WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden doubled down Wednesday on his charge that rape and murder will rise if Congress fails to pass the American Jobs Act.
Minutes after addressing a firefighters rally in a Senate office building to push for passage of (at least) a $35 billion provision that would pay for the hiring of hundreds of thousands of police officers, teachers and firefighters, Biden was challenged by a reporter over his crime claims.
Biden insisted, "Murder will continue to rise. Rape will continue to rise. All crime will continue to rise."
Conservatives have criticized Biden for linking crime rates to stimulus spending, saying the money was wasted on all sorts of things that had nothing to do with increasing safety.
But in this case, the vice president was making a much more direct link. Biden -- who in the 1990s was one of the original authors of the COPS legislation, which led to the hiring of some 100,000 police officers -- was arguing that cities and towns hammered by the economy would continue to cut police forces without the federal aid now sitting in the Senate. And fewer police officers would lead to more crime in these tough times.
After the Senate filibustered the American Jobs Act last week, the White House broke it into several pieces, starting with the $35 billion measure on municipal workers -- which includes $5 billion for some 18,000 police officers and firefighters.
"Police departments, as I said, in some cases [have been] literally cut in half, like Camden, N.J., and Flint, Mich.," Biden said during the rally. "In many cities, the result has been -- and it's not unique -- murder rates are up, robberies are up, rapes are up."
In Flint -- where Biden's remarks have been criticized -- he noted that the police force numbered 265 in 2008 and there were 35 murders and 91 rapes. In 2010, there were 144 cops and the city recorded 65 murders and 229 rapes.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the consequences of these losses are real, and they're now," Biden said. "But the interesting thing is, why I said this is simple -- and I say to the press, this is very, very simple, man -- there's a solution. We can do something about it right now. It's not rocket science. Right now."
And that something, said Biden, is to pass the measure dubbed the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.
The bill would be paid for by slapping a one-half percent tax on income above $1 million, excluding the first million entirely. Biden mocked Republican criticism that such a tax constituted class warfare.
"Class warfare," he said to laughs. "Seriously. I mean, seriously. This is bizarre. This is bizarre."
He argued that the tax was modest, saying the people affected wouldn't even object.
"If you make $1.1 million when, God willing, this passes, you will pay next year $500 more in taxes," Biden said. "You got that? Now, the average income for the group of people we're talking about is $3 million."
"The choice is pretty clear," Biden concluded. "I believe the vast majority of American people and I believe the vast majority of millionaires know this isn't about soaking the rich."