Elizabeth Warren's Health Care Pickle
From the beginning, the 2020 Democratic race has been a different kind of contest. Candidates aren't competing to see who can run America the most efficiently. That's the old politics. Instead, they're pledging to remake this country entirely: rip out the old America -- irredeemably tainted by racism, sexism and free enterprise -- and replace it with something completely new and different. At the heart of this effort is the promise of Medicare for All. You may have heard the phrase. The most popular Democratic candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have both endorsed it. But what exactly does "Medicare for All" mean?
You should know. It's not a tweak to some regulation. It's not even Obamacare, which, once upon a time, Republicans denounced as "socialism." Medicare for All is actual socialism. Health care spending amounts to about a fifth of the entire U.S. economy. Warren is demanding total control of all of it immediately. If Medicare for All became law, it would amount to the biggest expansion of government since World War II, by far. So, it's worth asking how exactly this would work and who would pay for it. Warren has been asked that question repeatedly. Each time, she has refused to answer.
No matter how hard she's been pressed -- and even some fairly strident Democratic partisans have asked her -- Warren has refused to explain what it would cost or who would pay for it. We now have a credible estimate. According to a study by the Urban Institute, in just its first 10 years, Warren's Medicare for All plan would cost an additional $34 trillion. Keep in mind that the Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the United States will collect just $46 trillion in taxes over the same period. In other words, Warren's health care plan alone will consume the overwhelming majority of all tax dollars in the United States. That's before we spend a single dollar on Social Security, education, national defense and everything else.
The Urban Institute has no motive to attack Warren. It's a progressive think tank. They likely didn't even account for the cost of Warren's pledge to give free health care to every illegal alien who sneaks into the country. Who's going to pay for all this? Divide $3.4 trillion a year by 320 million Americans and you get more than $10,000 per person. Not per taxpayer. Per person. That includes every child, every retiree, every prison inmate. That would be the largest tax ever assessed in American history, by far. It would change everything. An awful lot of people would just leave the country.
How do you pay for Medicare for All? That's not a minor detail that can be settled later. It's the single most important question. Under pressure from the other Democrats in the field, Warren has now promised an answer: "I plan over the next few weeks to put out a plan that talks about, specifically, the cost of 'Medicare for all' and, specifically, how we pay for it," she said last week at a town hall event.
At some point in the last few years, Warren stopped functioning as a conventional senator and became a kind of messiah. Details like what things cost, whether something is constitutional, whether the majority of Americans even want it -- none of that seems to interest her anymore. Warren has seen the future, and in that future, she has complete and unquestioned control of America; she is the most powerful person in the world. You can almost hear her repeating the phrase to herself: "the most powerful person in the world." It's intoxicating. And scary.
Warren is to be commended for issuing highly detailed policy proposals in a number of areas. This ironically makes her refusal to provide details on Medicare for All that much more noteworthy. She details the little stuff but thought she could get away with proposing to fundamentally change our country without explaining who would pay the price. Her bluff has been called, and she's now on the line to explain her way out of this jam. She hasn't provided a date for the new details she's promising. Given the costs involved, we can't imagine any funding proposal that wouldn't destroy our economy. As far as the election goes, it's also hard to imagine how any honest funding proposal of the scale needed to meet Warren's ambitions would not destroy her political candidacy, at least in a general election. We're waiting on the edge of our seats for this one.
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