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Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All plan is finally out and the only thing I can reasonably deduce is that it’s a cynical electoral ploy.
The entire pay for structure of the plan is an elaborate way of saying “I don’t want to say that it will raise middle class taxes on the debate stage, even though we all know it will.” As Krystal said in our discussion of the matter today, she basically is handling this matter the same way she did the DNA test.
You can watch our full breakdown here:
Warren’s plan relies on funding Medicare for All imposing a Medicare head tax on employers, taxing financial transactions, capital gains, doubling her billionaire tax, and even taxing new legalized residents as a result of sweeping immigration reform(!). On top of all of that she wants to cut military spending.
Each one of those achievements would require an act of Congress and be a monumental feat in their own right. Just think about every single attempt at immigration reform in our recent history if you want an idea of how this is likely to go.
Feasibility and philosophy aside however, this plan does not pass the good faith test. As Matt Bruenig over at the People’s Policy Project lays out in Republican talking point regurgitator *checks notes* Jacobin Magazine:
Elizabeth Warren bills herself as the candidate with policy chops. But her Medicare for All financing plan is an unworkable mess.
Bruenig in particular takes Warren to task for imposing a Medicare Head Tax over a Medicare Payroll tax, despite clear evidence that it is far less efficient and easily avoidable. Surely policy wonk Warren and her team of analysts know this? Yes they do, but they can’t go with a payroll tax because doing so would require admitting in plain language that middle class taxes will go up.
Elizabeth Warren’s team realizes this. The reason they are using the head tax is because they think they can trick journalists into declaring that this is not a tax, since it is expressed in dollar terms rather than percent terms. On first glance, this might seem like a stretch that probably won’t work. But it is a more plausible strategy once you consider that journalists are mostly very stupid and cannot evaluate policy claims on their own, relying instead on trusted sources and names (Warren being one of those names).
The Medicare head tax element in particular shows that this is not a serious policy proposal, but instead an electoral conceit designed to placate progressive concerns that she is not and never was particularly serious about Medicare for All in the first place.
Warren’s plan is the perfect reflection of her entire candidacy. She pays lip service to Medicare for All to burnish her progressive bonafides but refuses to acknowledge the hard part that middle class taxes would have to go up in order to pay for it. She constantly is trying to maneuver around potential attacks during the general election and assure skeptical voters she’ll actually pursue these policies if she is elected to the Oval Office.
She is right to be worried. As journalist Zaid Jilani pointed out on twitter, democratic voters overwhelmingly trust Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren on matters of healthcare:
Warren wasn’t even for a single payer plan back in 2012. The structure of this plan and the delay in its release show that its mostly a box she wants to check without falling victim to the left or the right, not that it is something she is particularly passionate about.
Healthcare remains the top concern of Democratic voters. The problem of course is that it’s not the top concern of Elizabeth Warren! Economic and financial regulatory issues have animated her politics since the early 1990’s. She seems to really believe that restructuring the economy and reigning in corporate behavior is the key to shifting the balance of American life in favor of workers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Except of course that Democratic voters don’t appear to agree.