'Middle Class Joe' Biden talks up middle class

Biden: Level playing field doesn't exist
Biden: Level playing field doesn't exist

Joe Biden isn't officially running for president, but he's talking a lot about middle class troubles these days.

Without a growing and expanding middle class over the last 100 years, "we wouldn't have had the political and social stability we have in this country," the vice president told steelworkers in Pittsburgh Monday. "That bargain has been broken."

If he runs, Biden will have to vie with Democrat presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the mantle of middle class defender.

Already known as 'middle class Joe" in Washington DC, this is familiar territory for Biden. The Scranton, Penn., native, has campaigned as the champion of the working and middle class for decades.

Biden led the White House Middle Class Task Force in 2009 and has served as President Obama's right-hand man on the administration's initiatives to assist American workers. One of his longtime efforts become law Monday when Obama signed an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractors.

The vice president has said in recent speeches that he wants more Americans to share the fruits of their labors. He told an audience at Miami-Dade College in Florida Wednesday that productivity rose 65% between 1979 and 2013, but median income has only inched up 8%.

And he pointed out: In the early 1970s, the top 1% made 9% of the nation's income ... now, this elite group earns more than 22%.

Some define the middle class by using statistics. For Biden, the middle class is a set of values, not a number. He said:

-- Being middle class means owning your home, not renting it.

-- It means your children can play safely in your neighborhood park.

-- Your children can go to college if they do well in their local school and you can afford to send them there.

-- It means being able to take care of your elderly parents.

But these opportunities are now out of reach for too many Americans, according to Biden. He said that only 43% feel their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

"[Too many] parents don't have the confidence to look their child in the eye and say 'Honey, everything is going to be alright'," Biden said last week.

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