Joe Biden wants to restore the dignity of workers and of the middle class.
The former vice president and Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election appeared at Iowa Wesleyan University on Tuesday, June 11, speaking in favor of unions and a higher minimum wage, taxes, affordable health care and increasing funding for education.
“Whether you are a member of a labor union or not, the fact of the matter is, labor built the middle class,” Biden said to a crowd of people in the Social Hall at Iowa Wesleyan University. “We have to restore the backbone of this country, which is hard-working middle class folks.”
Biden said there is a “war on labor,” with many hourly workers being denied overtime pay and corporations not investing in new workers. In the last decade, Biden said that 40 percent of all workers have had to sign a noncompete agreement with their company, which makes sense if, for example, that employee is in a high technology business that has access to company secrets. It doesn’t, however, make sense for hourly workers and is deliberately to suppress wages, Biden said.
“How can one have dignity when they cannot provide for the basic necessities of their families?” Biden said. “No one should be working 40 hours a week and living in poverty. Everyone deserves a minimum $15 an hour minimum wage.”
Biden said there is billions of dollars in taxes not collected because of loopholes. While some tax breaks for things like charitable giving make sense, others just make no sense, he said.
Biden said by eliminating even one tax break, he could put every single qualified person in community college for free.
“This isn’t about punishing anyone. It’s about being rational. We have to start rewarding work, not just wealth,” Biden said.
Moving into a discussion of health care, Biden said the worst thing that can happen to a parent is knowing their child has a serious medical condition and there is nothing they can do to help because they don’t have access to adequate health care.
“If you don’t have access to adequate health care, how can you look at your beautiful child as a preexisting condition and know you can’t afford to cover it because the insurance companies control so much?” Biden said.
Finally, Biden said he would like to increase funding for Title 1 from $15 billion to $45 billion. Title 1 provides federal funds to schools with a high percentage of low-income students. He would also like to make sure there is a “decent” prekindergarten for every child so they have a greater chance of graduating high school and not getting in trouble with the law.
Biden also spoke about teachers’ wages.
“A significant portion of teachers every single day go to school and are taking money out of their own pocket to help their students buy supplies,” Biden said.
“What being middle class is about is being able to buy your home, send your kid to a decent school, be able to care for your geriatric mom and it’s about a little peace of mind. The majority of middle class don’t think they can do that in the wealthiest country in the world,” Biden said.
Donna DeBose was moved to tears as Biden spoke, she said. After the former vice president finished speaking, DeBose pushed through the crowd to shake his hand and take a picture with him.
“I’ve always wanted to meet him, and I never thought I would get the opportunity,” DeBose said. “To be up and close is great.”
DeBose said that what struck her the most about Biden was when he started talking about how people working 40 hours a week used to be able to provide for their families on that income. Now, people have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, DeBose said.
Sally Harrington just happened to be passing through Mt. Pleasant on her drive from Florida to Wyoming to visit her daughter. As a supporter of Biden, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear him speak.
“I like his experience, his kindness, he’s real,” Harrington said. “We need experience more than anything else, and I think he’s the best candidate by far.”
Harrington said while some may say Biden occasionally “flip-flops” on his opinions, she thinks that shows personal growth.
Harrington said that Biden understands how the U.S. is being viewed by other countries and can work to repair those relationships.
“Those relationships are weakened right now,” Harrington said. “We need someone who can fix it, and I think he’s qualified.”
Blake Bentler, 17, of Salem, said Biden is the candidate the U.S. needs — someone who can toe both sides of the aisle, he said.
Bentler has always been interested in the political process and is following the election closely. He said he is looking forward to voting in his first election.
“It’s important for everyone to have a voice, even if your candidate might not win,” Bentler said.
Jerry and Kathy Schultze, of Mt. Pleasant, are hearing as many candidates as possible. Jerry said that while Biden isn’t his favorite candidate, he does have experience.
“He was a good vice president. He was honest and you knew where he came from,” Jerry said.
“He’s down-to-Earth,” Kathy said.
Not everyone who came out to hear Biden speak on Tuesday were supporters.
Mike Rose, of Mt. Pleasant, said the vice president’s time has passed.
“I came to heckle him,” Rose said. “His policies are status quo. The guy has to go.”