- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden kept his name in the mix Tuesday for the 2020 presidential race, talking about education and economic reforms to save the middle class.

Mr. Biden spoke in stark terms about the challenges facing the middle class, especially white middle-aged men, and said it was time to address it with new ideas such as free community college or a guaranteed wage for life.

“It’s more about their security and standard of living than a particular [income] number,” said Mr. Biden, who was leading a panel discussion with government, business and union leaders at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.

The event kicked off a new effort he is leading at his namesake school of public policy to identify strategies for economic growth that put work first.

The initiative closely mirrors Democrats’ new agenda for the middle class that was devised after the party decisively lost blue-collar white voters to Republican Donald Trump in November.

Mr. Biden, a longtime Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware, ran for president in 1988 and 2008. Barack Obama picked him for running mate after the latter contest.

He publicly agonized over whether to make another White House run last year. Stricken with grief over the death of son Beau Biden in May 2015, he ultimately opted to stay on the sidelines, and from that vantage point watched Hillary Clinton go down in defeat.

Mr. Biden, 74, remains a popular figure and hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run.

“I’m referred to for the last 35 years in Washington as ‘Middle Class Joe,’” he said at the college in Newark, Delaware. “It’s not meant as a compliment. It means I’m not sophisticated. But I’m pretty damn sophisticated about the middle class.”

He said it was the middle class that throughout history provided America with its political and social stability. But he warned that the middle class was in danger from economic and social changes such as digitalization, artificial intelligence and globalization.

He ticked off the statistics that underscore the plight of white middle-aged men in the U.S., including having the highest rates of suicide, drug use, divorce and depression.

“Some of them look at the future and wonder where they fit in,” said Mr. Biden. “They spent their lives working for a living standard for themselves and their family that is now very much in jeopardy.”

The other panel members were Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who previously served as labor secretary, Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren and Byron Auguste, president and co-founder of Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding career opportunities.

Biden championing middle class may presage 2020 run

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