The Vetting: Obama 1995: ‘Scapegoat’ the ‘Top 5%’

In a newly-uncovered interview from the Hyde Park Citizen newspaper circa December 28, 1995, Barack Obama explains his philosophy on income inequality in the United States, especially in light of economic difficulties:

In an environment of scarcity, where the cost of living is rising, folks begin to get angry and bitter and look for scapegoats. Historically, instead of looking at the top 5% of this country that controls all the wealth, we turn towards each other, and the Republicans have added to the fire.

In that interview, Obama explains that his perspective on the “top 5%” was shaped by his experiences abroad:

It's about power. My travels made me sensitive to the plight of those without power and the issues of class and inequalities as it relates to wealth and power. Anytime you have been overseas in these so-called third world countries, one thing you see is the vast disparity of wealth of those who are part of power structure and those outside of it.

These comments are reminiscent of both the most radical Occupy Wall Street rhetoric and Obama’s infamous comments in San Francisco in April 2008 in which he stated that Americans suffering difficult economic times “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” 


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