At a town hall event in Indianola today, Joe Biden went after Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign for mischaracterizing a statement the former vice president made about Social Security during a speech at the Brookings Institution in April of 2018.
During a question and answer session at the Indianola town hall, a woman told Biden she had gotten some phone calls asking what she thinks of Biden’s stance on Social Security.
“So I’m going to ask you, what’s your stance on Social Security?” the woman questioned.
“My stance on Social Security is — let’s get the record straight,” Biden said. “I’m not going to blame anybody, but, well, let me just say the facts. There’s a little doctored video going around saying that — put out by … put out by one of Bernie’s people, saying that I agreed with Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, about wanting to privatize Social Security.”
He seemed hesitant about whether he should say who the video was created by and looked to one of his staff members before he said Sanders’ name.
“Politifact looked at it and they doctored the photo,” Biden said. “They doctored the piece. And it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake.”
The piece Biden seemed to be referring to was a newsletter sent out by Sanders’ campaign, which quoted Biden saying: “Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to go after? Social Security and Medicare.”
Biden’s campaign later told Politifact he was mocking Ryan (and Sanders campaign didn’t “doctor” a video as Biden suggested today, but Biden’s campaign asserts they’re misrepresenting it).
This is how Politifact, which rated the Sanders claim “false,” described the video: “‘Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to go after?’ Biden said, with a slight smirk. Biden then leaned into the microphone and said in a deep menacing voice: ‘Social Security and Medicare.'”
Were the attacks over Social Security to stick, it could be especially problematic for Biden in Iowa, a state with a much older population.
According to an Iowa poll from last year, Biden’s strongest base of support in the state is among voters age 65 and over. He garnered just 2% support from voters aged 18 to 29. Chipping way at his support among seniors, regardless of who those voters backed instead, could be problematic for Biden.
A New York Times/Siena poll released in November also shows Iowans support protecting Social Security. The poll found 57% of Iowans “strongly support” raising Social Security benefits by $200 a month. Another 32% “somewhat support” the move.
Biden laid out his plan for protecting Social Security during that same 2018 speech, which he said, “raises enough revenue to make sure that the Social Security and Medicare can stay.”
The newsletter released by the Sanders campaign outlines four instances of Biden allegedly saying he would make cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The first example is a video of Biden speaking on the Senate floor in 1995, saying: “When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare & Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits … And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time & I tried it a fourth time.”
The second references a bill Biden voted for that cut the top income tax rate and the third includes a quote NBC News ran during Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign. The report claims his social security plan “would include discussing options such as upping the retirement age.”
The fourth point quotes the Brookings speech.
Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir released a statement shortly after Biden’s speech today, stating the vice president “lashed out at the Sanders campaign for citing Biden’s consistent efforts to slash social security.”
“Joe Biden should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut social security,” Shakir said. “The facts are very clear: Biden not only pushed to cut Social Security — he is on tape proudly bragging about it on multiple occasions.”
During the event in Indianola, Biden said he has been a “gigantic supporter of Social Security since the beginning.”
Biden said he has a plan to make sure everyone is paying the same percent of their salary into social security, and said everyone should be paying 6.5 percent, whether they’re making $60,000 or $20 million.
by Paige Godden