Conservatives have seized on Vice President Biden's remarks during an Ohio campaign speech about the issues facing the middle class, characterizing Biden as "unhinged" and "deranged," and claiming the administration is perpetuating "class-warfare." But with tax levels for the wealthy at historic lows set against the stark contrast of middle-class wage stagnation and reduced economic mobility, there is every justification to be passionate about the issue.
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Biden Called Out People Who Cry "Envy" In Response To Discussion Of Issues Facing The Middle Class
Biden Argued Against Programs That Help The "Guys At The Top To Do Well" While Others Have To "Fend For Themselves." From a CNN.com post on a May 16 speech by Biden in Ohio:
In a sometimes fiery speech at M7 Technologies, an advanced manufacturing plant in Youngstown, Ohio, Biden added new emphasis to the attack on Romney's tenure at Bain Capital that the Obama campaign has waged all week, labeling his policies in a negative light as "Romney economics."
"There's the Romney philosophy, the Romney economics, which says as long as the government helps the guys at the top to do well workers and small businesses and communities, they can fend for themselves," Biden said.
In a personal appeal from the former Delaware senator, Biden said his parents voiced big dreams for their children, dreams Republicans "don't get." [CNN.com, 5/16/12]
Biden Criticized Those Who Attack People For Talking About The Struggles That Face The Middle Class. From Biden's May 16 speech:
Governor Romney is a patriot. He's a generous man. He gives to his church. He has a beautiful family. But he doesn't get it. He doesn't get what's at the core of all this. It's about people's dignity.
And by the way, one thing that I do resent: I resent when they talk about families like mine that I grew up in, I resent the fact that they think we're talking about we're envy. It's job envy. It's wealth envy. That we don't dream. My mother believed and my father believed that if I wanted to be president of the United States, I could be. I could be Vice President. My mother and father believed that if my brother or sister wanted to be a millionaire, they could be a millionaire. My mother and father dreamed as much as any rich guy dreams.
They don't get us. They don't get who we are. [Speech by Vice President Joe Biden, 5/16/12, via Talking Points Memo]
Conservatives React To Biden's Speech With Ridicule
Rush Limbaugh: Joe Biden Has "Gone Nuts." He's "Deranged." From the May 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: So Joe Biden, Joe Biden is off the reservation. A little Elizabeth Warren lingo there. Joe Biden he's just going nuts. Two days in a row now he's gone nuts. I told Cookie I want the Biden sound bites from yesterday because you know what I saw? I saw that -- we've played these Biden sound bites where he was going nuts yesterday about "People don't get us. What do you mean we are against [unintelligible]? What do you mean we don't want people to get wealthy? what do you mean?"
When you see it, when you see Biden's face, when you see his eyes, when you see his mouth, the facial expressions, it -- well I wouldn't call it demonic -- deranged. I mean, it's just, it's astounding, so I said Cookie give me the bites again, I want to play these bites again. I want to paint an accurate video picture of what "bite-me" looks like. [Premiere Radio Network, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/17/12, via Media Matters]
On Fox, Karl Rove Called Biden "Unhinged." From the May 16 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (host): And Karl Rove is back with us. Karl, obviously a very passionate Vice President, but once again the topic of the wealthy in the United States come up, and he's in Ohio giving that campaign speech. I supposed he took Ohio because they're in deep trouble, and it's a swing state, right?
KARL ROVE (Fox News contributor): Yeah, I wouldn't say passionate, I'd say unhinged. I mean who's he talking about? I mean once again we saw there, you know, the class warfare, the unnecessary effort by this administration to pit Americans of different incomes against each other. Who's he talking about, the rich people that don't get it? Who's he talking about as saying that people who come from modest means can't dream?
ROVE: The President of the United States and the Vice President don't need to be looking for opportunities to try and pit Americans against each other based on their financial backgrounds. And you know who is he talking about? Damned if I know. [Fox News, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 5/16/12, via Media Matters]
Fox's Kilmeade: "He's Getting All Red-Faced, Vice President Joe Biden Doubling Down On His Message Of Blaming The Rich For, Well, Everything." From the May 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): He's getting all red-faced, Vice President Joe Biden doubling down on his message of blaming the rich for, well, everything. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/18/12, via Media Matters]
And Dismiss Biden's Speech As "Class-Warfare"
Fox's Crowley: "This Is A Classic Joe Biden Class-Warfare, Obama-Esque Freak Out." From the May 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
BILL HEMMER (co-host): Vice President Joe Biden fired up during a campaign speech in Ohio. Man was he ever. Critics say the speech about Mitt Romney's economic policies is more class warfare.
MONICA CROWLEY (Fox News contributor): Well if a Republican had acted this way, Democrats like Chris would be calling him a nut, but since it's Joe Biden, everybody goes "it's just Joe, this is how he acts." Look, on the substance of this, and lets set aside the style for a second, because that was sort of Howard Dean-esque, but again, that's just Joe.
On the substance of this, this is a classic Joe Biden class-warfare, Obama-esque freak-out, right? I mean, this is the message that they have been driving for the last three and a half years. Pitting Americans against each other, pitting the one percent against everybody else, casting those who are wealthier as not paying their fair share. Going against private jet owners, those who fly in private jets, millionaires and billionaires. This is what they've done, so this is just an extension of that rhetoric. [Fox News, Happening Now, 5/17/12, via Media Matters]
Bill O'Reilly: Joe Was "Attacking The Rich" And "Trying To Demonize American Like Me." From the May 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY (host): Vice President Biden attacking the rich once again. That is the subject of this evening's talking points memo. First the stats, there are about 315 million people currently living in the U.S.A., and about three million of them are millionaires, that according to a wealth report from Merill Lynch. So we're not a country dominated by fat cats. The real power in America lies with the working class folks.
According to the Spectrum group, about 30 percent of millionaires attribute their status to inherited wealth. We're talking the Duponts, Roosevelts, Kennedys, those folks. So most wealthy Americans are self-made. Therefore the question becomes what is the beef from the Obama administration? Why are they trying to demonize Americans like me who have made money the old-fashioned way, we've earned it. Speaking in Ohio yesterday, Vice President Biden once again lashed out.
O'REILLY: Bottom line, this is all a bunch of garbage. The class-warfare the Obama administration is peddling is bogus. Wealthy people are not responsible for the bad economy, bad federal polices and corrupt financial greed-heads are responsible. Rich people pay most of the income tax in this country. Fifty percent of the population pays no federal income tax at all. Wealthy people create jobs. The Occupy Wall Street protesters break windows. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/17/12, via Media Matters]
Fox's Carlson: Biden And The Obama Administration Have "Vilified" The Wealthy. From the May 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): This is day two of what seems to be a big attack from the Obama-Biden camp on Romney's days at Bain Capital. Day two is in Ohio yesterday, and it was Joe Biden's job to go out there and say hey working class people, those--Mitt Romney is basically that guy that fired you, and he is over-the-top I think by any definition, let's listen.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): He's talking about the American dream, which a lot of people think has been under attack for the last couple of years by the way. That people who start with nothing, and work really hard, and make a buck, have been vilified for the last three years, many times by this administration. So I thought it was really ironic that he was talking about millionaires, he could have thrown in billionaires too, because those have been the two buzz-words that this administration has used to talk about people that we should not like in our society right now. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/17/12, via Media Matters]
But Middle Class Wages Are Stagnant
CNN: "Middle-Class Incomes Have Been Stagnant For At Least A Generation, While The Wealthiest Tier Has Surged Ahead." From a Feb 16, 2011 CNNMoney article titled "How the middle class became the underclass":
Incomes for 90% of Americans have been stuck in neutral, and it's not just because of the Great Recession. Middle-class incomes have been stagnant for at least a generation, while the wealthiest tier has surged ahead at lighting [sic] speed.
In 1988, the income of an average American taxpayer was $33,400, adjusted for inflation. Fast forward 20 years, and not much had changed: The average income was still just $33,000 in 2008, according to IRS data.
Meanwhile, the richest 1% of Americans -- those making $380,000 or more -- have seen their incomes grow 33% over the last 20 years, leaving average Americans in the dust. [CNN, 2/16/11]
CNN Chart Shows Stagnation Of Middle Class Wages. From CNN:
And The United States Has Low Economic Mobility
NY Times: "Americans Enjoy Less Economic Mobility Than Their Peers In Canada And Much Of Western Europe." From a January 4 New York Times article titled "Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs":
[M]any researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.
At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) -- a country famous for its class constraints.
Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.
Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. [The New York Times, 1/4/12]
NY Times Chart Shows The United States' Low Relative Economic Mobility. A chart from the January 4 New York Times article, comparing economic mobility between the United States and Denmark:
[The New York Times, 1/4/12]
While The Richest Americans' Income Is At Record Highs
CEPR Report Shows Income Of Top 1 Percent Increased 256 Percent From 1979-2006, While Lowest Quintile Saw Incomes Rise 11 Percent. From a December 2010 report released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR):
[Center For Economic and Policy Research, December 2010]
Vanity Fair: "Upper 1 Percent" Take In "Nearly A Quarter Of The Nation's Income" As Compared To "12 Percent" 25 Years Ago. From a May 2011 Vanity Fair article by Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz:
It's no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation's income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous -- 12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades -- and more -- has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow. [Vanity Fair, May 2011, emphasis added]
Huffington Post: "For 2007 ... The Top One Percent Of Earners ... Enjoyed A 6.8 Percent Growth" In Income, "Versus The 3.7 Percent Average" In The U.S. Froma March 2010 Huffington Post piece titled, "Number of U.S. Millionaires Soared In 2009: Spectrem Group":
Of course, household incomes have been growing unevenly for years -- even during times of seeming prosperity. For 2007, the year for which the most recent data is available, the top one percent of earners -- those with incomes of at least $398,000 per year -- enjoyed a 6.8 percent growth (versus the 3.7 percent average), boosting their share of the country's total income to 23.5 percent. [The Huffington Post, 3/9/10]