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Joe Biden on Budget & Economy

Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)


Reduce spending by $1T; increase taxes by $600B; cut debt

I'm pleased to report on the undeniable progress [since my last visit]. Four years ago, the world was mired in the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Today, times remain tough for too many American and European families--but conditions are improving. The US is taking difficult but critical steps to put ourselves on a sounder economic footing. And I might add, it's never been a real good bet to bet against America. We're going to do just fine in terms of our economic "crisis" and the cliffs that are about to approach.

We're determined to continue in a balanced way to cut our debt in the coming years and have made significant strides towards that goal. Last year, with the help of my colleagues in the US Congress, we reached a difficult agreement on reducing our spending over the next 10 years by close to $1 trillion. Just the end of this year, we agreed on a very difficult decision about our tax code, raising another $600 billion, making significant compromises.

Source: Speech at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany , Feb 2, 2013

Increase debt ceiling & Commission on Fiscal Responsibility

Biden had been brilliant in December, negotiating a raised debt ceiling in exchange for the creation of a bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, headed by retired Wyoming Republican senator Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, Clinton's former chief of staff, and all-around responsible appointee, to shape a plan for a sustainable future.

Erskine Bowles cut right to the chase. "Leave your friends at home," he said. "They just create problems when you get to Washington."

Source: Confidence Men, by Ron Suskind, p.134 & 387 , Sep 20, 2011

As banks become profitable, start fundamental reforms

Obama began to double back, wondering what his team thought of [Federal Reserve chair] Volcker's idea. Biden, who was an old friend of Volcker's, stepped in during a White House meeting and said that the banks were strong enough to take some medicine now, even if it wasn't fundamental change. They were making money again, gambling with depositors' funds and with implicit, or explicit, support of the taxpayer. It wasn't right. Obama nodded. Joe had said it, straight and true.
Source: Confidence Men, by Ron Suskind, p.349-350 , Sep 20, 2011

1996: Accused of sweetheart deal on sale of personal home

Charges of conflict of interest came up in Biden's 1996 bid for election to a fifth term in the Senate. Biden's opponent alleged Biden had been given a sweetheart deal on the sale of his home in Wilmington to a top MBNA executive. The implication was that Biden had been given a hefty profit in exchange for, or expectation of, favorable treatment regarding legislation of interest to the huge credit card company. The Biden campaign immediately cried foul and flatly denied the allegation & implication. Details of the deal were quickly turned over to the Delaware press, including records establishing that the appraised value and the price paid by the buyer were approximately the same. Biden received $1.2 million for the large wooded estate property; Biden had bought the property in 1975 for $225,000 and had made substantial improvements. Together with the intervening climb in real estate values, they more than accounted for the huge but legitimate increase.
Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p.295-296 , Oct 5, 2010

Obama’s economic plan focuses on middle class

Q: Was the bailout the worst of Washington or the best?

BIDEN: It’s evidence that the policies of the last 8 years have been the worst policies we’ve had. Obama laid out criteria for a rescue plan. He, first of all, said there has to be oversight. Second, he said you have to focus on folks on Main Street. Third, he said that you have to treat the taxpayers like investors. And, last, you have to make sure CEOs don’t benefit from this. We’re going to focus on the middle class, because when the middl class is growing, the economy grows and everybody does well.

PALIN: A good barometer is go to a kid’s soccer game and turn to a parent and ask, “How are you feeling about the economy?” You’re going to hear fear. Two years ago, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie & Freddie reform measures. There will be greater oversight, thanks to John McCain’s bipartisan efforts that he was so instrumental in bringing folks together, even suspending his own campaign to put politics aside.

Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Sarah Palin , Oct 2, 2008

Deregulation got us into the housing crisis

Q: Who is to blame for the subprime lending meltdown?

BIDEN: Barack warned about the sub prime mortgage crisis. We let Wall Street run wild. John McCain thought the answer is that tried and true Republican response, deregulate, deregulate. And guess what? The middle class needs tax relief. They need it now.

PALIN: It was predator lenders who tried to talk Americans into thinking that it was smart to buy a $300,000 house if we could only afford a $100,000 house. There was deception, and there was greed and there is corruption. Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, we need to band together and say never again. We need to demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our investments and our savings. Let’s do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card. Don’t live outside of our means.

Source: 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Sarah Palin , Oct 2, 2008

Balancing budget is about priorities; GOP made wrong choices

Q: Would it be a priority of your administration to balance the federal budget every year?

A: You don’t have to make a choice of balancing the budget and/or leading with the priorities that most of us feel strongly about, from health care, to education, to the environment. And I’ll just put it in real stark terms: It’s about priorities. Just by eliminating the war, & eliminating the $200 billion in tax cuts that goes to the top 1%, if you add it all up, [with $350B in cuts to military special programs], that would allow me to do everything I want to do -- my priorities on education, health care and the environment -- and still bring down the deficit by $150 billion. So, the Republicans are trying to sucker us into this, “You either have to balance the budget and do nothing to make people’s lives better, or you’re going to balloon the deficit.” They have ballooned the deficit with their bad priorities.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate , Dec 13, 2007

Save Pentagon spending by getting the troops out of Iraq

The defense department’s gigantic. It’s not just the war in Iraq. Over the first four years I think all of us are going to try to get the troops out of there. I think I can do it in the first year. We shouldn’t buy into the Republican paradigm, and that is the idea they’ve built this deficit up, the republicans, in order to make it difficult to do the things we need to do. You can take 20 Billion a year out of the defense department just by eliminating weapons systems. You can, in fact, cut.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate , Dec 13, 2007

More transparency for hedge funds and private equity funds

Q: The Fed lowered the discount rate for banks to address the mortgage crisis. Should they lower rates for everyone else?

A: The answer is yes. But we need more transparency, particularly with regard to hedge funds and private equity funds. They are the ones that are causing this thing to go under. And there’s no transparency, no accountability. We don’t know how deep this problem is. I think it’s almost as deep in terms of dollars, not liability, as the savings and loan crisis.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on “This Week” , Aug 19, 2007

Invest in new programs by ending war & eliminating tax cuts

Q: On your website you say about programs for energy research, health insurance, tuition deductions--all noble goals for Democrats, but it’s more money, more money. Where you going to get it?We have a fancy word--a new “paradigm” [about crime, health, and energy]: Investment in these areas saves money. But you need start-up dollars. I’d start off with $220 billion a year by the tax cuts and ending the war.

Q: But, senator, we have a deficit. We have Social Security and Medicare looming.

A: The answer is you have to put it all on the table. We put Social Security on the right path for 60 years. Social Security’s not the hard one to solve. Medicare, that is the gorilla in the room, and you’ve got to put all of it on the table.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Apr 29, 2007


Joe Biden on Bailout + Stimulus

$90B stimulus program had only 0.4% waste

RYAN: Look at [the waste in] just the $90 billion in stimulus--the vice president was in charge of overseeing this--

BIDEN: Go on our website: [Ryan] sent me two letters saying, "Can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of Wisconsin?" We sent millions of dollars.

Q: You did ask for stimulus money, correct?

RYAN: On two occasions, we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. That's what we do for all constituents.

BIDEN: I love that. This is such a bad program, and he writes me a letter saying it will create growth and jobs. His words. That program was investigated and Congress said it was a model: less than 4/10 of 1% waste or fraud in the program. And all this talk about cronyism--they investigated & did not find one single piece of evidence. It was a good idea. This stopped us from going off the cliff. It set the conditions to be able to grow again. 40% of those green jobs didn't go under. It's a better batting average than investment bankers have.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

We inherited a god-awful mess; just level the playing field

The fact is that we're in a situation where we inherited a god-awful circumstance. People are in real trouble. We acted to move to bring relief to the people who need the most help now.

[Ryan] says that 30% of the American people are takers. Romney points out, 47% of the people won't take responsibility. He's talking about my mother and father. And he's talking about the places I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton and Claymont. He's talking about the people that have built this country. All they're looking for is an even shot. When they've been given the shot, they've done it. Whenever you level the playing field, they've been able to move.

And they want a little bit of peace of mind. And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled, they in fact have a clear shot and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, "Honey, it's going to be OK." That's what this is all about.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

TARP stuck in our throats, but it worked

Beyond stimulating the economy, Obama had to focus on cleaning up the specific messes the Bush administration left. The first was TARP. It was clear by November that the TARP bill that passed before the election wouldn't be enough to rescue the banks. But instead of pushing Congress for more bailout money, Bush quietly requested the second portion of $350 billion, then left it up to the president-elect to lobby the new Congress for it. "[TARP] stuck in our throats," Joe Biden concluded months later, "but it worked." Its passage consumed a large amount of time round the first of the year, as the president-elect mobilized to win nearly simultaneous passage of two monster bills, the stimulus and TARP, that were each as expensive as any bill in American history. Only the entire annual budget itself was larger.
Source: The Promise: Obama Year One, by Jonathan Alter, p. 93 , May 18, 2010

Recovery Act is slowly making progress, but not good enough

We think the Recovery Act is working because of the progress we've made in slowing job loss. In the three months before the act took effect, America lost 750,000 jobs a month. In the last three months, we've lost about 35,000 jobs a month. That's progress--not good enough, not where we need to be, but progress. And most economists agree that that progress is thanks in a very large part to the Recovery Act.
Source: Biden Op-Ed: "'The Best is Yet to Come" , Feb 17, 2010

FactCheck: McCain didn’t “lurch” from “strong” to “crisis”

The Statement:Biden said, “At 9 AM on Sept. 15th, when the bottom started to fall out of the market, McCain said ‘the fundamentals of the economy are strong.’ At 11 AM that morning, he said, ‘There’s a great economic crisis.’ Lurching from one view to another in a matter of hours is not what presidents do.”

The Facts:On Sept. 15, at 9 AM, McCain said: “There’s been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets. I think still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times.“ About 3 hours later, McCain said: ”We’re going to put an end to the abuses on Wall Street that have resulted in the crisis that we are seeing unfold today.“ At the same event, McCain said, ”The American workers, those are the fundamentals of America & I think they’re strong. But those fundamentals are being threatened today because of greed & corruption on Wall Street.“

The Verdict: Misleading. Biden takes some of McCain’s remarks out of context.

Source: CNN FactCheck on 2008 vice-presidential race , Oct 13, 2008

Bail out Fannie & Freddie, fairly, to stabilize market

Q: It appears that the Treasury is going to pump in some fresh capital into Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, but shareholders will have their shares greatly diluted by this move. But preferred shareholders--China & other governments--will not suffer, because the government will prop them up. Is that fair?

A: Well, no, it's not fair, but I don't think that's what's going to happen. There's three principles that have to play here for this to work, in my view.

  1. Make sure that you help homeowners and stabilize, at the same time, financial institutions.
  2. Make sure that you're not bailing out shareholders vs. the taxpayers.
  3. Make sure that they're still in a position to be able to continue to lend, to continue to have elasticity to deal with the market.
I want to wait till I see all the detail [of the upcoming Treasury plan], but if it meets those 3 principles, then I think it has a great chance of succeeding.

Q: All investors suffer equally?

A: They should. We'll see what the plan is.

Source: Meet the Press interview by Tom Brokaw , Sep 7, 2008

Voted NO on $40B in reduced federal overall spending.

Vote to pass a bill that reduces federal spending by $40 billion over five years by decreasing the amount of funds spent on Medicaid, Medicare, agriculture, employee pensions, conservation, and student loans. The bill also provides a down-payment toward hurricane recovery and reconstruction costs.
Reference: Work, Marriage, and Family Promotion Reconciliation Act; Bill S. 1932 ; vote number 2005-363 on Dec 21, 2005

Voted NO on prioritizing national debt reduction below tax cuts.

Vote to table [kill] an amendment that would increase the amount of the budget that would be used to reduce the national debt by $75 billion over 5 year. The debt reduction would be offset by reducing the tax cut in the budget framework from $150 billion
Reference: Bill S Con Res 101 ; vote number 2000-55 on Apr 5, 2000

Voted YES on 1998 GOP budget.

Approval of the 1998 GOP Budget which would cut spending and taxes.
Status: CR Agreed to Y)78; N)22
Reference: H. Con. Res. 84 as amended; Bill H. Con. Res. 84 ; vote number 1997-92 on May 23, 1997

Voted YES on Balanced-budget constitutional amendment.

Approval of the balanced-budget constitutional amendment.
Status: Joint Resolution Defeated Y)66; N)34
Reference: S. J. Res. 1; Bill S. J. Res. 1 ; vote number 1997-24 on Mar 4, 1997

Other candidates on Budget & Economy: Joe Biden on other issues:
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Page last updated: Mar 19, 2014