Republicans are pouncing on a comment Vice President Joe Biden made Tuesday that the middle class has been “buried” for the last four years, casting it as an admission that average Americans have suffered under Obama administration policies.
Mr. Biden made the remark at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., in the middle of an argument that Republicans would have to raise taxes on the middle class by reducing certain tax breaks they already receive, noting that the tax hike would be particularly hurtful considering what the middle class has experienced over the last four years.
“This is deadly earnest, man. This is deadly earnest,” he said. “How they can justify, how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years — how in Lord’s name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts.”
It was unclear whether Mr. Biden was referring to the mortgage tax deduction, which benefits a large swatch of middle-class homeowners. President Obama and his aides have promised not to jettison the mortgage deduction in recent remarks on the campaign trail and to the press.
Mr. Biden was discussing a report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that argued Republican Mitt Romney’s tax plan would push a higher tax burden onto the middle class — an assessment Mr. Romney, as well as the conservative Heritage Foundation, have rejected.
After hearing about Mr. Biden’s “buried” comments, Mr. Romney said he agreed with him, and quickly tweeted as much. “Agree with @JoeBiden, the middle class has been buried the last 4 years, which is why we need a change in November #CantAfford4More.”
A spokesman for Mr. Romney’s campaign said middle-class Americans have no one to blame but the president for being “buried” during the lackluster economic recovery under his administration.
“Vice President Biden made a stunning admission today, and we couldn’t agree more: The middle class has been ‘buried’ under the last four years of this president’s policies,” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. “Under President Obama, the middle class has suffered from crushing unemployment, rising prices and falling incomes. They can’t afford to be ‘buried’ for four more years.”
During a second appearance four hours later at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, Mr. Biden parsed his words a bit more carefully. When he started talking about the Tax Policy Center’s report, Mr. Biden said “the middle class has done enough; they’ve done their part. It’s time to help the middle class.”
He still used the word “buried,” but placed the blame squarely on Republicans’ shoulders.
“The middle class was buried by the policies that Romney and Ryan supported,” he said.