Vice President Biden on Wednesday hammered Mitt Romney on his economic philosophy and private-sector record, accusing Republicans of fundamentally misunderstanding what Democrats stand for.
“I resent the fact that they think we’re talking about envy. ‘It’s job envy, it’s wealth envy,’” Biden said. “They don’t get us. They don’t get who we are.”
“It’s not just that manufacturing is coming back. The middle class is coming back,” Biden said, almost shouting as he spoke. “America is coming back. Workers are coming back.”
At Biden's side was former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), who recalled how Bain Capital — the private-equity firm Romney co-founded — dealt with a struggling paper company that it took over in the 1990s.
“They laid off workers, cut wages of those who remained, sliced the healthcare benefits and eliminated the retirement plan for the retirees,” he said.
Eventually, Strickland said, Bain shuttered the plant, and employees were out of a job.
One of those employees, Randy Johnson, teared up as he recalled hearing Romney speak a few months back about how he dreamed of being president and how Romney’s father sought the same office.
“All I could think was — and it hits me — I had people who wanted to retire with dignity. That was their dream. He stole that,” Johnson said. “His philosophy and the way he does business, his economics stole that.”
The comments by Biden and his allies continue a line of attack first employed by some of Romney's rivals during the heated Republican primary — most notably Newt Gingrich — and later adopted by Obama’s campaign. Earlier this week Team Obama launched a new ad accusing Romney of engaging in "questionable business practices" and of personally profiting by closing American businesses.
“It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us," says one of the steelworkers featured in the Obama ad.
The Romney campaign hit back, releasing its own ad touting his record creating jobs in the private sector and as Massachusetts governor.
“Vice President Biden may believe paying higher taxes is patriotic and the world needs a ‘global minimum tax,’” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. “But with nearly 23 million Americans currently struggling for work, the last thing the country needs is more Obama-Biden liberal policies that hike taxes and increase spending.”
And Bain Capital said that although Romney retired from the company more than a decade ago, they understood their record would be distorted and over-simplified because of the nature of political campaigns.
"We are extremely proud of our employees and management teams, who have grown revenues in over 80 percent of our 350 companies, which include over 100 start-up investments," said Bain spokesman Alex Stanton.
Biden said the election would create a stark and fundamental choice between two different economic philosophies:
"There’s Obama economics, which values the role of workers in the success of a business and values the middle class in the success of the economy, a philosophy that believes everyone deserves a fair shot and a fair shake, and everybody should play by the same rules.”
Biden contrasted that vision with Romney's, which he said ensures that those at the top do well but leaves workers, small businesses and communities to fend for themselves.
He pointed to a steel factory in Missouri that was shuttered by Bain and said not everyone took the hit. The top 30 executives walked away with $9 million, he said, and Romney and his partners took home at least $12 million.
“Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set of rules," Biden said. "He ran massive debts, and the middle class lost. And folks, he thinks this experience will help our economy?"
The crossfire over Romney’s work at Bain Capital highlights the intensifying fight between both campaigns over who can better manage the economic recovery, which voters peg as the most important issue this election.
- This post was updated at 6:33 p.m.