Vice President Joe Biden gave a sobering accounting of the effects of the Great Recession to a conference of America's mayors on Friday, calling on Congress to act to provide more stimulus for their governments.
Biden was the keynote at the 80th United States Conference of Mayors, a four-day event ending Saturday at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios.
About 600 mayors, municipal staff and guests from around the country politely applauded the vice president, but there was not much to cheer about during Biden's speech.
After some opening courtesies and jokes, Biden focused on "the incredible negative impact of this godawful recession we inherited, we all inherited, Democrats, Republicans," Biden said, adding he would not assign blame. He said public officials in the audience confronted the Great Recession "like walking into a meat grinder."
He spoke of the devastating impact job loss has had on families, "Not merely the economic impact, but the psychological impact this all has," Biden noted.
He also went through a laundry list of infrastructure that he said the mayors know is crucial, "stuff that makes businesses competitive."
Having traveled 600,000 miles as vice president, he said most Americans would be surprised at the quality of development in China and other nations, compared to here in the United States.
But he alluded to resistance to government infrastructure spending by Republicans in Congress.
"We used to debate about the means by which aid would be provided, not if it should be," Biden said, recalling his years in the Senate.
He reminded "we acted" with the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, stimulating the economy, and saving or creating at least 3.6 million jobs, he said. He also noted one third of the $840 billion went to tax relief.
One of his few applause lines was when he said he wished more of the money went directly to cities instead of to states.
"There's so much more we can do right now that up until now has never been a partisan problem," Biden said. The JOBS Act, which he said would have created two million jobs over seven years, intentionally included bipartisan ideas, but was blocked by House Republicans.
"The few things I laid out are not going to solve the greatest recession in the history of the American republic," he said. "But when you can act now to save a single person ... to save the circumstances of millions of Americans ... we have no excuse not to do it, unless there is some fundamental philosophic disagreement about whether it's legal, constitutional or efficacious."
Biden also bemoaned the lack of compromise in Congress.
"There are certain things that are bigger than party, certain things we've done together," Biden said, urging Republican mayors to call their congressman and ask them to "put aside their obstructionism."