Biden Proposed Social Security Freeze in 1984

Oct 11, 2012 9:55am
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Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., smiles while talking with reporters shortly before his appearance on NBCs Meet the Press program, April 29, 1984, Washington, D.C. (Charles Tasnadi/AP Photo)

Pop quiz: which vice presidential candidate said this about his budget proposal:

“While this program is severe, it is the only proposal that will halt the upward spiral of deficits.”

And this:  ”Within the next 12 to 18 months this country will face an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions if Congress refuses to take decisive action on the deficits that we face.”

Here’s a hint: This candidate proposed cutting spending across-the-board, including reduced spending on Social Security and he even said the debt ceiling should not be increased without spending cuts.

Who is this vice presidential candidate?

Vice President Joe Biden.

The year was 1984 and Senator Joe Biden was sounding the alarm over Ronald Reagan’s budget deficits. His proposal, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., included a one-year freeze of all federal spending including Social Security (no cost of living increase) and defense (no pay increase for the troops).

“So, when those of my friends in the Democratic and Republican Party say to me, ‘How do you expect me to vote for your proposal? Does it not freeze Social Security COLA’s for 1 year? Are we not saying there will be no cost-of -living increases for one year?’ The answer to that is ‘Yes,” that is what I am saying,” Biden said in a speech on the Senate floor on April 24, 1984.

Read the full speech here. 

In his Senate floor speech, Biden made it clear that his plan would also freeze pay increases for the military. But, Biden argued, rising deficits were a crisis demanding extraordinary actions. In sounding the alarm, the Biden of 1984 sounds a lot like the Ryan of 2012.

“Why do I believe we face such a major crisis?” Biden said. “We have been running huge deficits for five years, and now we are clearly headed for continued huge deficits as far as the eye can see. We have emerged from what may have been the worst recession since the 1930′s, but we have emerged with incredible economic weaknesses.”

Biden’s proposal also included a provision saying the federal government’s debt limit would not be raised unless Congress acted to freeze spending. In making the case for that provision he sounded a little like the tea partiers who tried to block the debt limit increase last year.

“It will provide the incentive to act next spring,” Biden said. “I will do so because it says that we cannot increase the debt limit again until we have acted on a budget freeze.”

Biden said the key to his proposal was “shared sacrifice.”

“Only our bipartisan budget freezes all aspects of the budget,” Biden said. “It holds defense activities to the same budget that it has in fiscal year 1984 with no allowance for inflation. It similarly proposes no cost-of-living adjustments for one year for all indexed programs.”

An AP article at the time quoted Biden predicting his plan would pass and would “shock the living devil out of everyone in the U.S. Senate.” Alas, his prediction was wrong and his proposal was voted down.

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