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Obama Says Forget Record Stocks, America Still Struggling

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Barack Obama wants the middle class to know that he recognizes all-time record-high stock prices mask the deep struggles that most Americans still face five years out from the financial crisis.

In a major economic speech in Galesburg, Ill., Obama touted job growth, American-made products, shrinking health care costs and deficits, but also admitted the country was still crawling back from the negative impacts of the Great Recession.

"But I'm here today to tell you what you already know - we're not there yet," Obama said. "Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past ten years have continued to flow to the top 1%."

The S&P 500 has risen nearly 150% since bottoming at 676.53 points on March 9, 2009 as unprecedented stimulus from the federal government and continued quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve have offered stability to markets and investors.

But average Americans who are not invested in equities and other assets are experiencing a different recovery.

The national unemployment rate remains elevated at 7.6%, while the U-6 measure -- total unemployed plus those marginally attached and part time -- ticked higher during the latest reporting month to 14.3%. The most recent quarterly earnings released by Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) and McDonald's (MCD - Get Report) missed earnings expectations, suggesting that lower-and-middle-income consumers' are still tightly guarding their money.

The president said he would push manufacturers to bring jobs back to the United States. Obama also argued for more investment in education.

"If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century," Obama said. "If we don't make this investment, we'll put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades."

The president said he wanted to encourage homeownership "that isn't based on bubbles." He said that he would ask Congress to pass an idea championed by former Republican presidential opponent Mitt Romney to give all homeowners the chance to refinance their mortgages, and "cut red tape" for families who want to get a mortgage but whose banks won't offer one.

He said a secure retirement and full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be critical to middle class growth.

Finally, Obama said he wanted to make upward mobility easier for Americans in poverty.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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