At his Ottumwa campaign stop Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden’s goal was to present President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as polar opposite opponents.
Biden touched on Medicare, jobs, the importance of the middle class and taxes during a 25-minute speech at his campaign stop at Bridge View Center. Deputy Fire Chief Cory Benge said 476 people turned out to listen to the him speak.
“I don’t think it would be considered hyperbole or an exaggeration to suggest that this is the most important election, creating the starkest choice between candidates we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Biden said.
Biden said what Romney and his vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan have done their whole careers and are proposing to do is inconsistent with what they said at the Republican National Convention.
“If you listen to Romney and Ryan these days, you’d think they thought of Medicare,” Biden said. “You’d think it was a Republican idea.”
Biden said that while Romney and Ryan have said Medicare benefits have decreased under this administration, of the 48 million people on Medicare today, some have saved hundreds on prescription drugs and are able to access preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
Biden said under Romney and Ryan’s proposed Medicare plan, “immediately the 48 million Americans already on Medicare would lose benefits.
“What they don’t tell you is the 530,000 Iowans already on Medicare would lose benefits immediately,” he said. “This Medicare proposal would become insolvent in 2016. These guys are not on your level right now.”
Biden said their proposed “voucher” or “coupon” plan would work well for those in great health, “but if you have a pre-existing condition — and most of us at 65 have something — you’re not going to have enough money.”
Gov. Terry Branstad issued a Republican Party statement in contrast to Biden’s points on Medicare Tuesday.
“The people of Iowa never wanted Obamacare in the first place, but it is outrageous that our senior citizens must see their Medicare cut to pay for it,” Branstad said. “President Obama cut Medicare by $716 billion to pay for Obamacare, and a new study shows that right here in Iowa seniors will face more than $5 billion in cuts — including nearly $1 billion specifically targeted at Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.”
Debt and taxes
Biden agrees with Republicans that a sense of urgency is necessary to act on the national debt and get it under control.
“But not one single time do they tell you that the last time a Democrat held this office, the budget was balanced and the debt was coming down,” he said.
Biden said Obama inherited a debt of more than $1 trillion, and the economic recession only kicked in when his administration was starting. And he said no progress has been made on bringing the debt down because “anything to reduce the debt, requiring even $1, one dime in additional taxes on people making over $1 million, they [Romney and Ryan] voted against.”
Romney was a “pioneer in outsourcing” when he ran Bain Capital, Biden said, sending jobs overseas and making money doing it. Romney’s stance on “getting tough” on outsourcing, Biden said, is laughable.
“His new proposal is changing the corporate tax code, it’s called a ‘territorial tax,’” Biden said. “It means if ... an American goes over to China and starts a company, hires thousands of people and makes a profit, the only tax they have to pay is the Chinese tax. They can bring the profit here and not pay any tax. Studies show that would create 100,000 jobs, all of them overseas.
“I found it stunning that in what was otherwise a really good speech accepting the nomination, he said as president he would take a jobs tour. Based on his record, it’s going to have to be a foreign trip.”
Biden said that Obama understands jobs need to return to America, “and that’s why the president stepped up and rescued the auto industry when Romney said if we do that we would make General Motors the living dead.”
Following the RNC, Biden said it seemed that all of a sudden the Republicans were a party that valued the middle class again.
“If you look at their tax policy, you’ll see how much they value the middle class,” Biden said. “My father had a saying: ‘Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.’”
Giving tax cuts to the wealthy isn’t the right move, Biden said.
“Taxes on middle-class families with children will go up $2,000 a year [under Romney’s plan],” Biden said. “And it would give another $250,000 tax cut to 125 families who are already getting half a trillion in tax cuts.”
He said this plan would end in “catastrophe” for the middle class and force the nation back into a recession it’s still struggling to escape.
“When I hear Romney and Ryan, the new Republican party talk about America being in decline, I don’t recognize the country they live in,” Biden said to cheers and applause. “There is no give up in America. Gentlemen, it’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people.”
Ottumwa Assistant Fire Chief Rick Kleinman introduced Biden, saying he got involved in politics because he cares about his grandchildren’s future.
“Family, friends and coworkers don’t like talking politics, but I tell them, ‘Politics affects our lives every day,’” Kleinman said. “I tell them, ‘You better know who butters your bread.’”
He said Obama and Biden are champions of fighting for the middle class, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment benefits, minimum wage, labor rights, student loans and veteran benefits.
“Some folks you run into may not like to talk about politics, and that’s OK, but we all care about our country, which direction it takes and if we stand up for the values that makes us Americans,” Kleinman said. “[Biden] happens to be a grandfather fighting for the future of all of our grandkids.”
Ottumwa Mayor Frank Flanders praised Obama for the Recovery Act.
“The economy is growing. Never mind what you hear on Fox News, it is growing,” Flanders said. “It’s growing at a slow but steady rate. We need to keep that momentum going. Our nation, our community cannot afford to go back to the failed policies of the past that caused this recession to begin with.”
Biden did not mention video footage released Monday by Mother Jones magazine of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser in May, where he referred to 47 percent of the country as “dependent,” feeling “entitled” and not paying income taxes.
“I thought it was great,” said Lois White, who attended the speech with her husband, Clarence.
“He gave a good speech about the things that need to be done, like getting the troops home,” Clarence said. “They’re [Obama and Biden] candidates for the people.”
Biden noted his appreciation for the thousands who have served and the thousands still in Afghanistan.
“We have only one sacred obligation as a nation,” Biden said. “Equip those we send to war and care for them when they come home.”
Kayla Lindley, a 17-year-old Job Corps student originally from Vancouver, Wash., will be voting in her first election this fall and has already made her decision — it’s Obama/Biden, hands-down.
“It was amazing, very inspirational,” Lindley said. “I liked what he said about bringing the troops home. My brother’s in the Army. We need to take care of our business, our economy.”
All speakers encouraged Iowans to participate in early voting, which begins on Sept. 27.