(ROCHESTER, N.H.) - Joe Biden made his second visit to New Hampshire since he was announced as Barack Obama's running mate, visiting an American Legion post in Rochester today, saying that on everything from health care to mortgages to heating their homes this winter, people are in trouble.
"I understand we get our priorities. First [Red Sox pitcher] Josh Beckett's arm... second the economy," joked Biden as he warmed up the few hundred in the crowd.
"But folks, all kidding aside, I don't know what to tell you about Josh Beckett's arm but I do have a few thoughts about the second issue, the economy."
"Let's start with something you're thinking about when you feel a chill in the air," said Biden. "How're you going to keep your homes warm this winter? The average cost of home heating in New Hampshire in the winter has gone, [it] will be this year, an average $3,400 dollars. That's more than one third higher than it was last year and double what it was the year before."
"Senator Obama and I, we think we should be doing similarly at home and in Washington. Double the light and heat program, double the home heating assistance program," insisted Biden, his tone raised with alarm. "People are in trouble."
"Additionally, Senator Obama and I want to give American families and energy tax credit, a tax rebate of a thousand dollars, paid for by windfall profits tax from the oil companies just like they did in Alaska. Sarah Palin brags about that its what they did in Alaska. Well, if it's good enough for Alaska, it's good enough for the rest of America to get a tax rebate," said Biden to applause from his followers.
Biden acknowledged the support McCain has had in New Hampshire – the state that propelled McCain out of political red after winning last January's primary.
"Look, I know John has spent a lot of time here in New Hampshire. John is fond of calling this his second home. He's even called it his second state," said Biden.
"The problem is, just in the past quarter, 1,400 folks in New Hampshire have lost their homes. 1,400. Thousands more, many people you know are living on the verge of whether or not they're going to lose their home."
Promising a fundamental change in economic philosophy, Biden said Obama's opponent, John McCain, had 'uncertain hands' when it came to handling the market crisis.
"The McCain administration would be uncertain, clinging to the past, lurching from one bad idea to another. You know, Sarah Palin turned to me in the debate, and she said, well I was in second grade when Joe Biden was elected to the Senate at 29. I was inclined, I was almost tempted to say, you were in sixth grade the last time John McCain had a good idea. So folks, this really is - in a New England sense, it's about a steady hand."
As has been pointed out several times, Biden's remark about Palin making the second grade comment was not during their debate, but at a rally she held days earlier.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he continued, "Barack Obama has steady hands. Look what he's done. Obama's put together the finest economic team this country has ever seen. Both parties, Republicans and Democrats, former Republican secretaries of the treasury. Former Republican advisers of presidents. Democratic advisers, the best minds. He didn't go out there and decide, 'What's your blood type?,' 'Tell me your party.' "
He assured that 95% percent of middle class Americans making under $250,000 dollars would get a tax break, saying it was their time to pay less than richer Americans.
"I'm not playing the card that wealthy folks are bad folks," said Biden. "They're just as patriotic as poor folks and middle class folks, but ladies and gentlemen, this is all about priorities. My Dad used to say…'Pal, if everything is equally important to you, nothing's important to you.' The most important thing here is to get the middle class up on its feet again."
Arguing that a McCain-Palin presidency would tax health care costs on top of income, a plan that Biden said is "cockamamie" and claims is a Bush idea that had been "dusted off" and reintroduced.
In what has become the crux of Biden's argument against McCain's economic philosophy, Biden quoted, as he has countless times, an article McCain wrote that was published last month in the business magazine, Contingencies.
"[McCain] said 'opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the past decade in banking' – not making this up – 'would provide more choices of innovative products…less burdened by the excesses of state regulation'."
As he read the statement, cries of surprise could be heard in the crowd.
"Let me translate that for you," said Biden to chuckling from the audience. "I know you got it, but let me translate it for you. What does John mean by the worst excesses of state regulation? Well regulations in your state and mine and states across the country, many of them say…if an insurance provider is in the state…the must cover mammograms. They must cover other cancer screenings. They must cover vaccinations, maternity care, mental health care. Regulations that say pregnancy can't be listed as a pre-existing condition."
Some crowd members laughed at the pregnancy comment, but Biden stopped them.
"Now I know we laugh about that, but be a young couple, where the wife is three months pregnant. Try to go get health insurance. Try to go buy it. If you didn't have these rules in states, and some don't, that can be listed as a pre-existing condition. They don't want to insure you knowing they're going to have to pay eight thousand dollars, or whatever the exact number is in your state to deliver a healthy baby."
"Look we want to make sure you are treated fairly," said Biden, promising that under the Obama plan, people could keep their employer health care or be offered the same package as given to members of Congress.
Referring to the Republican characterization of Democratic health care plans, Biden said, "This malarkey about socialized medicine is pure malarkey."
McCain spokesman Ben Porritt responded to Biden's speech, saying, "With sleight of hand and misdirection, Joe Biden continues to pitch Barack Obama's recipe for greater economic suffering. Americans can't afford Obama's proposal for nearly a trillion dollars in new spending which will definitely mean higher taxes and massive amounts of new debt. The Obama-Biden ticket's call for higher taxes on American businesses and isolationist trade policies mirrors the proposals that President Hoover implemented at the onset of the Great Depression, spurring a complete economic collapse – it's plagiarism of the very worst economic policies in American history. John McCain has a bold plan to take our country in a new direction by getting our economy back on track, keeping people in their homes, lowering health care costs, and achieving energy independence."
Biden campaigns in Manchester this afternoon and attends a Jefferson Jackson dinner in Dover, Delaware this evening before beginning a two day bus trip through the battleground state of Ohio.