Vice President Joe Biden did everything short of shaking a pair of pompoms yesterday as he cheered on an economic recovery while criticizing those he hears booing from the sidelines.
"Ladies and gentlemen, things aren't good but they're getting a lot better," Biden told 500 people gathered at a fundraiser for the Committee of Seventy. "We're no longer debating whether we're going to slide into a great depression. We're debating what the shape of the recovery is. Is it robust enough from my perspective? No. Do we need to do more? Yes."
Biden's 38-minute speech covered a broad range of national issues, including education, foreign policy, the housing market and energy independence. But he focused his optimism on the economy and health-care reform while saving his ire for critics who say that President Obama's team is trying to do too much too quickly.
"We may be wrong," Biden said. "But the point is, we believe in what we're doing."
Biden complained that critics explain what they oppose but not what they offer as alternatives.
"Nondecisions are decisions," Biden said. "The decision not to act is a decision that has consequences."
Biden predicted a net gain in job creation nationwide in the first quarter of 2010, and said that he felt "bullish" on the recovery of the nation's economy.
Biden told the crowd that the country should move beyond health-care reform as a moral question and consider it instead a financial imperative for staying competitive in the global market.
Biden's pitch included several disclaimers acknowledging the potential for failure weighed against what he framed as the certain defeat of inaction. That included this closing line:
"We may not get it all right. But I know one thing - just saying no will not get us there."
Gov. Rendell and Mayor Nutter praised Biden and the administration's economic-stimulus program. Rendell said that $2.6 billion prevented deep cuts in state programs and layoffs for 10,000 to 15,000 employees. Nutter touted a $30 million federal grant unveiled yesterday to help pay contractors to make houses in the city more energy efficient.
The fundraiser, a breakfast in the ballroom of the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue, brought in between $350,000 and $400,000 for the Committee of Seventy, a good-government watchdog group now expanding its role beyond elections to larger issues such as ethics and transparency.
Zack Stalberg, the group's president, greeted the crowd while standing in front of a huge screen emblazoned with the phrase describing his organization as, "The catalyst for true reform."
Stalberg said that the group, with help from then-mayoral candidate Michael Nutter, "broke the back of pay-to-play with limits on campaign contributions."
Stalberg quoted the late Yale University president and Major League Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, who once said that cities die from inaction.
"The Committee of Seventy will make some mistakes, but inaction will not be one of them," Stalberg concluded.