The Intercept - January 2020

"What Biden was expressing was a common sentiment among the centrist faction of the party in the 1980s and ’90s — the belief that old tax-and-spend liberals were out, and that a type of “New Democrat” was needed, one who understood the necessity of fiscal restraint. Cutting spending was the only way, he argued, to salvage what was left of the Great Society and New Deal. The mentality of Biden-style Democrats — that the best the party could do was play defense — was dominant for a generation; it’s now being fundamentally challenged not just in the presidential campaign but in congressional primaries across the country."

AS EARLY AS 1984 and as recently as 2018, former Vice President Joe Biden called for cuts to Social Security in the name of saving the program and balancing the federal budget. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders highlighted Biden’s record on Social Security in prosecuting the case that Biden isn’t the most electable candidate. The issue could be raised again in Tuesday night’s debate.

After a Sanders campaign newsletter continued the attack on Biden’s Social Security record, the Biden campaign complained to fact-checkers at Politifact that his comments were being taken out of context. Placed in context, however, Biden’s record on Social Security is far worse than one offhand remark. Indeed, Biden has been advocating for cuts to Social Security for roughly 40 years.

And after a Republican wave swept Congress in 1994, Biden’s support for cutting Social Security, and his general advocacy for budget austerity, made him a leading combatant in the centrist-wing battle against the party’s retreating liberals in the 1980s and ’90s.

“When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well,” he told the Senate in 1995. “I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.” (A freeze would have reduced the amount that would be paid out, cutting the program’s benefit.)

“The truth is the last election did one thing,” Biden continued. “I do not know whether it really made you guys a majority party for long. I do not know. We will find out. I know one thing it did. What it did was it made sure that there was nobody left on the left in my party who, in fact, said we do not care about moving the budget toward balance.” ...
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