Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said during Tuesday's debate that he could not afford childcare during his early Senate days, though his salary at the time amounted to the modern equivalent of a quarter of a million dollars per year.
"I was a single parent, too," Biden said when asked about universal childcare. "When my wife and daughter were killed, my two boys I had to raise. I was a senator, a young senator, I just hadn't been sworn in yet. And I was making $42,000 a year."
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"I commuted every single solitary day to Wilmington, Delaware … 250 miles a day," the former vice president continued. "Because I could not afford, but for my family, childcare. It was beyond my reach to be able to do it."
While living on $42,000 would place Biden in the bottom half of U.S. households in today's dollars, it placed him firmly among the richest Americans when he was sworn in as senator in 1973. Biden's freshman Senate salary of $42,500 would be the equivalent of $256,370.77 in 2019 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.
In a 1981 op-ed for the Salisbury, Md, newspaper the Daily Times titled "Congress is supporting deterioration of family," Biden even argued that families in his income bracket were precisely the sort who did not need the federal government's help providing for their childcare.
"What I do not accept as legitimate is a social policy that encourages a couple making $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 or more a year to evade full responsibility for their children by granting them a tax credit for day-care expenses," Biden wrote.