Just the man for diminished vice presidency, Part Two

Pursuant, I take it, to his goal of diminishing the role of the vice president, Joe Biden is set to oversee a task force on strengthening the middle class. The task force’s “charge,” according to Biden, is to “look at existing and future policies across the board and use a yardstick to measure how they are impacting the working and middle-class families.” It will also determine whether “the number of [middle class] families is growing” and whether such families are “prospering.”

These tasks do not seem arduous. Readily available data can tell Biden and the others what the status of the middle class is, assuming that anyone can define that class. And number crunchers can generate figures that purport to assess how various policies and prospective policies affect “working and middle class famiiies.” The trick is to ensure that the real “yardstick” in this assessment — the extent to which the administration favors or disfavors a policy — is applied. This can be handled by White House and vice presidential staff.

Recognizing, perhaps, how meaningless this task force job will be, Biden took pains yesterday to say that (in the words of the Washington Post) “his vice presidential role [goes] beyond a particular task.” Biden said that during the campaign he insisted upon a commitment from Barack Obama that he would “get to be in the room” when Obama makes “every important decision.” By “being in the room,” Biden seemed to mean having a say, as opposed merely to being present when the decision is reached or announced. According to Biden, he received that commitment.

It can’t be a good sign for Biden that he saw the need to extract from Obama a commitment that he’ll be able to state his position before Obama makes important decisions.

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