President Barack Obama on Wednesday night called for more redistribution of wealth to America’s working poor, as part of an unapologetic plan to use government activism to revive the US economy in his second term.

After delivering his first State of the Union address since winning re-election, Mr Obama pledged to restore the country’s “basic bargain”, starting with an almost 25 per cent rise in the minimum wage.

“Corporate profits have skyrocketed to an all-time high,” Mr Obama said in a speech in North Carolina. “But it’s also true that for more than a decade, wages and incomes haven’t gone up at all.”

Noting that a minimum-wage American worker makes $14,500 a year, Mr Obama added: “If you work full-time, you shouldn’t be in poverty”.

The proposal was part of an ambitious second-term domestic agenda laid out hours earlier by the president in his annual remarks to the US Congress, which remains sharply divided along political lines.

It was swiftly dismissed by John Boehner, the Speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, whose party rejected Mr Obama’s remarks as a blueprint for more “big government” rather than free enterprise.

“A lot of people who are being paid the minimum wage are being paid that because they come to the workforce with no skills,” said Mr Boehner yesterday. “This makes it harder for them to acquire the skills they need in order to climb the ladder successfully.”

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