Obama charges Republicans want to 'accelerate' income inequality
September 15th, 2013
10:44 AM ET
5 years ago

Obama charges Republicans want to 'accelerate' income inequality

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama positioned himself as a president fighting against income inequality, while accusing some Republicans of wanting to "accelerate" a trend that shows the wealthiest Americans reaping most of the benefits in the slow-growing economy.

"You've got a portion of Congress whose policies don't just want to, you know, leave things alone, they actually want to accelerate these trends," Obama said in an interview aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." The interview was recorded on Friday.

The president was responding to a question about a recent University of California, Berkeley, study that found 95% of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the top 1% of earners. In short, the study found, the slow economic growth the United States has experienced since the economic crash of 2008 has primarily favored top earners, while incomes for the vast majority of people have stagnated.

Obama made the case that Republicans' congressional agenda would further widen the income gap.

"There's no serious economist out there that would suggest that, if you took the Republican agenda of slashing education further, slashing Medicare further, slashing research and development further, slashing investments in infrastructure further, that that would reverse some of these trends of inequality," Obama said.

While Obama put a great deal of the blame on Republicans during the interview, he also acknowledged that "the president can stop" income inequality.

The debate over the income gap comes just weeks before the U.S. could surpass its debt limit.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the country could run about $106 billion short of money it owes as early as October 18. If Congress fails to raise the nation's borrowing limit, the government will be unable to pay the equivalent of a third of all the bills due during that period.

Obama told ABC that if negotiating over the debt ceiling – something he said he wouldn't do – became the norm, the change would alter the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

"What I haven't been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling," Obama said. "If we continue to set a precedent in which a president … is in a situation in which, each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, 'Well, we're not going to … pay the bills unless you give us … what we want' - that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely."

The debt ceiling is currently set at $16.7 trillion, and while debate over the issue has been fiery and partisan, it has largely been drowned out by discussion of possible military action in Syria. Many Republican lawmakers have said they won't vote to raise the limit until certain spending cuts are implemented. Democrats have pushed back against that notion.

If the government defaults on its debt in October, all payments issued by the Treasury Department could be in jeopardy, including IRS refunds, Social Security and veterans' benefits, Medicare reimbursements for doctors and hospitals, bond interest owed investors, payments to contractors and paychecks for federal workers and military personnel.

If Congress fails to act in time, Treasury will have to make difficult - and legally questionable - decisions about who should get paid and who should be stiffed. It may decide to pay some bills in full and on time and not others.

- CNN Money's Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.

Filed under: Economy • President Obama
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. don in albuquerque

    The GOTP is no longer a political party. They represent treason and terror.

    September 15, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Hector Slagg

    So Intelligent one,
    Ain't you supposed to have a Harvard Education. Just how do you think people become successful? Last time i looked we are under the Free Enterprise System. By working hard there is no limit to how far up you can rise. I know it bursts your bubble but that is how people do it, some of them are Republician's. The best way to slow down growth is to tax success more and they produce less, or go out of business. Then those that want a better life suffer. Everyone has the oppertunity, and duty to get an education, all in place and paid by the Taxpayer's.

    You know laddie, you are a good Con man. Most aren't buying it. So stop the cheap talk. Get rid of Obama Care. It is killing the country.

    September 15, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  3. jpmichigan

    The only way the American people can/want to change how things are done in Washington DC, is to use the power of the voting booth. If our representatives on the Hill, do not or won't listen to the needs/wants of the American taxpayer, it is our choice who stays or goes on the Hill in order to get what WE want, not what THEY want. If the AHC bill was /is so great why have Congress and President opt out though waivers?

    September 15, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. Debbie in Arizona

    I hope the President firmly stands his ground. The Tea Party Republicans are coming very close to treason, in my opinion. They are trying to ruin our country and if we allow them to do it, we are as guilty as they. It's time for the rational people of this country to stand together and rid ourselves of these self serving, domestic terrorists. People need to go to the polls in 2014 and vote these people out of office.

    September 15, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. boungiorno


    September 15, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  6. king

    when will the American people realize that the repubs trickle down policies doesn't work. all it will do is funnel money from the economy to the top, and have the top funnel the money to overseas tax have to hide from the tax man leaving our local economy with less money to spend, hire, and create small businesses. how many more years do this country have to go through to find out that this crap doesn't work. these repubs want to send every money building enterprise that hires people to hell, such as obamacare, which has almost half of my mediate family working in the healthcare field, and healthcare linked field. when will these repubs understand that big private field like the obamacare is needed to bring jobs to the local economy.

    September 15, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. Robertson

    Obama is nothing more than Marxist filth who exaggerates his own lies in order to push us further down the same hole he crawled out of!

    September 15, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Name willard

    I mocked out of presdient obama what happened about fraud check scam from afrcian amercian. I want tell truth God what about fraud check scam from afrcian amercian
    People like get fraud check scam from afrcian amercian cause people like cheat vote support for presdient obama 2008 from fraud check scam from afrcian obama. So he would get impeach out of presdient so i said no excuse to him for 5 year

    September 15, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. don in albuquerque

    @Robertson-if this is the case, then explain all the right wingers who are suddenly supporting Putin over their President. Remember when you point your finger there are three pointing back at who? Odd though that the GOTP would support a Marxist, they more closely resemble Benito.

    September 15, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Robertson

    It is sad to see that the people posting here who support Obama, his lies, and his exaggerations have completely forgotten (or are blatantly ignorant) why this country was founded in the first place: to be free from oppressive government policies, taxes, and wanton power.

    September 15, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  11. rla

    Another lie– When will it become clear that all this administration wants is control.... Has income equety become less over the last 5 years??? Think maybe something is wrong with the administrations policies??? Does the future look brighter after 5 years??? Guess what this administrations lies about the opposition and has caused more division and devAstation than ANY president in history... Bush must be thanking God every night for OBAMA

    September 15, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  12. Tampa Tim

    Robertson and republicans have shown that they support Commies like Putin instead of our elected president.

    September 15, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. Thomas

    America is looking more and more like a cast system , India .

    September 15, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Tampa Tim

    Bush must be thanking Obama every night for getting us out the Bush republican economic disaster.

    September 15, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. Steve

    Sorry but the Prez not standing up to Wall Street and the Fed has further pushed income equality. One of the great lies of this crisis is the US currency devaluation by the Fed and its cronies. This has punished the middle class and broader minority communities to the point they may not recover. All BO has done is sit by and complain, not lead. His party and the other side just as guilty.

    September 15, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. GonzoinHouston

    You have to understand that a robust middle class is NOT a free-market solution. Completely unrestrained free-market capitalism results in a plutocracy or oligarchy, in which very few have almost all the wealth and the vast majority are in poverty. Free-market is a wonderful, powerful system, but like most things, it works best within certain limits.

    Never mind the fairness and morality arguments, what we have now is bad economics. Our economy is strongest when we have a robust, consuming middle class, and over the last 30 years the rules of government taxing and spending have badly weakened our middle class. Our 1% isn't rich just because they work harder and smarter. They have huge advantages and subsidies buried in a thousand small laws.

    September 15, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. Zolicon

    He is right.

    September 15, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. rs

    Has income equety become less over the last 5 years??? Think maybe something is wrong with the administrations policies???
    Technically correct, however, the problem began accelerating in the 1980s under Reagan and his tax breaks for the rich. They fairly hit passing gear with Bush jr. in charge. Oddly, the economic crash of '07 gave the rich huge opportunities to make more money off of the misery of the middle class- the reason there are more renters than home owners than 20 years ago, the reasons wages are so low, and the reason that CEOs are making record-breaking salaries.

    September 15, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Ya , the gop always backs the 1% and the oil and insurance industries over the common voter, so why do you suckers still support them when they do absolutely nothing for you and work against your interests. On healthcare , do you actually think they care about YOUR healthcare or insurance companies profits?? The correct answer is profits!!!!!

    September 15, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. Richard Long

    More Hoax and Blame...

    September 15, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. NameFrank Deery

    Obama is a failed President, both domestically and, now, internationally as well.
    Spin and blame-game is his Clintonian forte, thus his dependence on that other bad President, an expert on both, to act as "shadow president". With Syria, Benghazi, et al, way too much baggage for either to handle, and a mess in Colorado, Obama today is all over the media blaming Republicans! Won't work, boys!

    Republicans warned the nation about Obama, Heath Care fiasco, and Mid-East
    disasters two years ago. Romney even said in his debates with Obama that Russia was our main problem, which Obama dismissed. Doubt he is now, with a thug like Putin trumping him.

    As for the 1% rich: not all are Republicans.
    No, many are in the very places Obama heads to for his endless "fundraising": Las
    Vegas, Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, San Francisco, and New York! Liberal rich enclaves. He has yet to show up in Detroit or

    Maybe, today, with Colorado in taters, one would think a concerned President would go there instead of spinning his failures on Sunday tv shows. Won't work anymore! Syria, alone, which he ignored for 2 years, has been the Real "Game Change" for Obama with the voters. Hmmm? What a story for HBO to tackle!

    September 15, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. Don't blame me, I'm Obama!

    Hard to escape the fact this president has screwed the middle class while blaming the Republicans. Everything was the presidents fault when bush was pres, but now Obama is pres, its all the repubs in the houses fault. Obama is showing u how to lead from behind while he sticks it to the very people that a strong leader. Obama is a joke and the world is laughing at his ignorance... but stand by, cause Hillary will be here soon to continue to screw the middle class next...

    September 15, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. pjoe

    The income gap now is wider than when Obama first got elected. The rich have gotten richer under Obama ... and the unemployed have given up trying to find a job. Of course, Obama blames the other party that hasn't had any power since 2009.

    September 15, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. 1108

    “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. ... I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

    — Then-Sen. Barack Obama, floor speech in the Senate, March 16, 2006

    September 15, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Ron L

    The President is attempting to get the Republican Party to focus on what I call the
    .................................................WHATS AMERICA GOING TO DO LIST...
    1) What is America going to do about the minimum wage that is 20% lower than the minimum wage of 30 years ago?
    2) What is America going to do about the American tax payer funding those low wages?
    ...For those of you that don't know, when a person works 40 hours a week and there income is below the poverty line the government (U.S. taxpayers) send them a tax credit making up the difference.
    3) What is America going to do about college tuition that is rising 7 to 10% a year when inflation is rising only 2%?
    4) What is America going to do about the crumbling infrastructure that is 50 to 100 years old?
    5) What is America going to do about the unreasonable cost of health care services?
    6) What is America going to do about the CEO of a company making $40 million a year when it's workers make $8.00
    an hour and have difficulty in being scheduled 40 hours a week?
    7) What is America going to do about that same CEO having so many loop holes in the tax code that he pays a lower
    percentage of taxes than an American making $60,000 a year?
    8) What is America going to do about the influx of money that is skewing our political process?
    9) What is America going to do the help the so called AMERICAN DREAM become available for most of us, like it was
    25 years ago, instead of just a very, very, few like today?
    I am 58 years old and our country is in REAL TROUBLE because the very things that made us "exceptional" are dissipating into nothingness. Our NEWS MEDIA is failing us because they are more interested in what a politician "thinks or says" instead of what they "accomplish". It is heartbreaking because so few of us realize it is happening.
    In closing I would like to say I have been in a union and I have had to fight with unions when I was in management. Here are the FACTS, as union membership went down two things happened: average American wages went flat and CEO pay went up 10 to 20% per year. There is strength in numbers and it is the ONLY THING large corporations respect and FEAR!!!

    September 15, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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