Mayor Pete Buttigieg is interviewed on ABC's "This Week" about his opposition to Elizabeth Warren's Medicare For All plan:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mayor Buttigieg joins us live from his bus in Iowa right now. Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning. Two-way race?
BUTTIGIEG: Not yet, no. Look, there is a -- a tremendous amount of energy for a range of candidates who are extremely capable. I'm proud to be part of the most diverse field that -- I think ever in Democratic presidential politics and some formidable competition. But what I will say is there’s amazing energy behind our campaign right now. We're seeing it on the ground here in Iowa, we’re seeing it pick up in a lot of places. And I think voters are really narrowing down their choices and instead of just getting to know us, now they’re really making up their minds.
And we're getting tremendous response for my message of bold changes that we can also get together around.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re talking --
BUTTIGIEG: My campaign is based on the idea --
STEPHANOPOULOS : Sorry. You're talking about contrasts with Elizabeth Warren. I want to get to Medicare for All, which is a major contract. But -- but what -- lay out the broader case. What is the big difference between you and Elizabeth Warren?
BUTTIGIEG: I guess the biggest difference is I think we can deliver major, meaningful, bold change to move this country forward in a way that galvanizes an American majority instead of polarizing our country further. Look, I’m running not just to defeat President Trump -- and it's going to take a lot to do that -- but also to be the president that first day the sun comes up and Donald Trump is no longer in office. We’re going to need a president who can pick up the pieces, who can bring the country together and who -- who can do it while dealing with these major crises from climate to an economy that isn’t working for everybody, that haven’t taken a vacation during the impeachment process.
That's going to take a president who can be bold and unifying, and that’s what I’m offering. Plus, I’m offering a presidency where you can look at the White House and feel your blood pressure go down instead of up. We have got to find a way to come together and deliver bold solutions at the same time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have zeroed in on Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal. We did see Senators -- Senator Warren detail her $20 trillion proposal on Friday and respond to some of the criticism from you and Vice President Biden. Let’s take a look.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D-MA) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Democrats are not going to win by repeating Republican talking points and by dusting off the points of view of the giant insurance companies and the giant drug companies who don't want to see any change in the law that will bite into the profits.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Making the arguments from Republicans and insurance companies is her charge.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, the insurance companies are fighting my proposal, because they don't want the competition. What is just not true is that hers is the only solution. This my way or the highway idea, that either you're for kicking everybody off their private plans in four years or you're for business as usual, it's just not true. I'm proposing Medicare for all who want it.
Now, if we do that, that's the biggest change in American health care in 50 years. The difference is, the way I would do it, you get to keep your private plan if you want to. I trust you to make that decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You used to be for broader Medicare for all. You didn't qualify it in any way. Is your main argument against Medicare for all now that it can't get passed or that it won't work?
BUTTIGIEG: Look, I think it could very well be the long-run destination, but I think there's got to be some humility in our policy here. Let's put this out there and see if it's really the best plan for everybody. I think it will be the best plan, but I'm not willing to assume that it is the right plan for you out of Washington and order you to take it whether you want to or not. If it's the right plan, then everybody will move to it until it is the single payer. And if it's not the right plan for everybody, then we're going to be really glad we didn't kick some Americans off their private plans.
I'm thinking, for example, about union members who fought and negotiated for good plans they have today. They don't want to have to abandon those plans because Washington tells them they must do that in four years or less. It doesn't make sense. And the most important thing is we can get to universal health care coverage without putting America through all of that, without kicking people off their private plans, without disagreements to the tune of $10 or $15 trillion over how much this is all going to cost, which is equivalent to the entire GDP of the country. We have a plan that is affordable, that is paid for, and that allows you to choose instead of Washington choosing for you.
And it's the boldest thing we will have done to American health care in a half century.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Warren points to credible economists she says who supported President Obama's plan to say that the numbers she has do add up. Do you buy that she can pay for her plan without raising taxes on the middle class? That's what she says.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, the math is certainly controversial. Again, there are variations in the estimates in the trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars. And we don't have to go there in order to deliver health care to everybody. My plan has a total cost over ten years of $1.5 trillion. It can be fully paid for with a combination of rolling back the corporate Trump tax rate cut, and the savings we're going to get for allowing Medicare to negotiate. So, it's paid for. It works. And it avoids these two major problems, the math problem that I think the economists are arguing over this weekend, and the problem of kicking Americans off their private plans, where not everybody wants to go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you guarantee that a President Pete Buttigieg would not raise taxes on the middle class?
BUTTIGIEG: Everything that we have proposed has been paid for, and we have proposed no tax increase on the Middle Class. We don't have to do it in order to deliver these health care solutions.
There is a lot of money on the table from loopholes in the corporate tax system from the wealthiest among us who could and should pay more. And we don't have to look to the Middle Class in order to solve these problems.
But, it also means making sure that we make promises we can keep. It's one of the reasons why my vision on college affordability is different, making sure that it's free for low and middle income students, yes, but I don't think we have to pay all the way down to the last penny of tuition even for the children of millionaires and billionaires, and by not going that far there's a savings so that we don't have to keep looking for other sources of taxes in order to pay for it.
In order to make sure that what we do is responsible, we've got to make promises we can actually keep. And we've got to be willing to raise the revenue in order to do it.
And, you know, another thing that's really important right now is to look at the debt and look at the deficits. I know that's not fashionable in the Democratic Party, but Republicans have made it clear when they take power they don't actually care about the debt. They've blown up a $1 trillion deficit right now, which means that if Democrats don't get into the business of paying attention to the debt, nobody will. And for my generation, that's a real problem, because I think these financial time bombs could very well go off in my lifetime.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say pay attention to the debt, but if all your plans are implemented, the debt and deficit is going to continue to go up as well, won't it?
BUTTIGIEG: Say again?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say pay attention to the debt and deficit, but if all your plans that you've put out there on the campaign trail are implemented, debt and deficit is going to go up, isn't it?
BUTTIGIEG: No. Everything that we have proposed will be neutral to the budget or savings to the budget. We can do that as long as we're willing to make reasonable moves for corporate taxes and wealthy individuals and make sure that we keep track of the promises that we're making.
I'm not going to make a $20 trillion move on health care, when we can do the same thing for a fraction of the cost.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have been...
BUTTIGIEG: It's same thing on a lot of our other proposals.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have been rising in the polls, batting yourself in the top tier, but you're still lagging with African-American voters.
Can you win without them? And how do you convince black voters to give you a shot?
BUTTIGIEG: I think the way to win black voters or any voters is to deserve to win.
And my message is of making sure that this is a country where we tear down systemic racism in all of its forms, because I think that threatens the entire republic.
The plan I have put forward, the Douglass Plan, is as ambitious as the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, but this time right here at home. And it's for the purpose of tearing down systemic racism.
And it's not about any one piece alone. We have got to look at all of society, where this might as well be two countries for so many Americans. We have got to make sure that we're empowering black entrepreneurs, that the federal government is doing its part, purchasing, to the tune of 25 percent, from businesses owned by people who've been historically excluded.
We have got to look at health, homeownership, criminal justice. We need a 21st century Voting Rights Act.
All of these things have to go together. And we get a fantastic response whenever I share the Douglass Plan, whether it's with black audiences or majority white audiences...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the...
BUTTIGIEG: ... because it's the most comprehensive vision in the 2020 cycle. But my responsibility is to go out there and communicate it, so that nobody could be -- could have any questions about what it is I seek to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But your -- your own focus groups have shown, according "The New York Times" -- this was leaked to "The New York Times" -- is that being gay is a barrier with black voters.
In that "New York Times" poll we showed -- also showed that 55 percent of voters think it's harder to support you because you're gay. What can you do about that, if anything?
BUTTIGIEG: I think the biggest question on any voter's mind when they're sizing us candidates up and thinking about how they're going to vote is this: How will my life be different if you're president vs. one of your competitors? That's the question we have got to answer. And when we have the best answer to that question, I think a lot of prejudices and a lot of those other considerations fall away, and it comes down to vision and results.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, President Trump, already turning to the general election, had that add in the World Series on Sunday night. Let's play a bit.
ANNOUNCER: President Trump is changing Washington, creating six million new jobs, 500,000 new manufacturing jobs, cutting illegal immigration in half, obliterating ISIS. He's no Mr. Nice Guy, but, sometimes, it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of Democratic campaign veterans looked at that ad on Sunday, and they said it's pretty effective.
How would you respond?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's trying to put a tough guy coating on a very weak individual, somebody who was manipulated by Turkey into giving ISIS a new lease on life, somebody who can't seem to make a decision and stick to it.
And I'm ready to go toe to toe with this president. He wants to talk about the economy, let's talk about the GM workers and other workers that he has sold out. He wants to talk about ISIS, let's talk about how his terrible decision to betray our allies allowed ISIS fighters to go free.
This president has been a failure, even on its own terms, even by the promises that he made. And I am ready to have that fight.