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Biden revives 'patriotic' tax argument

WASHINGTON -- Back in his role as lead campaign attack dog, Vice President Joe Biden slammed congressional Republicans Thursday for blocking the administration's efforts to hold down interest rates for student loans, mocking GOP nominee Mitt Romney's recent remark that young people can hit up their parents for a loan if they hope to start a business.

"I don't know how many of you have an extra 1,000 bucks lying around, unless as the other guy leading the other team said 'Take a chance, go home and get a loan from your parents and start a business!' he told a group of students at the White House.

"So why the hell don't you go home, get your parents to give you a loan!"  he joked as the crowd chuckled. "Phew!"

Rommey advised college students in Ohio last month to reach out to their families for help to achieve success. "Get the education. Borrow money if you have to from your parents," the wealthy former CEO of Bain Capital said. "Start a business.”

Democrats are pushing to finance a measure to freeze student-loan interest rates by closing a tax loophole for wealthy Americans. Republicans also favor freezing rates, but want to fund the measure with money from a preventive health-care fund, saying that the Democrats' solution would unfairly punish job creators.

Biden, who noted his own modest upbringing several times in his remarks, said the rich -- and "patriotic" -- Americans who benefit from the tax loophole wouldn't have "any problem" giving up the tax benefit.

"It wouldn't have been a big deal to those folks. I think if those folks knew what it was they'd support it too!" he said. "Rich folks are just as patriotic as poor folks; they're not asking for this extra help."

Republicans have criticized Biden in the past for suggesting that paying higher taxes is a "patriotic" act for wealthy Americans.

The vice president has been under scrutiny after his embrace of same-sex marriage on Sunday's Meet the Press on NBC reportedly prompted the administration to accelerate Barack Obama's "evolution" on the subject into public support announced yesterday.

Biden did not mention the issue of gay marriage Thursday, but he made several comments about the public's perception of him.

Oscillating between self-deprecating and boastful descriptions of himself, Biden described himself as a good student ("and better athlete") who is sometimes described as having "climbed out of a coal mine in Scranton, PA, with a lunch bucket in my hand."

"I have the dubious distinction of being rated the poorest man in the Congress and the vice president assuming the office with the least assets," he said. "I hope they're referring to financial assets."  

And he acknowledged his public persona as "the White House optimist ... like as my  grandpop used to say, like I'm the guy that fell off the turnip truck yesterday."

"Hell," he continued with only the hint of a smile. "I've been here longer than all of them. "