Conventional wisdom might suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden has benefited from two recent news developments: The consolidation of moderate candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar around his presidential campaign, and the Supreme Court’s decision to take another Obamacare case next fall. Biden will likely use the court case to contrast his position supporting Obamacare with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ efforts to abolish it and establish a single-payer system. But one big fact makes Biden an ill-suited fit for this pro-Obamacare message: He deliberately avoided paying a six-figure sum in Obamacare taxes.
In mid-July, after Biden and his wife Jill released their 2016 through 2018 tax returns, press reports noted that, by characterizing over $13 million of income from speaking and writing engagements as profits from two corporations rather than wage income, the couple avoided paying nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes. Tax experts interviewed at the time called the Bidens’ scheme “pretty aggressive” and not justified, given that the income came from their own intellectual work product, as opposed to any product or service created by a larger corporate entity.
The development raises several fundamental questions about Biden, starting with his blatant hypocrisy. Biden’s ads have claimed that “Obamacare is personal to me,” and that when “others propose to replace it and start over—that’s personal to me too.” But of the 3.8% self-employment tax the Bidens avoided, 0.9% funds Obamacare, and the other 2.9% funds Medicare.
Biden claims that he will defend Obamacare—especially its provisions regarding pre-existing conditions—and other federal health programs. But when given an opportunity to put his proverbial money where his mouth is, by paying the self-employment taxes that fund Obamacare and Medicare, Biden and his wife declined to do so. Given the lengths Joe Biden went to avoid paying the taxes that fund Obamacare—including the insurance subsidies that support individuals with chronic conditions—his claim to support the law’s pre-existing conditions sounds like so much malarkey.
The individuals shown in Biden’s campaign videos praising Obamacare likely do not know that Biden failed to pay taxes used to fund that law. They, and other working-class individuals like them, may not take kindly to “Middle Class Joe” failing to pay nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes—more than some working-class Americans make in a decade.
In presidential debates and elsewhere, Biden has repeatedly raised the specter of middle-class tax increases to fund Sanders’ single-payer system. He claims that his health care plan, unlike Sanders’, will take its revenue only from wealthy taxpayers. But Biden’s personal tax situation raises the question of whether other wealthy households will engage in the kind of evasive maneuvers Biden used to avoid his new tax increases, leaving the middle class holding the bag.
Over the years, Joe Biden has repeatedly used a simple phrase: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your values.” When it came time for him to “cash in” following years in the public sector, Joe Biden’s personal budget didn’t include the taxes to pay for the Obamacare law he claims to value. The press should question him on the yawning chasm between his claims and the values he expressed in his tax returns.