Joe Biden addresses students on financial regulation

December 9, 2016

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at Georgetown in 2016. Photo by Caitlyn Cobb

On Dec. 5, Vice President Joe Biden argued in support of the Obama administration’s financial sector policies and warned against the dangers of forgetting the lessons of the most recent recession in front of an audience of around 650 Georgetown students and VIPs in Gaston Hall.

Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve who helped end hyperinflation under the Reagan administration, lauded Biden’s role in America’s economic recovery as he introduced the vice president.

For sure we are on sounder economic footing than when President Obama and Vice President Biden took office,” said Volcker. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity not to introduce Joe Biden, who needs no introduction from me, but to thank the man.”

During his 40-minute speech, Biden summarized the regulations of the financial sector the Obama administration introduced and emphasized their general success. While he said that some Americans were still dealing with the aftermath of the Great Recession– a phrase which he mentioned he was criticized for using in 2008, but which soon became part of mainstream conversation– he also said that Americans are significantly better off than they were eight years ago.

Recalling the beginning of his term as vice president, Biden remembered the fear that he felt around the country caused by the impending recession. He said that while his son Beau was serving as an Army officer in Iraq, some of his soldiers told him that their houses back home were going into foreclosure.

“We lived the pain, and we can’t ever forget the turmoil,” said Biden. “People were terrified of another Great Depression. When Barack and I put our hands on the Bible on January 20, 2009, we had lost almost 700,000 [jobs] at that moment and ended up losing more than 800,000 that month.

The vice president connected the failings of the financial sector to impacts in the rest of the economy. He blamed Wall Street and the short-sighted risks banks took with customers’ money for the severity of the recession as well as Congress’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Obama administration for the long recovery time.

“More should have been done, even on top of our one trillion dollar stimulus,” said Biden. “But our friends on the Hill said ‘no.’”

Though Biden praised the progress of the recovery, he also warned of being overly confident and forgetting the policies and behavior that lead to the Great Recession. Specifically, he attacked recent proposals to take the power to regulate the financial sector out of the hands of the federal government, cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and allow banks to take undue risks with customers’ money. Rather than ascribing to the view that America is in decline, as many politicians have postulated, Biden said that it was still positioned as the best country to lead the world economically and ideologically.

“[One thing] which is stamped in the DNA of every American, native-born or otherwise: no child is criticized for challenging orthodoxy, unlike any other country in the world,” said Biden. “We can’t make new things without breaking old things. We’re a remarkable country. We have to keep moving forward.”

Morgan Doyle (COL ‘19) said that one of the reasons he came to Georgetown was to hear high-profile people discussing pertinent topics. As an economics major, Doyle said he would have liked to hear Biden delve a little deeper into specific examples of how the Obama administration’s policies directly manipulated the economic recovery rather than his more general, optimistic summary.

In the wake of the recent presidential election, I thought it was important to hear the outgoing administration’s thoughts on financial regulation which is such an important topic,” said Doyle. “I’ve actually been studying their policies, and so being able to hear first-hand from them what they believed [those] would fix the economy…was really fascinating.

For all the students in the audience, Biden gave some simple advice, one of the only times he mentioned the incoming administration who will be taking over the White House from the Obama-Biden partnership of the last eight years.

“Folks, this is no time to go [backwards],” said Biden. “We have to give this new administration a fighting chance. We’ll see; we’ll see what happens.”

Margaret Gach
Margaret is the former editor-in-chief of The Georgetown Voice. She was a STIA major and heroically fought for the right to make every print headline a pun.


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