Obama Again Reminds Voters He and First Lady ‘Didn’t Come From Wealthy Families’

Fred Lucas | April 24, 2012 | 6:25pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama twice reminded a gathering in the swing state of North Carolina on Tuesday that he was not born wealthy. This came a week after he reminded another audience in the swing state of Ohio he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, a widely suspected reference to his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, the son of an auto executive.

However, the Obamas did report an income of $789,674 for 2011 on their tax returns, which puts them in the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States. Their income in 2010 was $1.8 million.

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Delivering remarks on Tuesday at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Obama said he identified with college students and debt because he and first lady Michelle Obama “didn’t come from families of means.” He later said, “We didn’t come from wealthy families.”

During a speech last week at the Loraine County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, Obama said, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn’t. But somebody gave us a chance -- just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.”

In addition to their reported incomes in 2011 and 2010,  the Obama’s 2009 tax return shows that Barack Obama inherited $480,908 worth of Bank of Hawaii stock from his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who was a vice president of the bank. The tax return says Obama sold the stock shortly after becoming president for $355,029, taking a loss of $125,879.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo)

Also, in 2005, when Obama was a U.S. senator, he was paid $162,100 by the U.S. taxpayers, and his wife Michelle was making $316,962 a year to handle community affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center – total income: $479,062.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the son of a former auto executive and Michigan governor.

On April 19, on Fox News, Romney responded to a question about Obama’s statement about not being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

“I’m certainly not going to apologize for my dad and his success in life,” Romney said. “He was born poor. He worked his way to become very successful despite the fact that he didn't have a college degree, and one of the things he wanted to do was provide for me and for my brother and sisters.”

“I’m not going to apologize for my dad’s success, but I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans,” said Romney.  “He’s always looking for a scapegoat, particularly those who have been successful like my dad, and I’m not going to rise to that. This is a time for us to solve problems. This is not a time for us to be attacking people; we should be attacking problems.”

A reporter last week asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, “When the President, at an official event yesterday, said that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth and neither was the first lady, was that in any way a reference to Governor Romney?”

Carney said it was not in reference to anyone.

“Those of you who have covered President Obama know that he has used that phrase to describe his background many times in the past,” Carney said. “And I suppose anybody who thinks it was a reference to them might be a little oversensitive, because -- unless they think that when President Obama said it three years ago it was in reference to them.”

Obama is on a two-day jaunt through three universities in swing states, the University of North Carolina, the University of Colorado and the University of Iowa.

During the speech at UNC on Tuesday, Obama personalized the issue of college affordability and recalled that his grandfather, a World War II veteran, went to college on the G.I. Bill, while his mother received loans and grants for college.

GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

“I am only standing here today, Michelle is only who she is today because of scholarships and student loans, that gave us a shot at a great education,” Obama said. “We didn’t come from families of means. But we knew that if we worked hard, we’d have a shot."

The president is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, while the first lady is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law, all among the most elite, prestigious  schools in the country.

“This is something Michelle and I know about first hand," said Obama.  "I just want everybody here to understand that I didn’t just read about this. I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes."

“Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt,” Obama said. “When we married, we got poor together. We added up our assets and there were no assets. And we added up our liabilities and there were a lot of liabilities basically in the form of student loans. We paid more in student loans than we paid on our mortgage when we finally did buy a condo for the first eight years of our marriage."

“We were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage,” said Obama.  “So we know what this is about. And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans -- check this out, all right, I’m the president of the United States -- we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago."

During the speech, Obama again called for Congress to act immediately to maintain the current interest rate on federally backed student loans, which is set to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in July. Some House Republicans have said that maintaining the current interest rate would cost $6 billion and therefore should be offset with spending cuts. However, Romney announced on Monday that he is in agreement with the president on an extension now.

The interest rates used to be 6.8 percent until 2007, when a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to phase-in lower rates.

Obama, during the UNC remarks, also called on Congress to extend the college tuition tax credits, devote more money for Pell grants, and double funding for work study programs over the next five years.

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