"A lot of us sit around thinking up ways to vote conservative just so we don't come out with a liberal rating," Biden told Washingtonian in 1974. "When it comes to civil rights and civil liberties, I'm a liberal but that's it. I'm really quite conservative on most other issues."
If Biden wanted low marks from liberal groups, he got them. By 1978, Americans for Democratic Action, the preeminent liberal watchdog group of the time, gave Biden a score of just 50, lower than its ratings for some Republicans. Kennedy typically scored in the 90s.
Biden's ratings recovered in the 1980s, fueled by a liberal foreign policy record. But on domestic policy ? from school integration to tax policy ? he was functionally allied with the Reagan administration.
He voted for a landmark Reagan tax bill that slashed the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and exempted many wealthy families from the estate tax on unearned inheritances, a measure that cost the federal government an estimated $83 billion in annual revenue. He then called for a spending freeze on Social Security in order to reduce the deficits that tax law helped to create.
"While this program is severe," Biden said on the Senate floor, "it is the only proposal that will halt the upward spiral of deficits," which supposedly threatened "an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions" within 18 months.
By the time Biden first ran for president in 1987, he had adopted much of Reagan's anti-government message in his pitch to Democratic voters