Vice President Joe Biden advised progressives to “stop being apologetic” and defend the Obama administration’s record in the upcoming presidential election.
“We’re now in a situation where we can’t back up. We can’t walk away. I know, again, I get criticized for being too straightforward, but, dammit, we ought to stand up and say what we believe and stand by it. Defend it. Don’t back away from it. We should run on what we’ve done,” Biden said at the Center for American Progress gala.
“Whoever is running should also talk about what the resurgence in place in the future is and talk about in 2016 what we’ve done. Some say this amounts to a third term for the President Obama. I call it sticking with what works and expanding on it to restore the middle class.”
Biden said the Obama administration’s economic initiatives, including the $816 billion Recovery Act in 2009, have worked.
“I just think we have to stop being apologetic – apologetic for anything we’ve done because what we’ve done has been correct and if we don’t explain to people why this happened, then we are going to lose the bumper sticker war,” he said. “And we always do lose the bumper sticker war with the Republicans. When you don’t think government matters, it’s easy to denigrate it. It’s harder to make the case to build something.”
The former Democratic senator from Delaware said the Republicans have beaten the Democrats in messaging.
“You heard immediately when the majority leader said – he acknowledged there’s been a genuine recovery and he said it was because of the anticipation and the expectation of a Republican Congress. Now, you guys make fun of these guys, but guess what? They’ve been better than us in messaging,” Biden told the audience. “They’ve been better than us and if they say it enough, and we don’t speak out, it will seep back in.”
In Biden’s view, the way voters perceive the economic recovery is going to “set the terms” of the political debate in the future, particularly for the next year.
“The country now faces and will continue to face a stark choice and it really is stark: A return to the failed policies of the Republican Party – the vision that caused the Great Recession – or we’re going to continue on a path that will allow us to really have genuine resurgence and bring the middle class back in the game,” he said.
Biden explained that being called “Middle Class Joe” around Washington is supposed to be perceived as an insult.
“In this town being referred to as Middle Class Joe is meant as an insult. No, I really mean it, because you’re not sophisticated if you’re middle class. Because even among some of our – we Democrats, we’re sophisticated jerks lots of times. No, I really mean it,” he said.
“The reason why I always talk about the middle class, the reason why we have been the most stable, political and socially stable country in the world is because we’ve had an aspiring and growing middle class. That’s the glue that has held this country together and that’s why it’s so important.”
Biden advocated for Congress to pass more than $500 billion for highways, rail, ports, canals and modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure, which would “immediately provide good jobs for a good purpose.”
“How can your generation sustain the growth of the United States of America with the infrastructure we now have?” he asked the crowd.
Since the ’30s, Biden said, there was a basic bargain between Democrats and Republicans.
“They differed in degree, but they shared in this view that if you participated in an enterprise where you were part of the reason of the productivity of the enterprise, you got to share in the benefits that flowed from that enterprise,” he said.
“Today, $4.6 billion over the last five years made by corporate America, a good thing, but guess what? 54 percent of it went to buy back their own stock, 37 percent went to pay dividends, leaving 9 percent for everything from salary, expansion, research and development.”
Biden said the nation cannot sustain an economy for everyone if it stays on the same path.
“Dealing the middle class back in because look, when the middle class does well, the wealthy do very well and the poor have a leg up. They have a chance,” he said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also addressed the audience and called on Congress to pass legislation that would provide every worker with paid medical leave.
Gillibrand said paid leave would unite the electorate and accelerate the economy.
“Right now because we don’t have paid leave in this country, when a man has to leave the workforce, he loses $284,000 in his lifetime in wages and Social Security benefits,” said Gillibrand, who sponsored the “Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act” in the Senate.
“For a women, she will lose $324,000 in wages and retirement. For the economics of that, that means less spending power and less investment in our companies and our businesses. It actually puts an artificial drag on our economy.”