Joe Biden And Liberty

Both The Club For Growth and The Cato Institute are out today with analyses of Joe Biden’s position on economic issues of importance to libertarians and, as you might suspect, it’s not good.

First from Cato on the issue of international trade:

Here are the highlights and lowlights of Biden’s voting record on trade:

On the positive side from a free trade perspective, he voted consistently to maintain normal trade relations with China, including permanent NTR in 2000; for the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1993; for the Uruguay Round Agreements Act in 1994; for the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996; for fast-track trade promotion authority in 1998; to defund enforcement of the travel ban to Cuba; to cut sugar production subsidies; and in favor of the Morocco and Australian free trade agreements in 2004.

On the negative side for those who support the freedom to trade, Biden voted for steel import quotas in 1999; for the 2002 and 2008 protective and subsidy laden farm bills; against trade promotion authority in 2002; against the Chile, Singapore, Oman, and Dominican Republic-Central American FTAs; in favor of the Byrd amendment directing anti-dumping booty to complaining companies; in favor of imposing steep tariffs on imports from China to force changes in that country’s currency regime; and in favor of screening of 100 percent income shipping containers by 2012.

For a senator who prides himself on his foreign policy experience, Biden’s record shows great ambivalence about American participation in the global economy.

The Club for Growth, meanwhile, takes a look at Biden’s positions on a number of economic issues:

“Over his thirty-five years in Washington, Senator Biden has been a reflexive liberal on every single economic issue,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Whether the issue is taxes, spending, regulation, or school choice, Senator Biden has voted consistently for more taxes, more spending, more government, and less freedom and choice. Taxpayers can expect more of the same from the Obama-Biden ticket—more government, less prosperity.”

A few examples:

Joe Biden on Taxes:

  • Voted for President Clinton’s tax hike (RC #247, 1993)
  • Voted against repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (RC #261, 1999)
  • Voted against eliminating the marriage penalty (RC #79, 2001)
  • Voted against the 2001 tax cuts (RC# 170, 2001)
  • Voted against repealing the Death Tax (RC #151, 2002) (RC #109, 2007)
  • Voted against a repeal of the 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits (RC #94, 2003)
  • Voted against the 2003 Bush tax cuts (RC #196, 2003)
  • Voted for a 50% windfall profits tax on oil profits (RC #331, 2005)
  • Voted against extending the 2001 tax cuts (RC #118, 2006) (RC #107, 2007)

Joe Biden on Spending:

  • Voted for the Farm Bill in 2002 and 2008 (RC #103, 2002) (RC #130, 2008)
  • Voted in favor of the Bridge to Nowhere (RC #262, 2005)
  • Voted against capping spending (RC #286, 2005)
  • Voted to kill a resolution stating a moral obligation to offset new spending with spending cuts (RC #140, 2007)
  • Voted for the expanded SCHIP bill (RC #307, 2007)
  • Voted against an earmark moratorium (RC #75, 2008)
  • Voted to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill (RC #140, 2008)
  • Was declared Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste in January 2002


Joe Biden on Regulation:

  • Voted for the burdensome Sarbanes-Oxley legislation (RC #192, 2002)
  • Voted against exempting small businesses from Sarbanes-Oxley (RC #139, 2007)
  • Voted for a minimum wage hike (RC #257, 2005)
  • Voted for the “card check” bill—stripping workers of their right to a secret ballot when voting to form a union (RC #227, 2007)
  • Voted to kill the Davis Bacon waiver (RC #334, 2007)

Joe Biden on School Choice:

  • Voted against a vouchers program for DC schools (RC #260, 1997)
  • Voted against school choice for low-income earners (RC #179, 2001)


Joe Biden on Political Free Speech:

  • Voted for McCain-Feingold (RC #64, 2001)
  • Not surprising for a liberal Democrat, of course, but yet another indication that there really isn’t anything about an Obama/Biden Administration that libertarians should look forward to.

    • Mark

      I am far less concerned about Biden’s position on economic issues (where Dems are supposed to be bad) than I am about his positions on foreign policy and civil liberties issues (where Dems are supposed to be good). I would point out that McCain is pretty weak where Republicans are supposed to be good since he has quite the penchant for regulation and nanny statism. I suppose he’s theoretically better on taxes, except that his commitment to continued massive defense spending and foreign adventurism make his position on taxes essentially meaningless since spending is the only number that really matters (i.e., deficit spending is no different from a tax hike of an equivalent amount since deficit spending incurs interest).

      All of which is to say that I’d rather someone who is going to waste a boatload of money on ill-conceived entitlements here at home than someone who is going to waste an equal boatload of money on ill-conceived invasions of foreign countries that make the unintended consequences of entitlement spending look mild by comparison.

      Of course, I’d far prefer a certain third party candidate to either. But as long as the Republican nominee insists on hemoragging money at a rate equal to or greater than the Dem nominee, I don’t see a lick of difference between the two on most economic issues (the one exception being that McCain’s health care proposal is definitely preferable to Obama’s, which was itself preferable to most Dem proposals).

    • Doug Mataconis


      I’d rather someone who is going to waste a boatload of money on ill-conceived entitlements here at home than someone who is going to waste an equal boatload of money on ill-conceived invasions of foreign countries that make the unintended consequences of entitlement spending look mild by comparison.

      That basically strikes me as giving up.

      I can’t support McCain for reasons I’ve made clear, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore the fact that Obama/Biden are wrong on most economic issues, wrong on international trade, and, in some cases, just plain wrong.

    • inDglass

      He also voted for No Child Left Behind, which is expanding the achievement gap, destroying the curriculum, and wasting millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on actual education.

    • Mark

      It may well be the case that Obama/Biden are wrong on all those issues (although I would point out that even Biden is better than most Dems were on trade not that terribly long ago), and Radley Balko had a post the other day about how bad Biden is where Dems should be good.

      But I wouldn’t say I’m giving up, either (after all, I am still a Barr supporter)- I’m not asking that anyone ignore their flaws in these areas.

      Instead, I’m more pointing out that as bad as Obama/Biden may seem on economic issues, the fact is that they’re looking to replace possibly the most anti-liberty administration in history, or at least since FDR. And that administration is a Republican administration. In essence, I am challenging the somewhat long-held assumption that the Republican Party is, in the long run, less offensive to libertarian instincts than the Dem Party. They both have plenty of bad points, and the most ideological groups in each party even have some good points (though too often the parties themselves refuse to advance policy on these good points), but neither party is inherently better or less bad for liberty than the other party. My suspicion is that, for at least the short-term and possibly the intermediate term, the Dem Party will be marginally less bad for liberty than the Republican Party and its increasing bellicosity. As I’ve said elsewhere, I also think, at this point, that libertarians have much more in common with ideological liberals (as opposed to mainstream Democrats) than with modern ideological conservatives.

    • Jonesy

      Pat Toomey is politically biased (he’s a partisan republican). I dont think his quote should be a part of your post. That would be like including a quote from the McCain campaign.

    • Doug Mataconis

      Who should I quote Jonesy, Jill Biden ?

      The Club For Growth material is 100% true, therefore it’s worth including in any evaluation of Biden’s record.