Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday said the U.S. government needs to increase and expand earned income tax credits, guarantee minimum wage increases and offer more aid to first-time mothers in an effort to help working families forgotten since George W. Bush took office.
"We know what needs to be done when it comes to giving our families a fighting chance. And I think it's time we finally had a president who gets Washington to start doing it," Obama said, according to prepared remarks released in advance of a speech he was to give at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Spartanburg,
Obama, speaking two days before Father's Day, said men in particular have to share responsibility for raising children and caring for their families. He also recalled his own youth - growing up with a father he knew only through letters and stories told by his mother and relatives who raised him.
"Theirs was a country where if you wanted it badly enough, and were willing to work for it, and take responsibility, you could provide for your family and give your children the same chance," said Obama, whose parents divorced when he was 2. "There are fewer and fewer families who can tell this story today."
He said men need to "stop acting like boys _ who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception _ who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one."
The Illinois senator said he would invest $50 million in programs to help people find transitional jobs and get training for permanent employment. That is needed, he said, to help men _ especially black men _ find work to replace hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs they've lost in the last six years.
"Without a job or an education, many black men simply cannot afford to raise a family _ and too many have made the sad choice not to," he said.
He said he would push to expand the federal earned income tax credit _ doubling the number of single workers who can get it and tripling the benefit for full-time, minimum wage workers from $175 to $555.
Obama also said the minimum hourly wage should be attached to the rate of inflation rather than political debates in Washington.
Also essential to helping families is the need for more enforcement of child support payments and expanding a program that sends nurses to assist first-time mothers. Obama said he would increase the number of those visits to more than 500,000 a year.
Later in the day, Obama planned to speak in Greenville.