With less than a year to go until the US election, Barack Obama is stepping up his campaign. And to succeed, he will need to convince voters that only he can be trusted to turn around the economy.
"The Occupy movement has been sort of a wake-up call for the president. He's certainly left behind this discussion of deficit and debt as the primary
problem in this country."
- Tim Dickinson, a political correspondent
Obama's strategy is to present himself as the defender of the middle class and his message is that everyone deserves a fair share.
But with unemployment still high at 8.6 per cent, Republicans and Democrats are battling over strategy - whether to raise or cut taxes, and whether or not to spend.
Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street protests demonstrate frustration over inequality and beg far more fundamental questions about what the protesters call a broken economic system.
"For him [Obama] to make this pivot now that the problem is the crisis of the middle class, the problem is these people who are being thrown out of their homes, when he hasn't done anything effective in getting them back into their homes, makes him seem a little shifty."
- Rick Perlstein, a US historian
The gap between the rich and poor has widened sharply as one in six live in poverty, taking the number of poor people to over 46 million.
Although there have been attempts to put the most powerful financial institutions under greater scrutiny, doubts remain over whether the same big corporations that enjoy a great deal of influence in Washington and give generously to political candidates will be genuinely regulated.
The election will be fought on the economy but what are the 2012 candidates actually offering by way of solutions? And will they address the deeper problems within the economic system?
Inside Story US 2012 discusses with guests: Tim Dickinson, a political correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine; Rick Perlstein, a US historian and author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of
America; and Mark Calabria, an economist at the CATO Institute.
"This isn't about class warfare; this is about the nation's welfare. It's about making choices that benefit not just the people who have done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class and those fighting to get into the middle class and the economy as a whole."
Barack Obama, the US president