Biden: Immigrants part of US economic edge

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For those warning that China is poised to surpass the United States as the world's premier economic power, Vice President Biden has a few words.

"China is not a patch on our jeans," Biden said Thursday.

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Citing recent figures, the vice president argued that U.S. manufacturing is surging, job opportunities are growing, innovators are flocking here, and the rest of the world — most notably China — is leagues behind.

"It always drives me crazy when I talk to business people or I talk to average citizens and you ask them about where they think America's economy is going, and they look at China and they think somehow China is going to own the 21st century," Biden said. "Excuse the vernacular, but China's not a patch on our jeans, nor is Europe."

"I mean this sincerely," he added. "They face problems that are overwhelming: lack of water, polluted environments where they have their agricultural base. [and] the need ... to create 9 million urban jobs a year."

Central to the successes of the U.S. economy, Biden argued, has been America's willingness to embrace waves of new immigrants even as countries like China have resisted a significant influx of foreigners.

"Because they [China] will not support significant immigration, what are they doing? They've changed their one-child policy. They don't have enough workers to sustain their economy," Biden said.

"We have, we continue to have, we always have [had] this incredible flow of immigrants into this country," he added. "That's what makes us different from almost every other country on the globe."

The remarks were part of a 29-minute speech focused largely on the administration's push to overhaul the nation's immigration system, which Biden delivered before a conference of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

Biden highlighted the economic benefits of such an overhaul, saying comprehensive reform would increase GDP by more than 5 percent and reduce the deficit by almost $900 billion over the next 20 years, while adding $300 billion to the Social Security trust fund over the next decade. Framed in those purely economic terms, Biden argued that the country can't afford not to reform the immigration system.

"It's not just about the future of immigrant families," he said. "It's about the future of this country."

The vice president urged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a bill to the House floor, a move Boehner has resisted in an election year when his conference is at odds over the issue.

"Let this go," Biden said. "Let people vote."