BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Courting the over-65 set in retiree-rich southern Florida Friday, Vice President Joe Biden accused the GOP presidential ticket of planning to poach the Medicare and Social Security tax benefits of the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
"If Governor Romney’s plan goes into effect, it could mean that everyone, everyone of you, would be paying more taxes on your Social Security," Biden told hundreds of retirees at the Century Village community in Boca Raton. "The average senior would have to pay $460 a year more in taxes for their Social Security."
The Obama campaign traces that math to the claim that Romney's tax policy would necessarily require the elimination of some middle-class tax deductions. Using data from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, they determine that Romney would have to cut tax benefits for those earning under $200,000 by 58 percent. Spreading those cuts evenly across all benefits would work out to an average of $460 per year per senior.
But Team Romney counters that those numbers are based on a third party's assessment that's riddled with uncertainties and assumptions rather than Romney's actual plan, which the campaign promises on its website "will not raise [Social Security] taxes and will not affect today's seniors or those nearing retirement."
Republicans also point out that Biden himself voted for a 1993 measure that expanded the taxable portion of Social Security benefits for many low-income seniors.
In Florida Friday, Biden said Romney's tax plan was not "moral" because of what he claims would be unfair hikes on the middle class.
"How can you justify a middle class that has been clobbered by the policies that brought on this great recession, adding taxes to them and drastically cutting taxes for the very wealthy," he told a group made up mostly of seniors in Tamarac. "It's not right, I don't even think it's moral, and beyond that it will not help the economy, it will hurt the economy."
In slamming the GOP ticket, Biden also joked that he can't determine if Romney would actually roll back the Obama-backed health care plan after Romney's on-again off-again embrace of some of its core tenets.
"He said 'well, we’re going to maybe ... do that, but I’d like to keep a lot of the good stuff,' and then his campaign says, 'no no no, he didn’t mean that,' " Biden said.
The vice president, who also won laughs from the elderly crowds for jokes about his age and a Lawrence Welk shout-out that would have sailed over the heads of a younger audience, was warmly received at his campaign events. But he did face persistent questioning on the Obama administration's health care plan when he stopped at Nestor's, a Jewish deli in Boca Raton.
Steve Grossman, a 39-year-old who said he worked in the financial services industry, approached Biden as he sat down to order a tuna salad platter and began asking about health insurance costs. The vice president initially seemed reluctant to answer, cutting Grossman off to order his food and to chat with another patron's husband on the phone, but he ended up offering a description of state-based health care exchanges more fitting for a think tank roundtable than a deli specializing in "the mother of all Pastrami sandwiches."
"You can get more benefits for less money," he told Grossman in between slurps of chicken soup. "You get to choose among those insurance companies that are competing as part of the exchanges."