The Rise Of Biden

by Stuart Shapiro

Vice President Biden comes in for a lot of kidding from both sides of the aisle.  It is easy to forget that he was a senator with an accomplished legislative record and has been an active vice president.  Michael Hirsh says he may be the most influential one ever.

It wasn’t long ago that Biden’s predecessor, Dick Cheney, was seen as the gold — some might say sulfurous — standard in vice presidential power. Biden himself, ironically enough, once described Cheney as “probably the most dangerous vice president we’ve had” because of what many observers saw as Cheney’s undue influence over George W. Bush.

But in terms of the sheer number of issues Biden has influenced in a short time, the current vice president is bidding to surpass even Cheney. Fiscal issues and guns are only a small sampling of this vice president’s portfolio. Back in 2010 it was Biden’s office that, in the main, orchestrated the handover to the Iraqis. It is Biden’s view of Afghanistan that has, bit by bit, come to dominate thinking inside the 2014 withdrawal plan. On financial reform it was Biden who prodded an indecisive Obama to embrace, at long last, Paul Volcker’s idea of barring banks from risky trading, according to Austan Goolsbee, formerly the head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. The VP also tilted the discussion in favor of a bailout of the Big Three auto companies, according to Jared Bernstein, Biden’s former economic adviser. “I think he made a difference in president’s thinking,” Bernstein said. “He understood the importance of the auto companies to their communities, and throughout the country.”

I’m not sure he can top Cheney who seemed a de facto president during Bush’s first term, but even if he isn’t the most influential veep in history, he may be the best, and that sets him up well for 2016.

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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