Joe Biden to rich donors: "Nothing would fundamentally change" if he's elected

Along with praise for the "civility" of racists, Biden assures donors "no one's standard of living will change"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 19, 2019 5:00PM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (Getty/Scott Olson)
Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (Getty/Scott Olson)

Former Vice President Joe Biden assured rich donors at a ritzy New York fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected.

Biden told donors at an event at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday evening that he would not “demonize” the rich and promised that “no one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” Bloomberg News reported.

Biden’s assurance to donors in New York came shortly after his appearance at the Poor People’s Campaign Presidential Forum in Washington on Monday.

Biden said that poverty was “the one thing that can bring this country down” and listed several new programs to help the poor that he would fund if elected.

“We have all the money we need to do it,” he said.

But speaking to wealthy donors in New York, Biden appeared to suggest that his plan would not involve big tax hikes on the rich.

“I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.”

Biden went on to say that the rich should not be blamed for income inequality, pleading to the donors, “I need you very badly.”

“I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you,” he added.

Biden also complained that some Democrats criticized his eagerness to work with Republicans after they spent years blocking President Obama’s agenda and moving further right.

Biden pointed out that his ability to work with segregationists like former Mississippi Sen. James O. Eastland and Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge showed that he could “bring people together,” The Washington Post reported.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said. "He never called me 'boy,' he always called me 'son.'" He also cited Talmadge, calling him "one of the meanest guys I ever knew.”

"Well, guess what?" Biden said. "At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you're the enemy. Not the opposition — the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore."

"I know the new 'New Left' tells me that I'm — this is old-fashioned," he added. "Well guess what? If we can't reach a consensus in our system, what happens? It encourages and demands the abuse of power by a president. That's what it does. You have to be able to reach consensus under our system — our constitutional system of separation of powers."

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of Biden’s Democratic opponents, issued a statement condemning the former vice president’s comment.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’” said Booker, who is black. “Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity.”

“Vice President Biden’s relationship with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone,” Booker added. “And frankly, I‘m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is also running for president, slammed Biden’s comments in a tweet featuring a photo of his mixed-race family.

“It’s 2019 & [Biden] is longing for the good old days of ‘civility’ typified by James Eastland. Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to ‘the pursuit of dead n*ggers,’” De Blasio wrote. “It’s past time for apologies or evolution from [Biden]. He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.”


By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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