BOCA RATON, Fla. – Vice President Joe Biden tried to court the senior vote Friday afternoon and draw a contrast between how President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney approach two issues of great concern to senior citizens – Social Security and Medicare.
The vice president, speaking at the Century Village retirement community, alleged that Romney’s plan would raise taxes on Social Security and the Republican presidential ticket would turn Medicare into “vouchercare.”
“If Gov. Romney’s plan goes into effect, it could mean that everyone, every one of you, would be paying more on taxes on your Social Security,” Biden said. “The average senior would have to pay $460 a year more in taxes for their Social Security. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s … while these guys are … hemorrhaging tax cuts for the super wealthy.”
Biden’s allegation is based on a Tax Policy Center analysis that tried to explain some of Romney’s economic goals – cutting taxes by 20 percent, closing undisclosed loopholes and balancing the budget. Romney’s plan does not specify that he would achieve such goals by raising taxes on Social Security. When Romney unveiled his plan in 2011, he promised there would be no tax hikes on Social Security benefits.
Biden has his own history with raising taxes on Social Security. While serving in the Senate, he voted for President Clinton’s 1993 budget, which raised taxes on Social Security benefits. Biden did not mention that vote in his speech today, but the Romney campaign later attacked Biden over Social Security taxes.
“Vice President Biden is using Social Security to fabricate the Obama campaign’s latest false attacks,” Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney, said in a statement. “However, these attacks will backfire when voters learn he has repeatedly supported higher Social Security taxes, and that seniors face a 25 percent across-the-board benefit cut because of President Obama’s failure to lead on this issue. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan to save and strengthen Social Security that does not raise taxes and ensures that our middle-class seniors receive all of the benefits they’ve earned.”
Biden, calling retirement security a “family affair,” defended President Obama’s Medicare plan, saying it was endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the AARP. He argued that that Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would turn Medicare into “vouchercare” and increase the direct costs seniors would have to bear.
“Rather than tell you, since their convention or even at their convention, what their position on Medicare is, they’ve gone out of the way and spent tens of millions – I don’t know maybe hundreds, I don’t know how much, millions of dollars – on advertising telling you what they say our position on Medicare is,” Biden said. “All of you in this room know that President Obama has increased the benefits available to people on Medicare today by the action he took.”
Biden claimed a federal budget proposal made by Ryan and endorsed by Romney, a plan that later was modified, would have had dire consequences for seniors’ Medicare costs.
“Folks, I ask you the rhetorical question: Can you imagine me as vice president, can you imagine the president supporting a plan that would, under any circumstances, would raise the cost for seniors $6,400, your out-of-pocket?” Biden said.
Biden previewed a potential attack line he and President Obama could use in their upcoming debates as he argued a federal budget Ryan proposed as a congressman would cut discretionary spending by 19 percent.
“The Ryan budget calls for every single program in the government, from the FBI to every program, to be cut by 19 percent, a devastating cut,” Biden said. “Then, whenever we raise this, and I think you’ll see this in the debates, whenever you raise it they say, ‘Oh no, we’re not going to cut that program.’
“Well which one are you going to cut 40 percent?” Biden asked. “Notice they will not name a single program, not a single thing.”
Biden also digressed to praise President Obama on Israel, saying the president was working to ensure U.S. ally’s security is maintained – despite claims to the contrary in Republican attacks.
“I’m proud to say that although, as we say in my family, although I was raised by a righteous Christian, my dad, I was raised by an awful lot of folks back home politically who have taught me early on, along with my pop, that we have certain special obligations around the world. And one of those is Israel,” Biden said. “I just want to tell you how proud I am, how proud I am, to stand shoulder to shoulder with a guy who has done more for Israel’s physical security than any president I’ve served with.”
Biden, who was accompanied by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is currently on a two-day campaign swing through Florida, his eighth trip to the state this year.
Biden told the crowd that he wouldn’t mind making Florida his home.
“Hello, Century Village! I’m here and I don’t want to go home,” Biden said to laughs from the older crowd. “We were riding in, the young man in the car with me, riding along as two young children and a very young guy, and he said, you know, God, he said, ‘I’d like to live here!’ I said, ‘You gotta wait 25 years, you don’t qualify!’”
This post has been updated.