RENO — Everything will be OK. Everything will be all right. That was the message of Vice President Joe Biden, oozing with optimism today as he spoke to Northern Nevadans, posed with them for pictures and hugged children following a speech to drum up re-election support for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and tout the success of the economic stimulus package.
During an hour-long speech, Biden insisted the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan has begun to move the country out of what could have been a depression if nothing had been done.
“We are not there yet, but it is getting better,” Biden told one woman after climbing over a chair and holding her camera to take a close-up picture.
About 500 supporters cheered Biden’s address in the Lawlor Events Center on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus. Most obtained their tickets through Reid’s office.
Biden said President Barack Obama inherited the recession from President George W. Bush. In Obama’s first two months of office, American companies shed 1.4 million workers, he said.
As evidence of economic recovery, he mentioned that stocks have risen by 35 percent since January with the Dow Jones industrial average topping the 10,000 mark this week.
“It is the beginning,” Biden said. “It is restoring the savings of middle-class families. We were in free fall in this economy. Everyone forgets that.”
Although Nevada’s 13.2 percent unemployment rate is the highest in state history, Biden told the crowd better times are ahead. He recalled how, when he was a child, his laid-off father left the family home in Scranton, Pa., to look for work in Delaware.
“Honey, it is going to be OK,” he said his father told his mother.
Better times came a year later, according to Biden. But for Nevada, a state that has grown dramatically, Biden said recovery likely will come after that of states in which populations remained flat.
“We will not be OK until we get all these jobs back,” he said. “This will be a grind, but we are on the way.”
Only a handful of protesters showed up, and they were kept across the street from the campus. One 53-year-old protester, Sharon Scudder, hoisted a placard that read: “Biden-Reid: On a Bankroll — Ours.”
Though his speech never mentioned Sue Lowden or Danny Tarkanian, Republicans bidding for Reid’s Senate seat in next year’s election, Biden warned that Nevada would have a hard time being “serviced when you don’t have a senior senator.”
Reid is the “lifeblood of getting any blood to Nevada,” he said. He called Reid one of his best friends and a “hard rock guy” whose leadership has helped turn the economy around.
Earlier in the day, Biden spoke at a fundraising breakfast for Reid at a local hotel-casino. Biden said critics of the stimulus plan and health care reform “know what they are against, but we don’t know what they are for.”
In coming months, Biden said, he will return to Nevada to announce a major program involving the state’s geothermal resources. Biden added on Oct. 30 he will announce just how many jobs have been saved or created by the stimulus plan.
The details of stimulus spending and jobs created will be posted on the federal Web site: www.recovery.org. Citizens can find what recovery programs are under way and how many jobs were created by ZIP code area, according to Biden.
Both he and Reid said that 4,000 teaching jobs already have been saved in Nevada by stimulus funds. About $350 million in stimulus funds were used to cover reductions in state public school and higher education spending proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons during he 2009 Legislature
Bob Dickens, who served as a higher education system lobbyist, estimated that 3,300 faculty members might have lost their jobs without the stimulus infusion.
Following the speech, Lowden spokesman Robert Uithoven said Biden should be embarrassed about his assertion that Reid must continue in office to ensure Nevada receives adequate federal support. Uithoven said Nevada ranks last in the nation in federal stimulus spending on a per capita basis, and 49th in what it receives back from the federal government in comparison with taxes its residents pay.
The Review-Journal reported in February that Nevada’s per capita haul from the stimulus plan was $560 per person, second lowest in the nation. Biden’s home state of Delaware received $1,360 per person, the highest in the nation, according to the newspaper study.
In a telephone interview, Tarkanian said he is “sure Biden wants to give Reid credit for the stimulus. That is why Delaware is first. As long as Reid is in control, Delaware will be taken care of, while Nevada is ignored.”
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.