The Intercept - January 13, 2020

"Biden’s fixation ***on cutting Social Security dates back to the Reagan era. One of Ronald Reagan’s first major moves as president was to implement a mammoth tax cut, tilted toward the wealthy, and to increase defense spending. Biden, a Delaware senator at the time, supported both moves. The heightened spending and reduced revenue focused public attention on the debt and deficit, giving fuel to a push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

In the midst of that debate, Biden teamed up with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to call for a freeze on federal spending, and insisted on including Social Security in that freeze, even as the Reagan administration fought to protect the program from cuts. It was part of the Democratic approach at the time not just to match Republicans, but to get to their right at times as well,*** as Biden also did on criminal justice policy."

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.) ...
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