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Obama Says Republicans Are Trying to ‘Bamboozle Folks’ on Income Inequality

2 minute read

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.”

Photos: What Obama's Hugs Meant

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel embrace during a press conference to announce Hagel's departure at the White House on Nov. 24, 2014 in Washington, DC.
You can see it by Obama’s bowed head and Hagel’s sorrowful face – this is an “I’m sorry” hug, plain and simple.Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama gives White House press secretary Jay Carney a hug after announcing that Carney will step down later next month, during a surprise visit to the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, May 30, 2014. The president announced Carney's departure in a surprise appearance at in the White House press briefing room Friday. He said principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest will take over the job. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
This hug between Obama and former Press Secretary Jay Carney may have been commemorating Carney’s departure, but all people will remember is its awkwardness.Susan Walsh—AP
Here’s where Obama’s hug game is the strongest: with Michelle. The peaceful smile on his face, the warm, full-body embrace – this is clearly an “I love you” hug. Consider it the antidote to the Carney debacle. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama gives a hug to Dallas nurse Nina Pham in the Oval Office of the White House October 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pham, a nurse who was infected with Ebola from treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and was first diagnosed on October 12, was declared free of the virus on Friday. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
Obama’s hug with nurse Nina Pham after her battle with Ebola was a way to signal to the public that the disease is not as scary as some had thought. This is the hug as public health awareness.Olivier Douliery-—Getty Images
Critics charged that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "hugged" the president, but the Republican claimed it was just a handshake.Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images
FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama, left, embraces Donna Vanzant, right, during a tour of a neighborhood effected by Superstorm Sandy in Brigantine, N.J. Vanzant is a owner of North Point Marina, which was damaged by the storm. In the end, President Obama won re-election exactly the way his campaign had predicted: running up big margins with women and minorities, mobilizing a sophisticated registration and get-out-the-vote operation and focusing narrowly on the battleground states that would determine the election. Still, there were detours along the way. Superstorm Sandy upended the campaign in its closing days, though the political impact appears to have been positive for Obama, giving him a high-profile opportunity to show voters presidential leadership(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The photo of Obama hugging a victim of Hurricane Sandy went viral- his solemn face and her tear-stained one, his arms protectively around her shoulders – this is a presidential hug in its purest form.Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP
U.S. President Barack Obama kisses Aung San Suu Kyi following joint remarks at her residence in Yangon, November 19, 2012. President Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Myanmar on Monday, trying during a whirlwind six-hour trip to strike a balance between praising the government's progress in shaking off military rule and pressing for more reform. REUTERS/Jason Reed (MYANMAR - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3ALMW
Though Obama’s peck on Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi’s cheek was a pro-democracy smooch, her visible recoil from the kiss indicates that he may have been better off with a handshake.Jason Reed—Reuters
President Barack Obama, right, is picked-up and lifted off the ground by Scott Van Duzer, left, owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant during an unannounced stop, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Ft. Pierce, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Obama was literally swept off his feet by pizzeria owner Scott Van Duzer. The now-famous bear hug was a “celebrities are just like us” moment, when Obama showed he could still joke around in a regular ol’ pizza joint. Sept. 9, 2012.Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

“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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