It’s days like these I wish I had a modicum of artistic talent and a desire to live my life off of residuals.
Now, my plan is half-baked at the moment, but I’d start with a simple political cartoon. On one side would be a giant, ossified man with a tuxedo and a monocle; think of the Monopoly mascot but fierce and lowering. He’d be swiping a big bag of money away from an assemblage of smaller, pleasant-looking seniors, all shocked and dismayed. On the canvas bag, in big letters: “Social Security.”
Every two to four years, this simple stock image would generate enough cash that I could pay for, say, my rent, or perhaps Hunter Biden’s child support.
It’s a theme that’s touched upon in every election. Those dastardly Republicans want to take away your hard-earned Social Security money! You know, that money you paid into the Social Security system all your life? Don’t you fret, though — vote Democrat and you’ll get what’s coming to you.
I could haggle with you all day long about whether you were “paying into” Social Security all those years or whether a GOP plan would be swiping that big bag of money away from you. However, one thing’s for certain: Joe Biden’s presidential campaign would definitely be among the Democrats using my stock illustration if I’d bothered to draw it.
Alas, I can’t even draw stick figures, and television advertisements are more effective anyway, so here’s a misleading 30-second spot from Biden’s campaign featuring ominous music and an anxious pensioner staring blankly out of a rainy window before lowering his gaze, doubtlessly to contemplate a Social Security-less future:
It wouldn’t surprise a 12-year-old to learn this ad is spectacularly false (more on that later), but it’s curious that Biden would choose this line of attack.
Yes, the Democratic nominee now says he plans to expand Social Security no matter what shape our budget might be in — and one might assume, given the exigencies of 2020, that there could be some issues. Yet back in 1984, when our deficit issues seemed positively quaint, Biden led the charge on the Democratic side to freeze Social Security spending.
The move was part of a deficit-reduction plan put forth by two Senate Republicans and Biden. As Breitbart noted, Congress and the White House were at an impasse on how to curb deficits, with most Democrats feeling the White House was calling for reductions that were too draconian.
Biden, then running for a third term in the upper chamber, was willing to go further than the White House, however. After all, he hails from Delaware; if you’ve ever wondered why your bank is headquartered in that state, let me assure you it’s not because downtown Wilmington is the kind of happening place where young, swinging finance types want to rent Patrick Bateman-like lofts.
The state’s laws are structured so that it’s a good place to do business — and those businesses liked doing business with Joe Biden. There’s a reason he got the nickname “The Senator from MBNA,” after all — which is partly why he joined forces with Republican Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas to propose a suite of spending freezes and cuts.
“While this program is severe, it is the only proposal that will halt the upward spiral of deficits,” Biden said in a speech on the Senate floor on April 24, 1984, according to ABC News. “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.”
“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? 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.”
“Why do I believe we face such a major crisis?” he 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 1930s, but we have emerged with incredible economic weaknesses.”
At the time, Biden predicted the plan would pass and “shock the living devil out of everyone in the U.S. Senate.” Proving he was about as good at prognostications 36 years ago as he is today, the plan didn’t shock the living devil out of anyone in any way, given it was voted down.
Now, even if it had shocked every senator’s living devils (and even perhaps their deceased ones) by getting passed, the plan was moribund from the start; it included a military pay freeze strongly opposed by the Reagan administration, according to The New York Times. While the total freeze would have potentially cut $266 billion a year from the budget — more than President Ronald Reagan had asked for — both the White House and congressional Republicans weren’t pleased the plan would do away with an already agreed-upon pay increase for the troops.
Biden said his plan was about “shared sacrifice.”
“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,” he said.
Now, of course, discussing any sacrifice levied upon our entitlement programs makes you that big ol’ monocled rogue swiping the canvas bag of hard-earned cash away from that penurious old man looking vacantly out of that rain-dotted window.
The Trump administration isn’t doing that, mind you, but facts and campaign advertisements mix like drinking, driving and being a Kennedy.
Here’s what the Biden advertisement says: “The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration just released an analysis of Trump’s planned cuts to Social Security. Under Trump’s plan, Social Security would become permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023. If Trump gets his way, Social Security benefits will run out in just three years from now.”
However, as FactCheck.org points out, this is a hypothetical that would occur only if the president’s payroll tax holiday, intended to ease the brunt of the pandemic, were extended indefinitely with no other statutory method to pay for Social Security, given that the payroll tax is where the vast majority of Social Security funds come from.
This isn’t what the president has proposed, however.
Biden’s ad relies upon a bad-faith reading of the president’s remarks on the payroll tax holiday; while it indicates Trump said he would eliminate the payroll tax entirely, what the president was referring to was forgiving — as opposed to deferring — the payroll taxes the government hasn’t been collecting.
What Biden’s ad relies on isn’t being officially floated by the Trump administration or his campaign, and — if you want to rank the probability of strange events happening in the Washington, D.C., area — you’re more likely to see Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 land at Dulles and apologize for the delay and deviation from its original flight plan than the White House or the congressional GOP seriously taking up ending the payroll tax.
It’s interesting to see, however, that Biden’s campaign is willing to scare America into believing the monocled misers of the Trump administration are going to end Social Security in three years when Biden’s dirty little secret is that he’s the only man running in 2020 who ever proposed freezing Social Security spending.
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