Joe Biden: Poor for a D.C. politico?

As Hillary Clinton stumbles over her 'dead broke' remark, Joe Biden tells those who might question his ability to empathize with the problems of working people that he's got no stocks, no bonds, and no savings account.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at The White House Summit on Working Families on Monday in Washington. 'I’m no different than any one of you, for real,' he told the audience.

Is Joe Biden less well-off than most of the political class in D.C.? That’s what the sitting vice president alleged on Monday morning while talking to the White House Summit on Working Families.

Mr. Biden wasn’t crying poverty – he said at the start that he is “really fortunate” and that, as the No. 2 person in the US government, he makes a pretty good salary. Which he does. The VP gets $230,700 for his services. He and his professorial wife, Jill Biden, together had a taxable income of $407,009 in 2013, according to his tax filings, released by the White House.

He said he realized that this meant many people might question his ability to empathize with working people and their problems.

“The first thing you’re going to say is, ‘Look at Biden, man. He’s got a mildly expensive suit on. He’s vice president of the United States of America,” the veep told the family summit.

Then he went negative on himself. “I don’t own a single stock or bond," said Biden, adding that “I have no savings account."

When he first entered the Senate, he was a single father, Biden recounted. (His wife had been killed and sons injured in a tragic auto accident, which he did not mention.) He commuted back to Delaware every day to be with his boys, one of them in a full body cast.

“I’m no different than any one of you, for real,” said Biden to the conference audience.

Biden’s talk about what he judged his modest circumstances comes at a time when ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 rival for the presidential nomination, has lit a controversy about relative wealth with less-than-adroit comments about her own family finances.

So maybe Biden was taking a subtle jab at Clinton by highlighting that he’s got a lot less in the bank than she does. Hillary got an advance of $14 million or so for her latest book. Biden’s 2007 book, “Promises to Keep,” netted him much, much less than that.

But to some extent Biden was telling the truth. When it comes to those who walk the halls of US power, he’s on the low end of the income scale.

“Biden’s point is well taken,” writes Time’s Zeke Miller today.

As Mr. Miller points out, Biden did exaggerate his situation a bit. He’s got stocks and bonds indirectly, through a small mutual fund investment held by his wife. She’s got a savings account, too, with a value of between $1,000 and $15,000, according to financial disclosure forms.

The Bidens’ net worth, though, is in the red. Due largely to some outstanding mortgage debt, the figure here is between negative $336,804 and negative $2.3 million, according to calculations by Philip Bump at The Washington Post.

The Obamas, in contrast, have a net worth of $7 million. More to the point, the average member of Congress is now a millionaire.

In January, the Center for Responsive Politics published a comprehensive analysis of the finances of Senate and House members. The average member of Congress, they found, now has a net worth of $1,008,767.

For representatives, the average was about $900,000. For senators, it was close to $3 million.

Members of Congress have long been far wealthier than average Americans, but their growing wealth represents a “watershed moment” at a time when many workers are still struggling to replace losses from the Great Recession, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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