Joe Biden's finances come under scrutiny as he nears presidential bid

New report reveals the extent of Joe Biden's wealth, even as he presents himself as "Middle-Class Joe"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 19, 2019 6:00AM (EDT)

Joe Biden (Getty/Saul Loeb)
Joe Biden (Getty/Saul Loeb)

Former Vice President Joe Biden is facing scrutiny for his wealth as he prepares for a likely presidential campaign in which he will depict himself as both a member and champion of the working class.

The former Delaware senator charges more than $100,000 for his speaking appearances, has signed a book deal that will likely amount to around seven figures and owns a $2.7 million vacation home, according to Politico. Despite his wealth, Biden has attempted to characterize himself as "Middle-Class Joe," a man who not only rose to power from working-class roots but remains close to those roots to this day.

"I know I’m called Middle-Class Joe. It’s not meant to be a compliment. It means I’m not sophisticated. But I know what made this country what it is: ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Biden said at an event in Kentucky last year. Bill Russo, a spokesman for Biden, insists that the vice president has not broken the confidence of working Americans.

"During his time in office, fulfilling a pledge he made in his first campaign for the Senate, he held no stocks or bonds or any outside business interests. After he left the White House, he wrote a best-selling book and went on a speaking tour to pay off debt accumulated during his time in public life and to ensure that his grandchildren would be provided for. His entire career has been dedicated to trying to make life easier for hardworking people in this country. The American people know that," Russo told Politico.

By contrast, Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (which has already endorsed one of Biden's likely foes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts), told the site that "Joe Biden is the opposite of an outsider and the opposite of someone who will challenge big corporate and moneyed elites on many, many fronts. And his big money and speaking deals would be just the cherry on top of that larger totality of circumstances."

Green added, "This would be an exacerbating data point in a larger story of [Biden] being the wrong person in a moment when people want someone to shake up the political establishment and take on corporate and wealthy elites."

Biden's wealth isn't the only controversy that could damage his presidential campaign, which is expected to launch around the end of the month. As a U.S. senator, Biden took a number of controversial policy positions that could hurt him in 2020. These included supporting President Bill Clinton's now-vilified 1993 crime bill, opposing antitrust legislation and financial deregulation, supporting President Ronald Reagan's reduction of the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and also supporting a freeze on Social Security spending. This was during a period in the 1980s and '90s when the Democratic Party was attempting to rebrand itself as moderate, but those positions seem out of step with the notably more progressive party that faces the 2020 campaign.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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