Warren had better have a plan — she needs one to win in November

Warren had better have a plan — she needs one to win in November
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds On The Money: Half of states deplete funds for Trump's 0 unemployment expansion | EU appealing ruling in Apple tax case | House Democrats include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package Warren, Khanna request IG investigation into Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE (D-Mass.) has a plan to walk back some of her more dicey political positions in any general election — Warren hasn't actually said that nor has any campaign insider told me so, but Warren has a plan for everything, so presumably she has a walk back plan too. She had better.

She has run an energetically brilliant campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, blowing by Bernie SandersBernie SandersSirota reacts to report of harassment, doxing by Harris supporters Republicans not immune to the malady that hobbled Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election MORE and on the verge of moving past former Vice President Biden. Bookmakers rate her the favorite to face Donald Trump next fall.

But some of her expansive and expensive positions would be ripe targets for Republicans, scare Democrats in critical battleground contests, and — if she's elected — would pose substantial governing problems.

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The issues are smart, expanded health care and educational assistance, aggressively taking on the climate change crisis, much more progressive taxes, and reversing President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE's disastrous immigration policies. It's just that she goes to unrealistic extremes.

The biggest plan is a single payer health care system costing the federal government more than $30 trillion over a decade, doing away with insurance premiums and co-pays. This “Medicare for All” polls well — until voters realize it would end private insurance plans and require massive tax increases. Warren has ducked how much middle-class taxes would be raised.

Curiously, if — a huge if — she realizes the need to temper some of these ambitious plans, this offers the most clear-cut way: Build on now popular Obamacare, offering a public option for non-seniors and price controls on drug prices as a way station to Medicare for All in a second term.

Warren proposes $5 trillion of other expenditures: $2 trillion for clean energy; federally supported universal day care, free public college (forgiving student loans), big investments in housing subsidies, unspecified monies for reparations for the sins of slavery, and a $200 a month social security increase for all recipients financed by doubling the payroll tax on those making over $250,000 a year.

Without picking priorities, it just doesn't add up.

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One easy modification should be social security. My wife and I shouldn't be given almost $5,000 a year in added benefits. Neither — really neither — should Donald Trump.

On immigration, Democrats have a strong case against the chaotic and racist Trump border policies, separating children from parents, and — according to "Border Wars," a compelling new book by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear — even considering shooting migrants.

A winning hand is to call for reforming the immigration agency: Give Dreamers — who were brought to the U.S. as young children and are contributory citizens — permanent status; restore a humane policy along the border, and seek a gradual pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Instead, Warren plays into Trump's hands by calling for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; de-criminalizing illegal immigration, and providing all health care benefits to undocumented workers.

If Democrats win both the White House and Congress next year, the first priority will be to raise enough revenue to finance an ambitious agenda. They would have the opportunity to enact the largest and most progressive revenue measure in modern times: raising individual, corporate and capital gains and estate taxes and closing loopholes for the privileged.

Warren, however, goes well beyond that with a series of tax increases along with the centerpiece: an annual tax on wealth over $50 million, projected to raise $2.75 trillion over a decade. It's appealing and has merit. But winning congressional approval will be nearly impossible, and if it did, legal experts say, there's a good chance this conservative Supreme Court would throw it out.

The rich should pay significantly higher taxes, but there are limits — and Warren's avalanche of tax increases, focused on the wealthy, could prove counter-productive and waste an opportunity for more realistic tax changes.

For any Democratic President, a Senate majority is critical; any field of policy dreams will die in a Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE-run Senate. To take control, Democrats have to win Republican-held seats in states like North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa and Georgia. The current Warren agenda scares candidates in these venues as well as a number of freshman House Democrats who won in marginal districts.

Criticisms from other Democrats have begun and will escalate: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg charged at a recent debate,"No plan has been laid out to explain how a multitrillion-dollar hole in this Medicare for all plan that Sen. Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in."

That is kid's stuff compared to what Republicans will do if Warren's the nominee.

The general electorate is much different than primary voters. The urban liberals contend that America is ready for a radical agenda if new voters are energized and public pressure is brought on politicians…

Shades of Barry Goldwater and George McGovern — who lost in landslides.

Albert R. Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter-century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @alhuntdc.