Members Only | November 4, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Elizabeth Warren’s Benevolent Omission
Let's remember the point of "Medicare for All"—government of, by and for the people.
You may have noticed I don’t spend time here at the Editorial Board sifting and sorting through the Democratic candidates’ policy proposals. It’s not that I believe, as some do, that public policy doesn’t matter in a presidential campaign. It’s that I think it doesn’t matter as much as the commentariat, hence the rest of us, tends to believe.
Elizabeth Warren released Friday her “Medicare for All” plan. The AP: She “proposed $20 trillion in federal spending over the next decade to provide health care to every American without raising taxes on the middle class, a politically risky effort that pits the goal of universal coverage against skepticism of government-run health care.”
Some people act as if Warren’s health care proposal needs to be perfect in order for it to be legitimate. That’s not only unfair, but kinda, you know, fascist.
Now, I’m no expert on these things, but the idea of covering the cost of the health and well-being of every American without raising taxes on the middle class is more than a bit of a stretch. To be sure, Warren says the very rich would bear the lion’s share of massive revenue required. And to be sure, costs would go down. (Obamacare, when allowed to function properly, lowered costs meaningfully. I’d surmise that “Medicare for All” would do the same.) But lots of policy experts, people who know what they are talking about, have said health care is so expensive none of that would be enough.
So the middle class is probably going to pay its fair share, too.
This, of course, is what Warren would rather not talk about, and she’s right not to. The president and the Republicans will accuse her of advancing SOCIALISM! whether or not she admits to raising middle-class taxes. The press corps, moreover, cannot be trusted to convey to voters the critical nuance among revenues, costs and benefits.
So Warren is right to gloss over an important detail. Is that lying? I’ll get to that in a moment. Glossing over it, however, does come with a downside, namely that her rivals can poke holes in her campaign’s “brand” for having a plan for each of the problems Americans face. If she can’t get this right, critics say, why should we trust her to get anything right? Joe Biden called her proposal “mathematical gymnastics.” He prefers building on the Affordable Care Act. He said that Warren’s plan would eliminate private insurance coverage. He said it amounts to a tax increase on working people.
He’s not wrong. But raising taxes on the middle class isn’t so bad if workers are getting something better, and getting something better is Warren’s goal. (The former vice president is preposterously wrong about eliminating private insurance; more on that below.) But again, Biden’s not wrong, and a “moderate” not being wrong is enough rationale for those worried about Warren being “too far left” to say that her plan and its rearranging of a third of the US economy is not just bad but disqualifying. It’s not.
Some people act as if a president is going to get what she wants just by dint of being elected while overlooking that everyone has a say in a democracy.
Disqualifying is cheating to win an election, as the president did when it accepted, however tacitly, the aid and comfort of Russian operatives engaged in a one-sided cyberwar against his Democratic opponent. Disqualifying is not doing anything to stop a repeat of Russia’s 2016 attack on our national sovereignty. Disqualifying is asking Ukraine or China or any country fearful of Democratic leadership in America to sabotage the rule of law and the will of the people on the incumbent’s behalf. Disqualifying is committing crime after crime after crime with no end in sight.
But more than anything else, Warren’s proposal isn’t disqualifying because it’s only a proposal. It’s a proposal by a candidate, not a president. It’s a proposal that would have to get through the US Congress to be law. That means there’d be a thousand nips and tucks, so many you wouldn’t recognize the outcome from what Warren proposed originally. Does anyone believe the middle class won’t pay its fair share? Not me. Does anyone believe Congress would pass a law banning private health insurance? Let’s be serious.
In other words, the press corps, the pundit class and lots of Democratic normies are acting as if Elizabeth Warren’s proposal needs to be perfect, or close to perfect, in order for it to be legitimate. That’s not only unfair, but kinda, you know, fascist. They are acting like a president is going to get what she wants just by dint of being elected while overlooking the point of a democracy: everyone having a say. And lots of people are acting this way because they don’t like Warren or her politics, or don’t think she can win, which is jim-dandy except that they are not being truthful about it.
As for lying about a middle-class tax hike, you might think she is. I think of it as a benevolent omission. All of this is theoretical for the time being, so she may as well omit a major detail for the sake on getting on with the task of government of, by and for the people. That’s the point of Medicare for All. That’s the point of everything.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.