"When the middle class starts to slip, the country begins to go."That was the core of the message Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden (D-Del) brought to Maple Point Middle School in Middletown Township on Sept. 5.

Biden spoke before about 1,200 supporters on a range of issues dealing with the economy and the future of America's middle class.

Saying that the Bush administration failed "regular, hardworking people who played by the rules," Biden noted that Bucks County is "not a struggling area" and said he is concerned to hear stories of hardship from area residents.

During the town hall portion of the visit, Lower Makefield resident Shelly Abrams, a Barack Obama volunteer and supporter, told her story. In the years following the death of her husband, Abrams said she lost her job and has since had trouble finding new employment.

"I was a regular middle class person in a regular middle class house," Abrams explained, saying she has refinanced that house. "Over the past few year's it's gotten more difficult."

She also believes her age limits the opportunities companies are willing to give her.

"You know what's fair and what's not fair," Biden told the crowd. "In the last eight years, it's simply not been fair."

He said the Bush policies on healthcare have been "misleading" and claimed that McCain wants to tax medical bills further.

Biden said the McCain plan calls for some middle class families to pay rates higher than their income levels on healthcare costs footed by employers.

He claimed that, under the McCain plan, if a company were to pay $15,000 of health coverage for a person making $50,000 a year, that person would pay taxes comparable to someone earning $62,000.

He said the plan has roots in conservative economic strategies and "is an economic argument that says: What's the difference between you getting an indirect salary through the benefit of healthcare than by getting a direct dollar payment in your paycheck." Adding, "I think that is simply unfair."

On social security, Biden said his campaign would raise the portion of income susceptible to social security tax from $89,000 to $250,000 in an effort to extend social security another 10 years.

Additionally, he hopes to work in a bipartisan effort to do "hard, scrap-work bargaining" and come up with a compromise both parties can agree on to extend social security far into the future.

Biden criticized McCain's plans to privatize social security, questioning, "Would you like to be getting social security on the market now?"

Biden also took time to offer a reaction to McCain's Thursday night convention speech. The Delaware senator called McCain a personal friend, but explained that he believes the political views don't make the man.

"My argument isn't John McCain the man. It's the fundamental difference John and I have about where we're going to take this county," Biden said.

He attacked the Republican Party for not spending enough convention time talking about middle class families, health-care and AIDS education -among other topics.

"It's not so much what I heard from the Republican convention it's what I didn't hear," Biden explained. "The silence of the Republican Party was deafening. It was deafening on jobs, on healthcare; on all the things that matter."

He likened McCain and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) to high school bullies, saying that while they had "great quips" they spent too much time focusing on attacking Obama.

"What do you talk about when you have nothing to say?" Biden asked. "What do you talk about when you can't explain the last eight years?"

Earlier, Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell (D) also attacked the Republican Convention speakers, saying he "heard a lot of wisecracks and criticism, but no ideas."

The Pa. governor championed Obama's energy plan because he believes it would create jobs in the Philadelphia region that "cannot be outsourced."

Biden's wife, a Willow Grove native, also took the stage. She talked about how she "accidentally fell in love with Joe Biden." She said the senator "is not part of the Washington scene" because rather than living in Washington, he commutes to work from Delaware.

Also speaking were Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-8) and Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia (D).

Peter Ciferri is the editor of The Advance of Bucks County. Tfp@berksmontnews.com.

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