President Obama to GOP: Stop copying me on economy

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — In his scheduled speech to the Democratic National Committee’s 2016 winter meeting on Friday, President Barack Obama is expected to reclaim some ownership over an issue that is suddenly a hot topic among top Republicans — income inequality.

Recent comments from potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders about the growing gap between wealthy and working class Americans in the United States have not gone unnoticed at the White House.

“Income inequality has worsened under this administration,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said after the president’s State of the Union speech.

“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, after Obama’s January address to the nation.

But aides to the President insist GOP leaders have flocked to the issue of income inequality only in an attempt to diminish Democratic claims to the nation’s improving economy. A White House official said Obama will use his DNC speech to call out Republicans for what he sees as hypocrisy.

“He will note that the Republican Party has noticed this progress, which is why they are attempting to cast themselves as the party of the middle class, even as they push policies that would undermine working families and exacerbate income inequality,” a White House official said.

The President views the improving economy after a difficult recession as a potential cornerstone of his legacy. In the foreword to a report on the nation’s brightening fiscal picture from the White House Counsel of Economic Advisors, Obama writes “the United States has just concluded a breakthrough year.”

Obama has made fewer references to the issue of income inequality in recent months in favor the term “middle class economics,” which was a major theme of his State of the Union speech.

In response to this week’s White House report on the economy, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner noted there are still glaring vulnerabilities in the nation’s recovery.

“Still, far too many continue to struggle with stagnant wages, underemployment and rising health care costs,” Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said.

“Instead of pushing the same old policies that have left middle-class families behind, President Obama ought to work with Republicans on better solutions to create robust growth and opportunities for all,” Fritz added.