‘That is how we define opportunity’

Vice President Biden had an op-ed in the Des Moines Register yesterday on what “a real opportunity society looks like.” It was a direct, unambiguous response to Mitt Romney’s bizarre speech this week, accusing the White House of secretly wanting to conspire to turn the United States into a communist-like society in which everyone makes the same amount of money.

Eric Fehrnstrom, the Romney campaign’s communications director, said yesterday that Biden’s op-ed “blames Obama’s bad economy on Romney. Yes, he really did.”

That struck me as odd — would the vice president really make such a mistake in print? — so I read Biden’s piece, looking for the part Fehrnstrom found offensive. Then, I read it again. I still haven’t the foggiest idea what Fehrnstrom is talking about.

Folks can read the piece for themselves, and try to find the part in which Biden blames the economy on Romney, but I couldn’t find it. Instead, the op-ed is really about a progressive vision for creating opportunities for Americans ready to work hard and play by the rules.

The vice president contrasts this with Romney’s vision.

Romney appears satisfied to settle for an economy in which fewer people succeed, while the majority of Americans are left to tread water or fall behind. His proposal would actually double down on the policies that caused the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression and accelerated a decades-long assault on the middle class.

Romney also misleadingly suggests that the president and I are creating an “Entitlement Society,” whereby government provides everything for its people without regard to merit, as opposed to what he calls an “Opportunity Society,” where everything is merit-based and every man is left to fend for himself.

The only entitlement we believe in is an America where if you work hard, you can get ahead.

And we know from recent experience that his policy prescription for an “Opportunity Society” leads to less, not more opportunity for middle class Americans. How can anyone forget the economic catastrophe brought about by the same policies Mr. Romney’s proposing? His are the same policies that deregulated Wall Street and turned it into a casino that gambled recklessly with hardworking Americans’ money. As a consequence, Americans saw the equity in their homes evaporate and their 401(k)s plummet in value. Millions of jobs were lost.

Americans cannot afford a return to policies that rewarded the recklessness of a few while millions of small businesses and workers were left to clean up the mess. We’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends.

The larger point, of course, is setting the stage for a clash of visions. Obama and Biden want to provide a layer of security and accountability to protect the public from Wall Street excesses; Romney doesn’t. Obama and Biden want to provide a layer of protection against health insurers’ abuses; Romney doesn’t. Obama and Biden want to ensure the American auto industry is given a chance to thrive; Romney doesn’t. Obama and Biden want a balanced approach to debt reduction; Romney doesn’t.

“Quite simply,” the VP concluded, “the president and I believe this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. That is how we define opportunity. It’s an America where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talents and drive will take them, and where the middle class is growing, not shrinking.”

This, apparently, makes Eric Fehrnstrom feel rather defensive. I’m not sure why.