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. logicnLA

    To " the truth..." A little over the top are we? Have you studied every President to KNOW he's the biggest liar ever?
    Has he lied on the level of say...starting a war, with no real provication? More than one President has done this by the way- not just Bush. Has he lied on the level of Nixon ( Watergate) Reagan ( Iran- contra) Clinton ( Monica Lewinski)? I don;t think so. See I'm not taking sides here , just pointing out your comment is a bit extreme and therefore lacks merit.

    January 27, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. Ken in MD

    The Buffet rule won't pass. The last time they tried to raise the capital gains rate, there was a huge lobbying group (led by Mitt Romney) sent in to fight it. They won.

    January 27, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Read about APARTHIED and then make your determination of whose engaging in "class warfare".

    January 27, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. vic , nashville ,tn

    @Truth and Nothing But the Truth
    I always like your comment because you start with lies

    January 27, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. SiriusVH

    Actually, I disagree somewhat with Obama .... not everybody wants to be rich, unless you define 'rich' as making over $100,000 .... which is really not much nowadays.

    Many people value having a job that requires relatively rare skills and knowledge. Although, such professionals tend to be well paid, the money is not the ultimate goal. It suffices them to know that they stand apart by what they know and can do. It suffices them to know that they understand the world around them better than the vast majority, including people who are possibly rich but fundamentally clueless (e.g., D. Trump).

    January 27, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Orwell proven

    If rich means being fascist, I don't envy that poison, I'll pass the chance.
    Fortunately people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet demonstrate being wealthy and evil are not the same. Class warfare is against fascism, and guess which political party embodies fascism and hypocrisy?

    January 27, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Jariv

    What.. What.... Whattt.... Come on and people still believe this President. "No body envies rich people" What ? Of course people do. Why do you think we have the lottery, why do people go to school, invest in the market, come up with inventions. So stupid. I respect him because he is the president, does not mean he is right.

    January 27, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. Cody

    Obama is right again.

    We dont want to take money away from people that earned it just because they earned a lot.

    We simply dont want them to pay off politicians to bend rules in their favor AKA CORRUPTION.

    I thought the GOP was anti-corruption and would easily understand that, clearly we see they are PRO-CORRUPTION.

    January 27, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. Luke

    The rich need to pay their fair share. The 1%'s have been looting America all throughout the Great Recession.

    January 27, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Jariv

    @sonny chapman - The game isn't rigged and if you want to play hard, you are welcome to do so. What is stopping people from playing hard you think? Tell me.

    January 27, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. jay1975

    Obama grew up wealthy with his Grandparents, so what the hell would he know. He has never had what most would call a normal life and his is just as distanced from Americans as Romney is.

    January 27, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  12. joshua

    i certainly don't envy Obama. Rich people like Obama want to keep the rest of the masses from getting the opportunity to get rich too. That's what spiteful rich people do. They put up barriers to keep the working man down. And they throw out peanuts that aren't even theirs to make them look like they care. In the meantime, they party and regale and have a big ole time spending our money.

    January 27, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. Four and The Door

    "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. ...
    Plenty of people are hurting. They are unemployed and losing their homes and if they are working there's a good chance they are underemployed. Your big gambles of 2009 and 2010 never helped anyone outside of Washington or Walll Street . A lot of people put faith in your promises and you let them down. Accountability comes November 8th. We can do better.

    January 27, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    Jariv, how can people escape the perception the game is rigged when you ahve multimillionaries making themselves out to be perecuted and to be victims? Please, grow up.

    January 27, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Kris Craig

    @Liar Actually, Nixon and Dubya hold the top honor in terms of the biggest liar.

    As someone who used to be poor, I never once "envied" rich people or their money. The even notion that I did would've been offensive to me. Rich people think they're so awesome that everyone else wants to be them. That's a load of crap. Yes, most people want to be rich, but that's a question of ambition, not envy. Desire, not jealousness. Wealthy snobs like Romney and yourself (at least the "snob" part applies) are incapable of understanding that.

    This sorta reminds me of that kid in school who was really anti-social and always getting into fights. Then, when nobody came to his birthday party, he'd just comfort himself by saying, "Well, they're all just jealous! They envy my greatness."

    Yeah, you keep telling yourselves that. See how it works out for ya in November. =)

    January 27, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    It appears that right wingnuts envy Mittens' wealth, but not so much anyone else.

    January 27, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  17. Jim in San Mateo

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

    January 27, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  18. MWM

    Those who have capital for investment are trying to prevent the workers from obtaining capital by eliminating capital gains tax and taxing wages.

    January 27, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. diridi

    .......................but they need to pay their fair share in taxes, and not stash money in Cayman Island, Bermuda, and Swiss...o.k,

    January 27, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  20. Independent in NC

    @Truth and nothing but the truth: Do you know how to express youself without the hate you use several times a day. If you are employed during the day you are spending too much time blogging and not enoug time working. If you are not employed or retired, you need to get out more and detox from the blogs.

    January 27, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. a in austin

    The only time I hear those words is when gopt speak them. Obama speaks of fairness, not class warfare. But the decks are stacked against those of not so fortunate to have hit the big time. I am happy where I am in life – just not happy about how I pay a bigger percentage of my salary in taxes than those who make more than me.

    January 27, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. AmericanSam

    I don't want to be rich.

    January 27, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. The Real Tom Paine

    I would love to know where Ed 1 has spotted welfare recipients getting lobster and steak. Another troll for the Righties, reviving the welfare queen legend.

    January 27, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. NOvember 2012

    there are several green companies who obama sent tax payer moneys to that are on the verge of or in bankruptcy to the tune of 6 billion dollars... what would this fraud of a president know about wealth and productivity?

    January 27, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. Jim , Va.

    Obama is worth millions so he must be talking about himself.

    January 27, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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