HARWOOD: Forty years, good times and bad, you rode this train both ways. What has it meant to your life?
BIDEN: It's basically meant everything in my life. Everyone from the guy at the shoeshine stand to the ticket folks, they became my friends and my family.
And you look out and I used to think, when things were tough, you'd look out at night, going home, and you'd see people in their dining rooms or in their kitchens, and I used to wonder what they're thinking. Because this is sort of a middle-class path. It's been literally my lifeline between Wilmington and Washington.
HARWOOD: You guys have tried consistently through the administration to tax what they call carried interest as ordinary income. When you started doing that, a big Wall Street guy, Steve Schwarzman, said the Obama administration's like Hitler invading Poland. How do you react to criticism like that? And I would note: You guys haven't been able to get it done.
BIDEN: I'd say it's like us liberating death camps. The truth of the matter is, there's no justification for a hedge fund paying at 15-17 percent. There's just no justification. Everyone from Warren Buffett …
HARWOOD: Why haven't you been able to get it done?
BIDEN: Two reasons. I kid the president, "Mr. President, everything's landed on your desk but locusts." We haven't had the clear space to do nothing but talk about how unfair the tax system is as it relates to the tax expenditures, loopholes we want to eliminate.
And consequently what happens is a lot of people can go home, if you're a Republican, and say, "These Democrats are just going after business." Well, if I sit here and explain to everyone — I don't have to, your camera crew and everybody's really bright — and I say, "Well, let me tell you what carried interest is, this means that you're paying at 30 percent, they're paying at 17 percent, and some of them made $1 billion. Twenty-eight made $1 billion." Think that's fair?
They'll say, "Well, maybe, if they do something super special with that $1 billion that makes it why they should be rewarded." They're playing with other people's money. If you take a risk to start a business and you make money, you pay less taxes — because you took a risk. Well, that's because you used your own money.
HARWOOD: You see the next president winning on that? (Donald) Trumpsaid he wants to get rid of it.
BIDEN: Yes. It's not going to be sustainable. But every time we started to focus on our budget, and we're talking about how we really want to focus on the unfair elements of the tax expenditures, then along comes Zika. I mean, literally.
It's not an excuse. My father used to have an expression, "Never complain, never explain." Well, there is a context here. The context is that the first five years of this administration have been essentially just figuring out how do we keep us from going over the cliff? How do we get us back up and running?