Welcome to As It Is from VOA Learning English. I’m Mario Ritter in Washington.
This week, President Obama gives his State of the Union Speech. Today, we hear how income inequality could be an issue discussed in his speech and during the year in American politics. Then, the U.S. is offering security help to Russia during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Experts discuss how that may affect relations with Russia. American political issues and security at the Winter Olympics are next on As It Is.
Recent government studies in the United States show that the difference in income between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else is growing. A Congressional Budget Office investigation found that the wealthiest one percent increased their income by 275 percent in the past 30 years. That is compared to less than 40 percent for the majority of the U.S. middle class.
President Barack Obama is expected to talk about the income gap in his State of the Union speech. June Simms has VOA National correspondent Jim Malone’s report from Washington.
Is There an “Income Gap” in the U.S.?
From wealthy homes in California to the urban problems of Detroit, a recent congressional study says the income gap is growing. Minimum-wage workers recently protested in the streets of Atlanta to demand more money.
Erica Gayles is a fast food worker in Washington. She says she understands the protesters demands.
“It’s a struggle. I’m tired of struggling. I just want to live comfortably.”
Those struggles have caught the attention of Democratic lawmakers in Washington. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is among them.
“It’s just kind of a harshness, being hard on people, especially hard on people who don’t have anything, hard on people who are at the bottom rung of the ladder. It’s not befitting a great nation.”
President Obama has spoken about the issue before. He has said that everyone willing to work and take responsibility should be able to take part in the American dream.
“Restoring the American dream of opportunity for everyone who’s willing to work for it is something that should unite the country. That shouldn’t divide the country. That’s what we should be aspiring to, that everybody has a shot if they are willing to work hard and take responsibility.”
Of course, 2014 is an election year. That means political campaigns. Political expert John Fortier says income inequality will be an important issue for Democrats leading up to the November elections.
“The larger philosophical theme of not only the economy just getting better, but it getting better for everyone. And how an economy that improves just for the rich is not one that he wants to see, I think, will be a theme of his.”
Opposition Republicans see things differently. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner says the main issue is job creation.
“When you look at it, the American people have a right to continue to ask the question, where are the jobs? The president has been in office now for over five years, and it’s time for the president to admit that his policies are not working.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is a possible presidential candidate for 2016. He says individual states should take the lead on closing the income gap.
Political expert Thomas Mann says President Obama will have to work around Congress because of strong Republican opposition.
“He is going to have to rely much more on the authority he has as president using executive regulatory approaches and administrative initiatives and other kind of public-private ventures that don’t require legislation.”
President Obama will travel to the Vatican in late March to meet with Pope Francis. The administration says fighting poverty and income inequality will be among the issues discussed.
I’m June Simms.
U.S. Offers Russia Help with Security for Sochi Olympics
Next on the show, President Barack Obama recently spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. is offering to help Russia strengthen security at next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi. The offer could help to improve relations between the nations or add to tensions. Christopher Cruise has this report from VOA's Kent Klein.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Barack Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week about efforts to keep the Olympics safe.
"What I can tell you is that we are having conversations with the Russians. We have made clear that we are prepared to provide any assistance that we can, if Russia asks for it, and we're going to continue to work with them."
The two leaders spoke a day after the U.S. Defense Department said it had offered Russia air and naval help to secure the Black Sea resort city of Sochi and the surrounding area.
James Goldgeier is dean of the School of International Service at Washington's American University. He says Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin do not agree on many issues. However, he said they can work together when necessary.
"The relationship between President Obama and President Putin is clearly not a strong relationship. That doesn't mean they can't do business when they need to do business, and I expect when they identify common interests, they will do so."
The discussion between the two presidents took place as Russia searched for at least three suspected female suicide bombers. One of them is from an Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings last month in Volgograd.
The U.S. State Department has released a travel alert, advising Americans who go to Sochi for the Olympics to be careful.
Jay Carney says increasing U.S. security measures is not unusual for a large international event such as the Olympics. He said there has been an increase in reports of threats.
"As you might expect, in the run-up to an event like this, there has been an uptick in some of the threat reporting, and we are taking precautions accordingly, but that is not unusual."
The presence of U.S. ships in the Black Sea could raise tensions with Russia. However, James Goldgeier says it shows that the U.S. shares the world's interest in preventing a terrorist incident at the Winter Games.
"I don't know that it's antagonizing, but I think, you know, it is a sign that the United States worries that Russia alone is not able to take care of the situation, and so the United States is prepared to do whatever it takes, and it has to, to make sure that its people are safe."
The U.S. and Russia disagree over the conflict in Syria. There are also tensions over Edward Snowden, who leaked U.S. intelligence documents and took asylum in Russia. Many people hope the security cooperation at the Olympics will lead to better relations between the two countries.
I’m Christopher Cruise.
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最近的美国政府研究显示，最富有美国人和普通人之间的收入差距在扩大。国会预算办公室的一项调查发现，最富有的 1% 美国人在过去 30 年收入增加 275%，而美国大多数中产阶级的收入仅增加了不到40%。
Erica Gayles 是华盛顿的一位快餐员工。她说，她理解游行者的要求。
当然，2014 年是选举年，这意味着政治竞选。政治专家 John Fortier 说，收入不均将成为民主党主导 11 月选举的重要议题。
如果你看一下，美国人一直在问一个问题：哪里有工作？总统现在上任超过 5 年了，他也该承认自己的政策没效果了。
佛罗里达州的共和党参议员马尔科•卢比奥有可能成为 2016 年的总统候选人。他说，每个州都应该率先缩小收入差距。
政治专家 Thomas Mann 说，奥巴马总统需要做好国会的工作，因为共和党的反对很强势。
奥巴马总统将在 3 月底到梵蒂冈会见弗朗西斯科教皇。政府表示，与贫困和收入不均的斗争将成为讨论议题。
James Goldgeier 是华盛顿美国大学国际服务学院的院长。他说，奥巴马和普京在很多问题上意见不统一。但是，他认为他们能够在必要时候进行合作。
两位总统进行对话时，俄罗斯搜出了至少 3 名可疑的女性自杀袭击者。其中一位来自一个伊斯兰教激进组织，该组织宣称与上个月伏尔加格勒的两起自杀袭击有关。
美国军舰在黑海出现会增加与俄罗斯的紧张局势。但是，James Goldgeier 说，这显示了美国在冬奥会上承担了防止恐怖主义事件的责任。