The Secret History of Joe Biden’s “Extreme” Positions
In his 1951 work Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner famously wrote that “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” President Biden may wish to heed Faulkner’s advice, as many of the positions on deficits and spending that President Joe Biden assailed in his State of the Union message he once espoused. That contrast demonstrates one of the prime reasons Washington will not get federal spending under control—opportunistic political charlatans like the current occupant of the Oval Office.
When the president attacked lawmakers who “want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” he should have begun by using the perpendicular pronoun. In July 1975, then-Senator Biden proposed legislation to terminate “all provisions of law in effect on the effective date of this Act which authorize new budget authority for a period of more than four fiscal years.”
Biden’s supporters may try to parse that language by claiming that terminating the authorizations for Medicare, Social Security, or the military would not necessarily prevent federal dollars from flowing to those programs. But such claims stand at odds with Biden’s own comments regarding his bill. He said the bill “requires every program”—including Medicare and Social Security—“to be looked at freshly at least once every four years. The examination is not just of the increased cost of the program, but of the worthiness of the entire program.”
Similarly, when Biden claimed that “if anyone tries to cut Social Security [and Medicare], I will stop them,” he omitted his long history of supporting proposals reducing spending on these programs. In spring 1984, Biden, along with Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kansas, proposed an across-the-board freeze on federal spending.
The bill would have eliminated all cost-of-living increases in federal employee pay, as well as Social Security and Medicare benefits, for fiscal year 1985. In a joint Washington Post op-ed, Biden and three other senators claimed they supported the freeze because “federal deficits are a clear and present danger to our economic recovery.”
Also, when Biden claimed that Republicans “say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history,” he neglected to mention that he previously wanted to do exactly that. In October 1984, Biden supported an amendment to a debt limit bill offered by Sen. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass. The Tsongas amendment would have provided for a smaller increase in the debt limit than the underlying bill, and prohibited further debt limit increases until Congress acted on a spending freeze for the following fiscal year.
Biden said he supported Tsongas’ action precisely “because it says we cannot increase the debt limit again until we have acted on a budget freeze”—one that would, like Biden’s spring proposal, have frozen Medicare and Social Security benefits. When the Tsongas amendment failed, Biden voted against raising the debt limit.
As important as Biden’s support for a freeze was his publicly stated reason for suggesting it. In an October 1984 floor speech, he claimed a total federal spending freeze would work because voters “are not stupid…They are not dumb. These folks understand. They know that to cut the deficit, everybody has to be in it.”
Given his volte face—whereby Biden has pledged to veto any bill that reduces spending on the largest two federal programs, Social Security and Medicare—a heretofore supine press might inquire as to exactly when, and under what circumstances, the president grew to believe in the stupidity of the American public.
Voters should find Biden’s behavior disqualifying, and not just because he takes the public for fools. The Medicare trustees, all members of Biden’s own administration, state that the program’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will become insolvent in 2028. But Biden has yet to release any plan to avoid an insolvency scenario projected for his potential second term.
Ironically enough, Biden’s earlier proposals to regularly review spending programs and freeze federal spending across-the-board represent possible solutions to tackle our $31 trillion in accumulated debt. But making difficult choices requires a level of forthrightness lacking from a president utterly beholden to his party’s radicalized left.
Consider that in July 2011, President Obama stated that “if you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money, and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.” A dozen years later, Biden, by vowing to veto any “cuts” to Medicare, has articulated a position that none other than Barack Obama has characterized as unsustainable.
At a time the nation demands signal leadership, Biden has thrown in his lot with a leftist movement whose underlying philosophy—power through dependence—views Medicare as little more than a bloody shirt to wave at political opponents, or a slush fund to expand dependency elsewhere, rather than a solemn commitment to seniors and the most vulnerable.
Confronted by his own past positions, Biden should come to his senses, and negotiate a bipartisan package that charts a pathway to fiscal sanity. But if he insists on attacking politicians who propose common-sense steps to control our skyrocketing debt, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy should bring to his next White House meeting a gift to remind the president he doesn’t have far to look to find a target for his demagoguery: A mirror.
This post was originally published at The Federalist.