Joe Biden

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Setting the Policy

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden got the big headlines over the weekend, with his Meet the Press comments on same-sex marriage. He was quoted everywhere. There was much talk of how this fit (or didn’t fit) with the administration’s official ideology:

I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights — all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.

But immediately prior to the above, he said this: “I am vice president of the United States of America; the president sets the policy.”Joe Biden on gay marriage ... and the presidency

And that’s where I begin to wonder.

It could be he’s only saying that he’s second banana in the administration (if even that high in the banana tree), and that he can’t speak for the top banana.

But too often, these days, when people talk about the president “setting the policy” or “making decisions” (remember George W. Bush’s self-description as “The Decider”?) they seem to suggest something approaching a dictatorship by the president. What the head man says goes.

That’s what Biden’s statement does more than imply.

According to the Constitution, on the other hand, Congress sets policy. Not the president. The legislative power is concentrated in the House and the Senate.

Biden’s kind of loose talk is an artifact of what’s called the “imperial presidency.” Leadership (and followership) of both parties have pushed it. It has a long history.

I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot more concern than the idea of two dudes marrying.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Audacity of Sleep

Friday, April 15th, 2011

During Wednesday’s big speech, just as President Obama laid into Rep. Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal, Vice President Joe Biden skirmished with the Sandman. Zzzzz.

Obama wasn’t boring, though. He had a theme.

As he saw it, the Republicans’ “pessimistic” vision is of an “America [that] can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made for our seniors” or “invest in education or clean energy” or fix “our roads” or afford to do all the cool things done by South Korea, Brazil, and China.

He didn’t explain how it might have come to pass that our government became disabled. He barely mentioned previous budgets’ waste — on goofy projects, overpayments, duplicated efforts, and undeclared, never-ending wars. Or how government regulation and subsidy might be the reason many people cannot afford medical insurance.

Or that if the government doesn’t invest in something, it doesn’t mean that private investors aren’t investing.

But he did mention his opposition to “more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.”

And then came the corker: “In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each.  And that’s who needs to pay less taxes?”

Wow. America’s wealthiest merely “saw their incomes rise”? They didn’t actually do something for their gains?

Maybe Obama was napping while others were working.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Old Ball Game

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Those New York Yankees did it again. I’d love to have seen them win their 27th World Series crown. But, well, the tickets are terribly expensive. For those who don’t buy season tickets, the average ticket price is $750. For Game 6 in New York, that average soared to $900.

But a few people pay a fraction of those amounts.

Major League Baseball’s lobbying office makes special tickets available to members of Congress at the face value of the tickets, many hundreds of dollars less than the price you’d pay. This deal is not for run-of-the-mill Americans, mind you, but for folks with clout, members of the inner politburo of America.

Bribery! Who said that?

Silly us, it’s all perfectly legal. The league and teams are selling the tickets at the price it says on the ticket, not giving them away.

But as Melanie Sloan, with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, put it, ‘Anytime you have access to something that regular people don’t have, it should be considered a gift. Regular people can’t call the Major League Baseball office and get tickets.’

Vice President Joe Biden went to one of the games in Philly along with his wife, Jill. As VP, he’s not even covered by the gift ban, but he was nice enough to pay $325 each for the two tickets worth $1,500.

Is this a great country or what?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.