Striking a decidedly populist tone, Vice President Joseph Biden on Thursday reaffirmed the administration's commitment to bolstering the middle class and observed that "an awful lot of people have been stripped of their dignity" by the current recession.
Speaking at an economic panel at the progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, Biden said the White House is not pleased by the current state of the nation's economy.
"Don't get me wrong," he said. "Don't get me wrong. We are extremely happy that the GDP grew 3.5 percent last quarter as opposed to 6-point-something percent minus GDP the day when we lowered our hands. So we are making progress. But, like I've been saying for a long time, the GDP cannot by itself loosen the middle class squeeze. It is a necessary but not full precondition to recovery."
Biden covered a host of kitchen-table concerns and his talk, to an audience of economists and reporters, seemed designed to reemphasize the administration's commitment to economic issues.
"If the economy is growing but middle-class and low-income families are falling behind, then prosperity must be accruing at the very top of the scale" the vice president said at one point. "Quite simply put, the middle class families weren't sharing and haven't been sharing in the wealth they helped create."
But Biden insisted that the administration is not interested in redistributing wealth.
"We aren't talking about income redistribution," he said. "We are talking about a fighting chance to make a decent income... it's about fairness. It is about simple fairness. It is about an equality of opportunity. At least that's what we are searching for. We are searching for that Holy Grail. How do we establish that level playing field?"
The long-winded V.P. talked for nearly half an hour before a roundtable panel discussion began. And, unlike so many of the president's other advisers, who have a slight taint of Wall Street to them, he seemed utterly at ease addressing the topic of middle-class struggle. If not for his penchant for verbal gaffes (which is, generally, overstated) Biden would seem to be the ideal spokesperson for an administration trying to rediscover its populist appeal. And it wouldn't be a complete shocker if his public appearances became more frequent going forward.