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Joe Biden Clarifies He's No Bernie Sanders: "I Don't Think 500 Billionaires Are Reason We're in Trouble"

With 'invisible primary' for potential 2020 Democratic candidates reportedly underway, former vice president stakes a familiar position on how to address the scourge of inequality

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden delivers a keynote address regarding the future of the middle class, at the Brookings Institution, on May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

With the so-called "invisible primary" reportedly already underway among Democrats for the 2020 presidential election, former vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday staked a bold  familiar position for the party as he tried to straddle the fence between the reality of extreme inequality and the apparent need not to offend the mega-rich who play such an central role in how the economy—and society more broadly—currently operate.

"I love Bernie, but I'm not Bernie Sanders," Biden said during remarks at the Brookings Institute in the nation's capital. "I don't think 500 billionaires are the reason we're in trouble. The folks at the top aren't bad guys. But this gap is yawning, and it's having the effect of pulling us apart. You see the politics of it."

While Sanders—who polls have shown ranks as the most popular active politician of any party in the U.S.—ran his insurgent 2016 primary campaign on a platform that railed against extreme inequality and the power of the "billionaire class" while also rallying support for an agenda that included a Medicare for All healthcare system, free higher education, taxing Wall Street, an urgent jobs and energy transformation program to address climate change, and an end to the "outrageous" size of the Pentagon budget, Biden appears more comfortable using the Clinton and Obama playbook of the Democratic Party that hopes to address inequality while doing everything possible not to offend the key beneficiaries of the system that drives it.

At Brookings, CNN reports,

Biden proposed a number of solutions that have been floated by the Democratic party's most progressive members, like offering free college to everyone and banning tactics used by employers to keep workers from being paid higher wages. 

But he stopped short of pitching some of the more sweeping proposals emanating from the party's left flank. Instead, he offered up more mainstream ideas, like providing more federal funding for infrastructure projects and making the tax code less friendly to investors while expanding tax credits for low-income families.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Biden said, "I get in trouble in my party when I say, 'Wealthy Americans are just as patriotic as poor folks.' I found no distinction."

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