WASHINGTON, DC — Vice President Joe Biden didn’t hold back Thursday in a speech attacking Republican lawmakers for holding back middle-class growth.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” he said multiple times, hitting both Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for abandoning the party’s principles and championing policies that hurt America’s middle class.
Biden, who often refers to himself as “middle-class Joe,” spoke at an event near the White House hosted by the Center for American Progress (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress). CAP also released a report Thursday titled “Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth: A Roadmap for Middle-Class Economic Security,” which finds that while middle-class incomes have rebounded to pre-recession levels, middle-class wealth has floundered.
Middle class incomes have returned to the levels they were at in 2000, but the report’s outlook is far from rosy. It raises the alarm that stagnant wages still lag far behind where they should be. Meanwhile, the costs of housing, health care, education and child care have exploded.
“Middle-class wages and incomes grew rapidly during the 1990s, but that growth came to an end around 2001,” the report notes. “In recent years, ill-advised austerity policies have slowed the recovery of jobs and wages while income inequality has reached new heights.”
Middle-class household’s net worth fell 49 percent between 2001 and 2010, the report notes, and 40 years of middle-class income growth ended around the Great Recession. The report adds that “public policy can and must deliver better results.”
Meanwhile, middle-class wealth — savings that gives families some cushion and flexibility to make bigger expenditures — has “undergone an even more disturbing convulsion than the corresponding trend for income.” Wealth essentially collapsed after the recession and still has not recovered.
African American households’ wealth “has essentially disappeared,” according to the report, likely because they were hit much harder by the housing crisis in 2008 and were far more likely to face foreclosure than white homeowners. The average black family’s wealth dropped from $36,000 in 2001 to $7,000 in 2013.
On Tuesday, Biden attacked Republican leaders for austerity policies that the report says slowed job recovery and wages while exacerbating income inequality.
“I love Republicans talking about how they, in fact, are the party of increased productivity and growth,” he said. “As I once inappropriately said: give me a break.”
“They say they’re for growing the middle class, but they have a different value-set than we do,” he added. “Almost everything they call for drives down the standard of living.”
“Almost everything they call for drives down the standard of living.”
Among a long list of specific policies, Biden pointed to the GOP’s calls to cut Social Security, reject equal pay legislation, voucherize Medicare, and eliminate labor unions. He also called out the party for opposing the Democrats’ 2009 stimulus plan, which CAP’s report noted “helped prevent another Great Depression.”
“They used to call for raises to the minimum wage,” he said. “They used to support workplace safety…They’ve reverted to attitudes that have been jettisoned in the 40’s by their party.”
In order to rebound job growth and wages, the CAP report recommended the government invest $500 billion in infrastructure, adopt paid family and medical leave, expand workforce training, and restore workers’ bargaining power, among other policies.
After ripping into Ryan and congressional Republicans, Biden said that the GOP should have more faith in Americans’ ability to make the most of opportunities, if given the chance.
“They’re not bad guys,” he said. “But they don’t understand how extraordinary ordinary Americans are.”