The Republican Party has abandoned the bipartisan ideals that built up a strong American middle class, Vice President Joe Biden argued Monday, telling students at George Washington University, "This is not your father's Republican Party."
"Folks, we're losing something profound when we break the basic bargain that built his country... that made us the greatest economic powerhouse in the history of the world," he said, pointing to evidence that the U.S. middle class is no longer the world's most prosperous. "This massive shift is being largely driven by this incredibly narrow mindset that presumes that wealthy investors are the sole drivers of the economy... That's what today's Republican Party is all about."
The "ultimate expression" of that view, he said, is the 2015 budget proposal authored by Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which the Republican-led House passed earlier this month.
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Past generations of Republicans were willing to invest in the American economy, Biden said -- for instance, former President Dwight Eisenhower constructed the interstate highway system and former President Richard Nixon invested in medical research to fight cancer.
Ryan's budget, meanwhile, is centered around substantial spending cuts and tax cuts. The "vast majority" of those tax cuts, Biden said, would go "into the bank accounts of the very wealthy."
"They genuinely believe in their hearts that's the way you build a 21st century economy," Biden said. The GOP gave up the "basic bargain" that the middle class would reap the rewards of its hard work, and instead "adopted an orthodoxy that devalued paychecks... [and] tilted the tax code in favor of unearned income."
While the GOP proposal to cut programs like Medicaid would clearly hurt the poor, Biden pointed out that it would also hurt the middle class. The joint state-federal program provides health coverage not only for low-income Americans but also middle-class families with special needs children.
"If you have a child with Down syndrome or autism, you rely on Medicaid," he said. "Twenty-one million people including, families like these, will lose their Medicaid if in fact the budget law passes."
The House Republican budget has no chance of passing in the Democratically-led Senate or becoming law, but nevertheless has served as an illustration of the differences between the two parties ahead of the midterm elections.
In stark contrast to the Republican budget, President Obama's 2015 budget proposal (which also won't become law) calls for ambitious investments in transit infrastructure and the expansion of programs designed to reduce poverty like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, pointed out after Biden's speech that only two Democrats supported Mr. Obama's budget. "Rather than throwing rocks from the sidelines, President Obama and Vice President Biden should work with Republicans in producing a budget that will lower taxes, restrain spending and create good-paying jobs," Wilcox said in a statement.