US President Barack Obama speaks during the General Session of the 2015 DNC Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20, 2015.
Alex Wong—EPA
February 20, 2015 12:03 PM EST

President Barack Obama took a skeptical approach Friday to the Republican Party’s recent focus on on income inequality and the middle class, saying the GOP’s “rhetoric has not matched the reality.”

In a fiery address to his party’s leadership at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting, Obama questioned the sincerity the GOP’s evolution, embraced by everyone from Mitt Romney to Rand Paul.

“I am encouraged that they’re speaking about middle class, and speaking about wages,” Obama said. “But there is this old saying that you can’t just talk the talk… you’ve gotta walk the walk.”

Listing issues from minimum wage to paid sick leave, Obama said that if Republicans were serious about helping the middle class, they’d work with him, rather than block his agenda. “Tell us how you’re going to help the middle class,” Obama said. “We’ve got an agenda and we know it works.”

“If you’re really troubled with income inequality, you can’t put forward proposals that give tax breaks to the folks that are doing the best, the millionaires and billionaires,” Obama added.

At a panel hosted by the Koch-brothers affiliated Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce last month, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz joined the chorus of Republicans embracing the “divided America” narrative. “The simple truth is those with resources are doing well,” Cruz said. “The people who have been hammered for the past six years are working men and women.”

“I think the shift in rhetoric that they’re engaging in is good if it actually leads them to take different actions,” Obama said Friday. “And if it doesn’t then it’s just spin.”

“They’re trying to bamboozle folks,” he added.

Obama also mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proclamation earlier this year that a recent uptick in economic growth should be credited to Republicans picking up seats in November. “I didn’t know that’s how the economy worked,” Obama quipped, “but… maybe?”

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