Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s bizarre behavior in Thursday night’s debate was no accident. The exaggerated expressions and overheated theatrics were meant to distract the public from arriving at the obvious conclusion: This administration has no viable solutions to America’s problems.
ABC’s Martha Raddatz, moderating the debate, asked Mr. Biden what he would do about the $16.2 trillion debt besides raising taxes on the wealthy. The former Delaware senator had no direct response. Instead, he launched an attack on Mitt Romney’s plan to provide tax relief for everyone.
Mr. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, summarized the problem aptly: “We asked the Congressional Budget Office, ‘Tell us what President Obama’s plan is to prevent a debt crisis.’ They said, ‘It’s a speech. We can’t estimate speeches.’ “
The biggest driver of our debt is Medicare, so any solution to the debt crisis necessarily involves taking on entitlement reform. The Ryan-Romney ticket proposes to allow those under 55 years old to choose their own health care at retirement (with standard Medicare as one of the options). Their detailed proposal would reduce benefit increases for the wealthy and slowly raise the eligibility age to rein in costs.
The current administration, on the other hand, further weakened Medicare by pilfering $716 billion from its trust fund to pay for Obamacare. Instead of proposing an alternative, the vice president spent two uninterrupted minutes denying the facts. When Mr. Ryan tried to speak on the topic, Mr. Biden interrupted him 18 times.
This wasn’t strong ground for Mr. Biden, so he went after Mr. Romney for supporting President George W. Bush’s efforts to give younger workers the option to choose a private retirement account. Mr. Ryan calmly explained that was not Mr. Romney’s plan, but if nothing was done, seniors will necessarily see a 25 percent across-the-board cut in benefits in the middle of their retirement.
The Wisconsin Republican added that their platform will not affect anyone at or near retirement, but they will have the common-sense reforms of means testing and gradually raising the eligibility age. Mr. Biden just laughed. Appropriately so, since in four years, the only thing Mr. Obama has done about Social Security is raid it to underwrite his temporary payroll tax cut to voters in advance of what he hopes will be his re-election.
When asked about taxes, Mr. Biden actually had something to say — it just wasn’t true. “The middle class will pay less, and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more,” he proclaimed. This sounds a lot more appealing than Mr. Obama’s actual policy of tax hikes on anyone making over $200,000.
As Mr. Ryan calmly explained, “It doesn’t even pay for 10 percent of their proposed deficit spending increases.” The Romney-Ryan tax plan is based on growing the economy by making the tax code fairer and lowering everyone’s rates, including those paid by businesses. The change would encourage 7 million new jobs.
The takeaway for voters who watched the only vice presidential debate is that, in between smirking, guffawing, interrupting, sighing and eye rolling, Mr. Biden tacitly admitted his side has no plan to revive America’s economy.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.