Biden talks up Bush tax cut benefits for millionaires

Biden’s comments came as he accused Ryan and the GOP of holding tax cuts for the middle-class hostage by insisting on extending all Bush-era rates, particularly for the wealthy. The Senate passed a bill in July that would have only extended current tax rates for family income up to $250,000.

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“We see no justification in these economic times for those, and they're patriotic Americans,” Biden said. “They're not asking for this continued tax cut. They're not suggesting it, but my friends are insisting on it.”

Democrats also cite a slew of polls from recent years that suggest that voters could get behind tax increases on the wealthy as a way to increase the deficit. 

But Ryan offered a spirited defense for extending all current tax rates, something the GOP-led House voted for this summer as well. 

The Wisconsin Republican noted that allowing the top rates to rise would hurt a million small businesses that pay their taxes through the individual code, and also cited an Ernst & Young study that said the Democratic plan would cost more than 700,000 jobs. 

“Look, if you taxed every person and successful business making over $250,000 at 100 percent, it would only run the government for 98 days,” Ryan said. “If everybody who paid income taxes last year, including successful small businesses, doubled their income taxes this year, we'd still have a $300 billion deficit. You see? There aren't enough rich people and small businesses to tax to pay for all their spending.”

But Biden noted that 97 percent of small businesses make under the $250,000 threshold. Democrats have also questioned the 700,000 jobs figure cited by Republicans.

“Hedge funds that make $600 million, $800 million a year," Biden said. "That's what they count as small businesses."