Michael Kinsley once defined “gaffe” as the
accidental telling of a political truth. That definition aptly describes the
jaw-dropping admission from Joe Biden on the campaign trail this week.
Thundering against Mitt Romney’s economic plan, which Biden erroneously claims
will raise taxes on the middle class, the Vice President proclaimed his outrage.
“How they can justify raising taxes on a middle class that has been buried the
last four years?” Biden asked.
Perhaps Biden missed a memo or two, but for most of the last four years, his
running mate, Barack Obama, has been President. For two of the last four years,
his party controlled Congress by large majorities, as well as the two years that
preceded those, and Biden’s party has controlled the Senator for all six years.
In fact, both Biden and Obama sat in the Senate previously, Obama for four and
Biden for decades. If the middle class has been buried, it’s been on their
Is this a political inconvenient truth? Has the middle class been “buried”
the last four years? By any measure, the middle class has certainly lost
ground. Median household income has declined each of the last four years, a decline
which has accelerated during the Obama “recovery” that started in June 2009.
Median household income dropped 2.6 percent during the Great Recession, but has
dropped 4.8 percent in the three years since.
That is one reason why the Census Bureau reported three weeks ago that the
middle class had declined to“an all-time low” in 2011, as the Washington Post headlined
their article on the subject. By the third year of Barack Obama’s presidency,
poverty had leveled off at a near all-time high as well, while the middle class
continued to lose ground on income. But that wasn’t the only measure on which
the middle class found itself moving backward; their average work hours also
declined, as did the average pay rate, while home values continued to decline.
The percentage of Americans with jobs fell to a 31-year low in August at 63.5
percent, another symptom of a decline in the middle class.
All of this occurred during the Obama/Biden administration, a point that the
Democrats had tried to avoid during the 2012 campaign. Biden’s admission that
the middle class has been “buried” will certainly resonate with voters who have
experienced the decline first hand. It will also force the media to give some
attention to that decline, writes Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post. “On the Biden remark,
the media sure seemed miffed to have to respond to the Romney campaign,” Rubin
notes, and “that was the reason, of course, the Romney-Ryan ticket pounced on
Biden.… At least they got the media to report that the middle class has lost
ground under Obama.”