Vice President Joe Biden disparaged socialism while addressing the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Wednesday, as his own political party finds itself with a self-described “democratic socialist” leading in some state polls.
“We need – not just in my country, but in other countries – a more progressive tax code. Not confiscatory policy, not socialism, a tax code,” Biden said. “Everybody pays proportionally a fair share. This is not meant to penalize everybody.”
The phrase – according to the vice president’s office, not a specific reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who identifies as a democratic socialist but caucuses with Democrats – was embedded in a larger speech that hit some of Biden’s most frequently touted policies: economic fairness, boosting the middle class and encouraging corporate responsibility.
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It wasn’t the first time members of the administration have sought to explain their policies by highlighting what they are not. President Barack Obama defended his economic agenda against claims of socialism, most recently in 2014.
Explaining how he’d fund new education initiatives, Obama said, “We’d pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas.”
“It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism,” he said.
During his reelection bid in 2012, Obama made the same assertion.
“I believe that in a society as wealthy as ours, we should have a commitment to our seniors and to the disabled. That’s not a sign of weakness. That’s not socialism,” he said.
But with Democratic voters increasingly rallying around Sanders, according to polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the phrase could soon appear out-of-date.
In a recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll in Iowa, more likely Democratic caucus-goers – 43% – identified as “socialist” rather than identifying as “capitalist.”