Obama poked fun at potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates in a recent address to the Democratic National Committee this month.
"The new plan is to rebrand themselves as the party of the middle class," Obama said in his speech, drawing laughter from attendees. "I'm not making this up."
Potential Republican candidates, such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Kentucky senator Rand Paul, have made recent comments expressing their concern about income inequality and the stagnation of middle-class wages.
During an address to conservative activists, Paul said, "We need a Republican Party that shows up on the South Side of Chicago and shouts at the top of our lungs, 'We are the party of jobs and opportunity. The GOP is the ticket to the middle class.'"
Obama, who hails from the South Side of Chicago, said he thinks Senator Rand Paul is "an interesting guy," saying, "I guarantee you that Senator Paul would be welcome there. We are a friendly bunch."
"I mean, it's a little strange people show up and just start shouting at the top of their lungs, but we're friendly, and it would be OK," Obama added, laughing.
Jeb Bush also emphasized the idea that ways of reducing the rising income inequality in the United States need to be found, bringing up that point during a speech to the Detroit Economic Club earlier this month.
"Today, Americans across the country are frustrated. They see only a small portion of the population riding the economy's 'up' escalator," Bush said on February 4. "It's true enough that we've seen some recent and welcome good news on the economy. But it's very little, and it's come very late."
The Republican concern over income inequality is a marked change from the attitude during the last presidential election, when Mitt Romney made his now-infamous "47 percent" remarks, where he stated that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal taxes and stated, "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum also dismissed income inequality and middle-class concerns during his 2012 race, saying that he supported income inequality as the "natural outgrowth of capitalism," and that "some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder."
But Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential election are now embracing what is seen as populist rhetoric historically reserved for the Democratic party. The New York Timescynically states that the reason why is simple.
"...the G.O.P. needs a way to criticize President Obama's management of the economy. With more jobs being created, Republicans have been forced to shift to criticizing inequality and continued wage stagnation rather than a lack of economic growth."
A better question than why, however, and a more telling one, may be how Republicans plan to address income inequality and middle-class economic stagnation -- and on that front, they may be waging an uphill battle.
Obama has long since focused his attention on such issues as a minimum wage increase, affordable college, and a revision of the tax code that would bring relief to the middle class while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more.
As Josh Schwerin, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pointed out, "Republicans in Congress refuse ending tax loopholes for special interests to give the middle class a tax cut. That tells you all you need to know about their credibility on the issue."
As for Republicans, they believe that the solution to ending middle-class economic stagnation and closing the ever-widening gaps of income inequality has nothing to do with a rising minimum wage, more affordable college, or a lessening of middle-class tax burdens. Instead, Republicans believe that the middle class is being held back by too much government and red tape, calling again for decreased regulation, reduction of social safety nets, and smaller government.
This isn't the first time President Obama has had some fun at the expense of Republicans who have suddenly embraced a concern that he has been focused on for some time.
"I consider imitation the highest form of flattery," Obama said recently of Republicans' sudden adoption of populist rhetoric.
What do you think? Is the new-found concern from Republicans over income inequality an election ploy, or will it become an actual focus for the party?
Obama himself has come under fire from the political right in recent days, as former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani made the remark that Obama "doesn't love America." For the latest on that, click here.
[Image via Biography.com]