Opinion by: Saagar Enjeti
Elizabeth Warren’s “Medicare for All” plan, it is a complete mess, and the best part is, it doesn’t matter which way you approach it from.
The only thing that remains clear about it is that she was never serious about the proposal in the first place and she refuses to submit to the obvious truth that people across the income spectrum are going to have to pay more to the government in order to accomplish this a Medicare for All system. Whether the costs themselves actually go down is another question entirely, I’m not going to touch here.
Lets start with the plan itself, it proposes raising 20.5 trillion dollars in new federal spending to pay for medicare for all by allocating existing insurance costs spent by employers, doubling her tax on billionaires, going after financial transactions, and even counting additional tax revenue from a supposed immigration reform plan. Each one of these pay fors would be an extraordinary achievement in American politics, and she wants to do all of them through the united states congress to pay for this plan.
Oh yeah, she also wants to cut defense spending too. All of these proposals were put forward simply to worm her way around saying, “Yes middle class taxes will go up” on the debate stage. Funnily enough, it continues to validate the idea that this entire plan is mostly a vanity exercise for her to check the box on her “I have a plan for that candidacy” without satisfying much of the progressive left’s distrust that she is seriously committed to this health care plan.
Matt Bruenig of the people’s policy project wrote in notoriously right-wing rag, Jacobin magazine that Warren’s Medicare for All plan is “a disaster.” Bruenig characterizes Warren’s business insurance tax in particular as a medicare head tax, because it requires a fixed dollar amount per worker to be paid to the federal government. This is far less efficient than a medicare payroll tax which is of course factored on a percentage that a worker earns. Bruenig notes that literally the only reason to do this is to trick journalists into saying that it isn’t exactly a tax, and therefore does not impact middle class workers, which of course it does.
As several astute political observers have noted, she might as well have said that she is going to get Mexico to pay for Medicare for All. She even went so far as to tell journalists yesterday that her plan would not raise taxes on anybody worth over a billion dollars.
This is of course completely false. Not only does the employer tax alone render this B.S. but it doesn’t include her financial transaction tax or her capital gains tax increase. This would of course affect people worth less than 1 billion dollars.
Warren’s entire plan is designed not as a serious policy proposal but as an electoral conceit which is designed to placate at worst and steal at best people on the progressive left who do not trust her proposal. This became eminently clear on Sunday when warren responded to senator Bernie Sander’s accusation that his plan is more progressive and more straightforwardly paid for then hers when she said quote
“Bernie may have a different vision for how to pay for it, but let’s be really clear: Bernie and I are headed in exactly the same direction.”
As journalist Zaid Jlani points out, warren is trying to use sanders as a political shield against his very own accusation. All of this is for a very basic reason. Morning consult polling indicates that Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly leads amongst Democratic voters when it comes to trust as to who best understands the American healthcare system and who they can most trust to fix it. Warren places third behind Joe Biden in both categories, largely because of her equivocation on healthcare in the past.
So why do I even care about this? I’m not for Medicare For All. Well because this is a sophisticated effort to dupe professional journalists and voters into believing that Elizabeth Warren is fundamentally serious about an issue area that she is clearly gaslighting the American public on. It goes to the heart of what I believe is her central flaw as a candidate is, you simply cannot trust what she says she is going to do (save for some financial regulatory issues).
If you don’t care about healthcare and believe that restructuring the financial system is the best way fix the American economy and system of government, then just say that! You don’t have to pretend that you’re an all encompassing serious person, especially when there is already a health care corollary in the race. But she can’t do that, because healthcare is the number one issue for Democrat voters and her theory of the case just simply isn’t correct.