Former Vice President Joe Biden told a roomful of well-heeled donors on Tuesday night that he would not “demonize” the rich if he’s elected president in the 2020 election. “I need you very badly,” he told the group.
Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the swanky Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said he’d gotten into hot soup with “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” for his earlier comments about rich people being “just as patriotic as poor people.”
That’s “not a joke,” he said. “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.”
Appearing to suggest that his tax plan would not include excessive taxes on the rich, Biden said “no one’s standard of living change” if he’s elected.
“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,” he said.
Biden added that though income inequality is a considerable problem that plagues the United States, the rich are not the enemy that’s to blame for the wealth gap. He said:
When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke ... It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’ ... You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.
Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein described the scene at the Tuesday fundraiser: Affluent donors, including former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, tucked into hors d’oeuvres like lobster, chicken satay and crudites. The group was “well-dressed,” Epstein said, most of them in suits.
Though Biden has pushed a generally populist economic agenda focused on decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights, the former vice president has taken a moderate stance when it comes to taxation. Unlike some of his 2020 Democratic rivals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden has not singled out the mega-rich as tax targets. He’s instead proposed expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors.
“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said at an event in March.