Biden on the Record: Progressive Governance Conference

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Madam President, I should start by saying it’s humbling for a mere Vice President to be in the midst of so many Presidents and Prime Ministers. (Laughter.) I’m flattered, and I thank you all very much.

I will attempt to — (inaudible) — assignment, which was to speak to what our administration is doing to deal with the crisis, but if you’ll permit me just a few brief introductory comments.

You know, I think when our children and our grandchildren look back at this moment, they’re going to say: Why didn’t they know this was going to happen? In a sense, this crisis was predictable.

And that in hindsight is easy. But, you know, there’s a — if my — if my friend, Gordon Brown, will permit me to quote an Irishman — (laughter) — and by the way, I remind our Chilean friends that it was an Irishman that helped out here, I want you to know. And President Lula, I thought it was only we Irish who spoke too much, I didn’t think that was just a Latin problem. (Laughter.)

But the poet William Butler Yates, speaking about an incident with Great Britain in a poem he wrote called “Easter Sunday 1916″, he used a line in that poem that I think is particularly appropriate, applies to this moment. He said, “The world has changed, it has changed utterly, a terrible beauty has been born.”

The fact is the world has changed utterly — not merely technology and information, but the world has changed in every respect. It is fundamentally different than it was — I’ve been a United States senator since I was 28 years — 29 years-old, since 1972. The change that’s taken place from roughly 1989 to today, both politically, economically, technologically, is staggering.

To quote an American columnist, Tom Friedman — he talks about the world being flat. It is flat. It’s flat like it never was thought of before. And it is — it seems to me that we should not overreact — we should not overreact. It’s not a choice of markets or governments, in my view. Markets are still — a free market still needs to be able to function. But if I can steal a phrase from a former President speaking of a crisis in 1932, a worldwide depression, it was referenced about him that he saved capital — saved capitalism from the capitalists.

Well, it seems to me –(inaudible) — have to, in a sense, save the markets from free marketeers right now. And the essence of that requires transparency and accountability. And I think what — I know what President Obama and I are attempting to do in our administration, and I want to make it clear: What we’re doing domestically I’m not suggesting is the answer for any one of you. That’s for you to decide. We are not here, and I am not attempting to in any way suggest or dictate what we think the outlines of recovery should be. I can just tell you what we think it is for us and what role we think we have an obligation to play in the world.

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