October 18, 2019

Who Really Pays for More Government Healthcare?

Dissecting Warren’s strategic refusal to admit that middle-class taxes will go up.

Americans of a certain age remember a former vice president named Walter Mondale who made his own run for the Oval Office four years after his boss had been defeated by Ronald Reagan. Refreshingly mindful of the cost of government, Mondale offered a spending plan whose centerpiece was a tax increase. His candor allowed him to carry his home state of Minnesota and Washington, DC — the latter presumably because its constituents believed an infusion of taxpayers funds would help preserve their government jobs. Alas, the other 49 states went for Reagan, whose fiscal policies had re-energized the American economy, and whose leadership had restored American prestige and confidence.

After the Mondale debacle, Democrats learned that the best way to approach fiscal issues was to avoid talking about tax hikes altogether. However, when the subject inevitably came up, their rote response was to claim that increases would spare the middle class and instead zero in on “the rich” who supposedly aren’t paying “their fair share.” (Spoiler alert: Oh yes they are.)

This avoidance tactic is the approach being used by Elizabeth Warren — but it’s not satisfying those who want to know how she would pay for her grandiose healthcare scheme dubbed “Medicare for All.” When you’re talking $34 trillion — up from the previously estimated $32 trillion — that’s a pretty important ask. Even Bernie Sanders has had to grudgingly admit that, under his plan, taxes will increase for all. Of course, Sanders claims the cost of healthcare will decrease more than the taxes will increase, creating a net gain for most Americans.

Warren likewise repeats that “costs will go down,” but, on the other hand, she’s stubbornly sticking to her guns, insisting that no middle-class tax increase is needed and dodging the question enough to inspire a minute-long montage of her denials. “I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families,” she pledged, and try as they might, none of the other Democrats could get her to state otherwise. (Voters are similarly left high and dry as to how her other proposals will be paid for, too. But trust her; she has a plan.)

In fact, the constant questioning of Warren about funding her plans has aroused the ire of certain journalists who now regard the public’s right to know as harmful to their team. “Of course, it’s legitimate to dig into the costs, but not in a way that creates a nice GOP campaign ad,” fumed Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, who added that the question “misses the larger lens of overall costs.” Say what? (This is the same Margaret Sullivan, by the way, who accused conservative media of a “smear” for … telling the truth about Warren’s autobiographical lies.)

Maybe it’s better explained by Huffington Post reporter Arthur Delaney, who considers asking a Democrat about tax increases “a trap, premised on the idea that raising taxes is always bad politics.” Seems like a pretty solid premise to us, at least on the subject of Medicare for All. (It also seems like Warren’s needed a lot of defending lately.)

The bottom line is that unconstitutionally expanding the government’s role in healthcare is going to cost a lot of money, certainly more than the rose-colored-glasses crowd would have us believe. (We learned this when Medicare was first enacted in 1965, and it hasn’t gotten better with age.) That $34 trillion over 10 years — on top of an annual budget that’s already rapidly escalated to the $5 trillion mark — will either bankrupt our treasury or crowd out other essential (and actually constitutional) spending, such as defense.

How will Warren pay for it all? It’s a question that needs to be asked again and again, regardless of the media’s reluctance to do so.

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