January 27th, 2012
02:47 PM ET
10 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. Rudy NYC

    Mitt Romney says people are envious because he wants to believe that people are envious. That's the out of touch, elitist arrogance in him saying stuff like that.

    January 27, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. ST

    It is quite true. Nobody envy these big poshes. If you have the money it is your money. You have it today but one day will come and you will leave everything behind like what Steve Job did!

    January 27, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Obama: 'Nobody envies rich people'
    Riiiiiigghhhttt..... You just envy THEIR MONEY!

    Obama is the biggest liar this country has ever seen. How can ANYBODY possibily believe a word that comes out of his lying deceitful mouth?

    Joe WIlson hit the nail right on the head.

    January 27, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. alfern

    So what's wrong with class war? Isn't it time the poor fought back against the mega rich that run Washingoton, the media and business? The only reason they are rich is because they don't pay their workers -profit is the difference between what am paid and what the bos sells my labor for.

    We are all paying $11 per hour in real estate fees, half of which goes to the banks and business as profit – real estate caused the crash and is keeping up poor – time to devalue real estate, take money of the rich and put it back into the working economy. Greed is not good

    January 27, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. sonny chapman

    What Americans value more than anything is fairness. Right now, many Americans feel like the game is rigged. If the rules are fair, let everybody play as hard as they want to play & most people can accept the outcome at the end of the day. It's the guys that are obsessed w/winning & dominating & live life like it was a life or death struggle, they're the ones that keep chipping away at the rules until they're guaranteed to never lose. Especially the later generation wealthy,"Born on third base but act like they hit a triple to get there"-Barry Switzer.

    January 27, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. chill

    So why is it that the GOP doesn't think it is Class Warfare when they cut programs designed to give the poor and middle class a chance to advance or to provide basic necessities like health care and food to people who mostly for no fault of their own cannot earn a living? I don't get that. In truth, these programs are oftent he only thing that prevents real class warfare- the violent kind. Once people lose all hope, they have nothing to lose. And money aside, 99 out numbers 100 anyday.

    January 27, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on US!

    Actually, President Obama is incorrect. Many of the extreme rightwing hatemonkeys envy the rich and therefore defend them as the good little authoritarian followers they are. They will do anything to please their wealthy masters, like a puppy craving its owner's attention.

    January 27, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. Bill, NY

    They are both wrong. I do envy the rich and wish I was rich. At the same time these twisted Republicans love to twist the truth. There has been class war on the ever shrinking middle class aided and abetted by those truth twisting Republicans!

    January 27, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  9. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Obama continued, "We're going to push hard to make sure someone making over a million dollars a year are 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."
    Only in a socialists book is it "fair" to take more and more from fewer and fewer to give to others who pay NOTHING. Just how "fair" do the evil rich have to be? 30% fair? 40% fair?? 90% fair???

    I know if I had a ton of money and lived in the USA right now, I'd be looking to relocate to a place where all my money and investment would be appreciated an dnot attacked and vilified. News flash for the looney leftists: The USA isn't the only nice place to live on this planet! People and money are very mobile. Who's going to pay for your nutty idea of "fair" when all the money heads to other parts of the world?

    January 27, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  10. A Southern Lady

    The President is not inciting the country with class warfare. It is, instead, the Republican party who, throught unfair tax policies and laws favoring the rich, that have actually brought class warfare to the country. The R's, to distract away from their policies that favor the rich over the average person, they attempt to blame the President. All one has to do to see how the deck is stacked in favor of wealthy Republicans, is look at banking, tax laws, insider trading and off-shore accounts as displayed "in spades" by Mitt Romney's tax returns where he pays little and the middle class takes a hit right in the throat. The R's can lie through their teeth all they want but the truth is out and it started with a very wealthy man who stated, thanks to the cushy tax laws, his secretary pays more than he does. I rest my case!

    January 27, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    @Greedy Old Pigs – Good call. Hadn't thought of that. Romney's accustomed to seeing envious people, conservatives.

    January 27, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. Ed 1

    You are all about class warfare.

    Because you don't know the first thing about business you have all the answers with taxing more people that have money they earned not given away like you and so many of your party does.

    Why should I trust you with more tax dollars when you can't spend only what you bring in now. You will continue to spend without the money that is needed to back all of your give away programs.

    I am retired and worked very hard for what I get and don't think you can relate to the middle class people. All you will be remembered for is tax and spend and more food stamp programs. I see people buy steaks, lobster, and items I can't afford but our rules are not enforced and the fraud is so big you don't seem to care anything about that.

    Class warfare you look it up and your photo will be beside the word.

    January 27, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. DoNotWorry

    If the rich want to cut welfare programs, I am all for it. So long as they start paying a decent wage and stop paying themselves obscene amounts of money even when they are an epic fail. Executives don't create money, they are major overhead, welfare recipients living off labor of others. Romney made his money killing companies, looting their assets, all built up by people who worked and created the business in the first place. Gingrich? Well, he's never produced a thing in his life. Envy? Nope. I have EARNED enough money to take care of myself and help my family get a leg up. I sure didn't get that through destruction.

    January 27, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Lolo

    Mr. President no need to worry about these republican clowns. They definitely stay true to their words about their money. No one cares if they are rich, I care that they are getting richer by the second with out busting a sweat and then expect the lower income people to pay higher taxes so that they can hold onto their money. My pay raise has not changed much, but everything else is going up but my paycheck. How do they expect for us to pay our own way, when they are on the board of most of these companies that keep raising prices. The only fools who will believe the republican hype are their own deranged base who know no better. The trickle down effect that they have been preaching for years does not work. Also they are such hypocrits, they are willing to look over their nominees bad behavior and the reason is that they only care about getting you out of the white house because you are black. The KKK has really taken over the republican party. They are the only party that is trying to divide America, but I promise you they will not win this race. They are too ignorant to see that America is fed up with their lies. America wake up and do the right thing. The writing is on the wall regarding the republican/tp party.

    January 27, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    With all the attacks by the republicans on the middle class, 160 million workers, seniors, teachers, firemen, policemen, and veterans with benefits; it appears republicans envy anyone who does not worship their wealth.

    January 27, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Truth – take a day off, you need some rest.

    January 27, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  17. 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.

    January 27, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. Marie MD

    It's not that the rich have money. The problem is that middle class folks in the country used to be able to live comfortably. Between the tax codes favoring every penny the rich make, their loopholes and off shore banking vs the working poor who can't save, heck they can hardly have a roof over their heads and put food on the table, and the vanishing middle class who hasn't seen a good pay increase in years while everything from food to gas to clothes keeps going up it's hard to make it ini this country.
    I don't envy the rich. I am mad as he11 that ceos who are worthless except to play golf, have call girls, a private jet and a big house make money by firing and stomping on the middle class. That makes me VERY MAD!!!

    January 27, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    From the extreme rightwing perspective it's only class warfare when we fight back.

    January 27, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. Lolo

    @ Truth and nohing but the truth, The president has more money than you I bet. You gave all of yours away to Sarah Palin. Now you are blogging everyday to try to make an income. And speaking of liars, I guess you are okay with Mittens lying about his taxes and reissuing a revised copy, and no telling how it will be revised to benfit him so that he can try to get elected for president any means necessary. He is a career wanna be politician. Tired of sitting at home just raking in money without busting a sweat

    January 27, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. Woman In California

    Willard is a paranoid jerk who doesn't like to be questioned on ANYTHING. Only a self inflated, spoiled, loser would think we all "envy" his success. This is just another one of the reasons he doesn't belong in the White House.

    As far as the debate goes – he is going to need an even better coach when he goes against our very brilliant president.

    January 27, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. dabu

    One has to ask the clueless Repubs, since you are alleging that anyone with a common sense to recognize that the rich have to pay their fair share is envious of the rich and wants to punish them, who are the Warren Buffets and Bill Gates of this world envying when they say, you have to raise taxes to pay down our debt?

    January 27, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. CT Yank

    Considering how often the GOP refers to the founding fathers, it's amazing how little they know about them and their ideas. The British Civil War/American Revolution was ALL about class warfare! The working class against the aristocracy. It is especially surprising that Newt has not reminded Romney of this. Perhaps he will only demonstrate his historian's knowledge when he is being paid $25k per month?

    January 27, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. "Truth & Nothing But

    You with every post bash POTUS and don't post anything to substantiate your accusation he is a LIAR, STOP WITH THE NAME CALLING AND POST EXAMPLES YOU IDIOT, YOU DON'T HAVE CREDIABILITY WHEN YOU JUST NAME CALL, POST FACTS.

    January 27, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. Troy Owen

    The GOP wants to cut taxes for the rich to 15% AND make people that make 30,000 a year pay 15% also, YES ITS A WAR. How do they sleep at night?

    January 27, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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