roadâ€“ and we needâ€“ you know, new ports and a smarter electricity grid, if weâ€™re making investmentsâ€“ to make sure thatâ€“ research and development continues to happen here, if we haveâ€“ tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States as opposed to overseas, all those things can make the situation better.
It doesnâ€™t solve the problem entirely, but it pushes against these trends. And the problem that weâ€™ve got right now is youâ€™ve got a portion ofâ€“ Congress whoâ€“ whose policies donâ€™t justâ€“ wannaâ€“ you know, leave things alone, they actually wanna accelerate these trends.
Thereâ€™s no serious economist out there that would suggest that, if you took the Republican agenda of slashing education further, slashing Medicare further, slashing research and development further, slashing investments in infrastructure further, that that would reverse some of these trends of inequality.