Vice President Joe Biden messes up quite frequently in his public statements.  And on Tuesday, another sound byte was added to the ever-growing list of Biden gaffes.  In a speech on Tuesday at a campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina, Biden stated that the middle class has been “buried” under taxes over the past four years.

All kidding aside, stop all the boos, stop all the malarkey.  Look guys, I – This is deadly earnest, man, deadly earnest.  How they can justify – How they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that’s been buried the last four years… How in the Lord’s name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts…

There are multiple gaffes and errors in this particular meta-gaffe, so I’ll break them down a bit.

Taxes Have Buried The Middle Class

By far the easiest gaffe to pick out of the above snippet, Biden has claimed that the middle class is “buried” under taxes over the past four years.  This is leveraged in support of the claim that Republican tax proposals will further increase those taxes, and therefore they should be opposed.  Okay, fine, that’s great.  You keep on chugging, Joe.

Of course, Mr. Biden conveniently forget that it is his party that has been in control of the White House and Senate these past four years.  Is he then claiming responsibility for the “burial” of the middle class under heavy taxes?  If so, doesn’t that break his candidate’s pledge to not raise taxes on the middle class?  I mean, some folks already guessed Barack Obama wasn’t exactly being truthful when he promised that, but at least he had the decency to stay on message anyway.

Nicely done, Mr. Biden.  Methinks you’re digging yourself a hole as well, and not just one that the middle class can be buried in under those taxes.

Increasing Taxes by… Lowering Taxes?

Biden’s next lovely claim is the assertion that Republicans policies will increase taxes on the middle class via… lowering them. “How in the Lord’s name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts…”

Obviously he’s trying to assert that these are tax cuts for the rich, but his touches on to another of the problematic claims made by the Obama campaign.  Multiple liberal outlets have been echoing the claim that the Romney plan would decrease taxes for millionaires and billionaires at the expense of middle class individuals.  This claim, though rhetorically well designed to grab the attention of those people who already have bought the “bad millionaires for wrecking our economy” rhetoric wholesale, is overly simplistic.  As the LA Times recently pointed out, Romney’s tax plan is entirely feasible and actually would be able to lower taxes across the board while remaining revenue neutral.  Doing so would require the removal of many major tax deductions for those making between $100,000 and $200,000 per year in income, but those people fall into the upper fifth of income earners in the country and hardly represent the true “middle class” of America.  Other tax rate cuts in Mitt’s plan will contribute to this effect as well.

In short, Biden’s attempt to perpetuate the talking point that Romney will be horrible for middle-income Americans’ tax rates was a two-for-one talking point: not only was it factually questionable in many respects, but it also managed to produce a handy rhetorical paradox.

“Deadly Ernest” Ridiculousness

A third moment of ridiculousness is subtle, and likely to be missed by many.  It starts from the very beginning of the clip:  “All kidding aside, stop all the boos, stop all the malarkey.  Look guys, I – This is deadly earnest, man, deadly earnest.”

Obviously Biden wants to drill his message of impending Republican tax doom home, but as it’s been pointed out the entire statement was one big gaffe in and of itself.  So in effect, much like the sixth grade kid at the slumber party who gets everyone’s attention before making some sort of ridiculous armpit noise or bad joke, Biden lined up everyone perfectly so they would pay extra serious attention before making a huge mistake.  He probably didn’t do it intentionally (let’s be honest: does he make any of these gaffes intentionally?), but he still managed to prep the audience for the gaffe.

And as a consequence, Biden also prepped his critics to make fun of said gaffe.  At least he’s doing folks the favor of highlighting them this time.

Yes, Biden is the Vice President, and yes, Obama can’t be everywhere at once.  But when half your ticket begins feeding the opposition ammunition to fire back at your campaign, as Biden has so frequently done, one can only wonder when the President will ask him to step out of the limelight and take a break.  Fewer Biden gaffes would be less funny for his critics, but better for President Obama’s campaign.

David Giffin | Emory University | @D_Giffin