An estimated 2,140 people heard Vice President Joe Biden's campaign statement of "We will not go back" at Wa-Ke Hatchee Park Recreation Center in Fort Myers Saturday as part of his two-day tour through Florida.
Biden, who visited Boca Raton and Tamarac on Friday, relayed President Barack Obama's vision of restoring middle class security and growing the country's economy over the long term.
A four-part re-election plan involving more manufacturing jobs, tax breaks to worthy American companies and becoming more energy efficient was discussed.
"In addition to having created now over five million executive jobs, our plan to continue this is by creating a million new manufacturing jobs in this country during the next four years," Biden said. "We will continue to bring action against China and other countries who undercut American jobs. We want to knock down those barriers that exist around the world that say no American goods here, and cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and produce more American-made energy."
Biden covered such issues as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and laid blame on the Republican Party for the incurred national debt.
"When (President Bill) Clinton left, we had a balanced budget and a surplus and things were looking good," said Biden. "How did we get this debt? They put two wars on a credit card. They voted for a new entitlement program without paying one penny for it. And, they added another trillion dollars in the tax cut for the very wealthy. By the time the reins got turned back over to Barack Obama and I, they had doubled the national debt in eight years."
In Florida, President Obama's middle-class tax cuts are making a triple impact on millions of families, Biden said: the Making Work Pay Tax Credit allowed an estimated 7.1 million working Florida families to receive a collective $3.5 billion in tax relief in 2010; the payroll tax credit provided an estimated nine million Florida workers $5.7 billion in tax relief in 2011; and the American Opportunity Tax Credit provided an estimated 717,000 Florida students and their families an average of $1,700 tax credit towards their tuition expenses in 2011.
Other statistics cited show that Florida has gained 222,400 private jobs, including 4,200 manufacturing jobs. In that time, the state has added 194,700 jobs overall, including government jobs. During the economic recovery, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped by 2.6 percentage points. The Fort Myers/Cape Coral area has gained more than 5,900 jobs in that period, and the unemployment rate in the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area has dropped by 3.2 points during that time.
Biden mocked Gov. Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan for what he said is their recent "discovery" of the middle class. He then referenced his opponents' vote against extending the middle class tax cut permanently.
"I never heard those guys use the phrase 'middle class' probably more in their entire lives as they did at the (2012 Republican National) Convention," he said. "Wealthy people are not asking for the tax break. By extending the (former President George W.) Bush tax cut for the wealthy, $500 billion goes to 120,000 families. How can that be right?"
Biden stated a tax policy analysis by a bipartisan group of experts point out that the Romney-Ryan tax proposal would increase taxes on middle class people with children by $2,000 per year.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we've seen this movie before. Massive tax cuts for the very wealthy and letting Wall Street and big banks the right to run the rules again. We know how it ended," he said. "It ended in a catastrophe for the middle class in the great recession of 2008. We will not go back."
The Affodable Health Care Act was also front and center. In 2011, 1.8 million Florida Medicare beneficiaries used free preventive care services provided by "Obamacare" and, because of the Affordable Care Act, 999,452 Medicare Advantage enrollees in Florida have access to free preventive services, he said.
"Your parents and those of you on Medicare have more benefits than before. You're saving $800 a year more than you would have if Barack Obama not acted," Biden said. "The action the President took has actually strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund and exceeded its life up to 2024."
After the event, Chuck Onufer of Fort Myers recapped what he heard from Biden.
"I think he brought up a lot of good points on how the Republicans are focusing on benefiting the wealthy people, and that they will do away with the health and education benefits," he said. "They don't have any concern about the middle class. They want to take away the rules and guidelines for big business and let them make their own decisions."
Lori Spencer, also of Fort Myers, called Biden's speech "excellent. She enjoyed the statistical data he offered.
"I like the way he debunked all those myths out there," she said. "I think Biden visualizes very well. The numbers, especially the ones referring to the deficit and Medicare, are very important to know."
The health of seniors is at the forefront of Obama's administration, which has secured $4,200 in savings for all beneficiaries and closed the gap, known as the "doughnut hole," by $600, according to the vice president. It was stated that the Romney-Ryan voucher plan would cost seniors an average of $6,400 per year more than Obama's plan and transfer Medicare dollars to insurance companies.