January 27th, 2012
02:47 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama: 'Nobody envies rich people'

(CNN) - President Barack Obama hit back Friday at a charge lobbed at him from Republican presidential candidates, saying the suggestion he's inciting class warfare was flat wrong.

Speaking to Democratic lawmakers at a retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Obama said he would actively rebut that charge in the coming election year.

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"This is one of the biggest things I'm going to be pushing back on this year, this notion that this is somehow class warfare, that we're trying to stir up envy," Obama said. "Nobody envies rich people, everybody wants to be rich. Everybody aspires to be rich, and everybody understands you've got work hard to be successful. That's the American way."

Candidates seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination have accused Obama of pitting 'haves' against 'have nots,' saying his rhetoric and policies amount to redistribution of wealth.

In his victory speech the night of New Hampshire's primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama was a "leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy," suggesting his proposals boiled down to an indictment of free enterprise.

Fellow candidate Newt Gingrich has also made the argument Obama is engaging in class warfare, saying in December the president has a "European radical attitude toward class warfare."

In his speech Friday, Obama reiterated a core theme from this week's State of the Union address by calling for the end of tax cuts and loopholes benefiting the country's top earners. Obama assured lawmakers the plan would prove popular with voters.

"We're going to push hard for the Buffett rule," Obama said, making reference to a proposal named for billionaire Warren Buffett that would look to ensure a higher tax rate for the rich.

Obama continued, "We're going to push hard to make sure someone making over a million dollars a year aren't getting tax breaks and tax subsidies they don't need, not out of envy, but out of a sense of fairness and a sense of mutual responsibility and a sense of commitment for the country's future, and that's what we're fighting for. The American people understand that."

In a year when campaign trail arguments seem poised to eclipse meaningful legislation, Obama said Democrats must remain mindful of passing important measures.

"Even as we engage in a robust debate with the other side, I want us all to remember there are still folks out there counting on us and still people out there hurting," Obama said. "Whenever we have an opportunity, whenever there is the possibility that the other side is putting some politics aside for a nanosecond in order to get something done for the American people, we've got to be right there ready to meet them."

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Filed under: 2012 • Congress • President Obama
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Four, people are hurting, youa re correct. Did you really think the abuses of the last 3 decades could get cured in 4 years, or even 8? We have systemic problems that are going to take time and commitment, and a man who was a failed one-term governor who is a diletante when it comes to public service is hardly up to the task of directing us out of it. Romney is NOT qualified, period. He has not feel for how to carry these thibngs out, because his first priority will always be to those like himself. Obama is not perfect, but he sees the whole picture, not just what is good for a few people. Where Romney sees envy, Obama sees people who just want a chance for their kids to succeed. We are willing to do the work and make the sacrifices, its a pity that Romney sees that obligation as envy and class warfare.

    January 27, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Obama: 'Nobody envies rich people' ?

    Are you kidding me , tell that to a hungry child . Or a Student that cant pay there tuition !

    This isn't about class warfare. This is about Cast and celebrity .

    January 27, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Sanity

    Hahahaha! Obama sure envies rich people; otherwise, why is he making millions of dollars every year now? He plays the left for the fools they are.

    January 27, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  4. southhillspgh

    Why is it calle a socialist notion that someone who makes 8 million a year pay the same tax rate as someone who makes 50 grand a year? This is not clas warfare, if it is, then Reagan was the worst offender. Under Reagan Romney would be paying about 28% instead of 15%.

    January 27, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. STMannew

    Class war is a very dangerous game, a few who have played it are: Lenin, Stalin and Hitler, it is the most powerful form of propaganda. It is usually a sign of a very big shift to a more socialist government. It is usually the academia who spearhead the effort.

    January 27, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. BLKMANinAmerica

    President Obama, the repuks need something to suck on since you took their nuk-nuks from them (lol), please just get the message out here that doing the "right thing" is just that, you sir are doing the "right thing". So, let them HATERS (repuks) continue to sit at the banks of DENIAL and sip on hater-aid, because even if you walked on water and feed every American with 5-fish & 5-lofes of bread that would be good enouph for them. And also remember, you turned this country around and that was without any repuk in Congress help. Eyes on the prize Sir.

    January 27, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Zac

    Wish I was rich so I didn't have to pay taxes. Is that envy? I guess it is.

    January 27, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. unsub

    @ truth
    ...nevermind...its best to ignore you, like president obama did to that nutty leatherfaced Jan Brewer

    January 27, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Actually, Governer, if things remain on the path that we are on now, pretty soon folks are going to look at you and even you will be able to tell that they are not envious.

    January 27, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  10. CorporationsRPeople2

    Jim in San Mateo
    @truth, please go live in a country where intelligence is not welcome.

    I agree. Feel free to take your money with you too. I hear Somalia doesn't have any of those pesky job killing regulations. Maybe you could give live there for a while.

    January 27, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. V in Chicago

    @ Truth and Nothing But the Truth -- feel free to take your money and leave any time!

    Obama 2012

    January 27, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. Ed 1

    I respect the office not the person who is there now you have to earn respect and he hasn't done that.

    Let's tax all the so called rich people at 100% and it still will not make a dent in the debt we have.

    Just get a grip and try and understand that Obama is not the second coming and never will be No leadership skills, no business background, and just came along at the right time to make us go toward socialism more people dependent of the government than people earning money. People that make the money they do don't have to share it's their's not the governments or ours to take. Don't like how they earn it stop buying their goods.

    January 27, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. Marley

    Is it not funny that the debt in this country was created by policies that favor the rich?

    We would be having a budget surplus right now to pay off our federal debt if it were not for:
    1. Two unpaid wars
    2. An unpaid prescription drug plan for seniors
    3. Continued favoritism towards BIG OIL companies instead of ALTERNATIVE GREEN ENERGY companies.
    4. Unpaid tax cuts for the rich that actually de-stimulated the economy!

    And the kicker is, the tax payers of this country bailed out the RICH, aka. WALL STREET!

    January 27, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  14. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    The Real Tom Paine - Truth, we don't envy rich people, their money, or their lifestyle. Get over yourself. Its about how they earn their money, and how they live their lives that counts. A person who regards 375K a year for speaking blather as a relatively insignificant amount of money is not someone most people can feel a connection with. 375K is still a lot of money, either way you slice it
    How very leftist of you. Now the left wants to pass judgement on all of us, just as they do with business. Yes, now there are good and bad ways of making money legally. Let the leftists judge what is right and wrong, what is good and bad. Yes, better to just let all those companies fail and throw all into unemployment. Yes, that is truly "fair" to all. To the left, the fact that Romney was able to SAVE over 60% of the companies, AND THE JOBS, makes him a "corporate raider", and "Evil Capitalist". Maybe you should ask the tens of thousand of EMPLOYED people at those companies if they would rather be in the unemployment line?

    No thnaks, the country doesn't need your warped leftists sense of what is right and what is wrong.

    January 27, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. tim12

    we dont know what newt's policies are, he panders and lies. mitt answers questions, lts you know what he is about

    January 27, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. Independent

    If Obama and the democrats do not envy the rich then why do they support the Occupy this & that thugs?

    January 27, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Jariv

    @The Real Tom Paine - you can escape the perception by living in reality. You need to go after the people that commit fraud knowingly and make them payback what they stole but you need not blame the rich for success. Because that is what everyone wants. In america and around the world.

    January 27, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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