- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama signed an executive order Friday creating a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden to help raise the living standards of the middle class.

“I intend to get this economy on track,” Mr. Obama said at a White House gathering of labor leaders.

The Task Force on Middle Class Working Families is to be composed of members of the cabinet such as the heads of the education, commerce and labor departments and outside groups that is to travel around the country to determine how, Mr. Biden said, it can make “lives for our working class better.”

The first meeting of the task force will be held Feb. 27 in Philadelphia and will focus on the creation of green jobs, Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Obama announced the formation of the task force within hours after the Commerce Department reported that the nation’s economy shrank by 3.8 percent on an annual basis in the fourth quarter of last year, an indication of a worsening recession in which at least 2.6 million people are out of work and tens of thousands more have been dismissed this week.

The official unemployment rate stands at 7.2 percent.

It also came a day after Mr. Obama scolded Wall Street for handing out billions of dollars worth of bonuses while receiving taxpayer bailout money and while hundreds of thousands of people are being dismissed from their jobs, including those in the lower ranks of financial sector. He described the bonuses as “shameful.”

Mr. Biden said that the White House had failed “for too many years” to put the middle class at the “front and center” and said, “A strong middle class equals a strong America.”

The purpose of the task force, he said, “is to raise the living standards of the backbone of this country.”

Members of the task force will be the secretaries of the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Commerce and the directors of the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Policy Council and the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, according to a new White House Web site (www.astrongmiddleclass.gov).


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