In Tuesday night’s debate, Senator Elizabeth Warren was asked half a dozen times whether she would raise taxes on middle-class Americans to pay for Medicare-for-all.
She. Dodged. It. Every. Time.
Warren doesn’t want to admit that the $34 trillion price tag for Medicare-for-all is so expensive, it will require taxing more than just billionaires, millionaires, and wealthy Americans. Paying for Medicare-for-All will mean taxing middle-class Americans too.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Warren also has a laundry list of other costly policies that would run up a huge taxpayer bill. Forgiveness of student loan debt, free college tuition, free universal childcare, and more would come at a hefty price tag. And don’t forget putting a downpayment on the Green New Deal.
Her current plans to institute new taxes on wealthy Americans would raise just $2.75 trillion. Where is the other $31 trillion going to come from? Your wallet and mine.
Here’s the exchange from the debate:
HOST: “Senator Warren, we’ve proposed–you’ve proposed some sweeping plans, free public college, free universal childcare, eliminating most Americans' college debt. And you've said how you're going to pay for those plans. But you have not specified how you're going to pay for the most expensive plan, Medicare for all. Will you raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it, yes or no?
WARREN: So I have made clear what my principles are here, and that is costs will go up for the wealthy and for big corporations, and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down. You know, the way I see this is, I have been out all around this country. I've done 140 town halls now, been to 27 states and Puerto Rico. Shoot, I've done 70,000 selfies, which must be the new measure of democracy.
Her answer was that costs will go up for the wealthy and down for middle-class families. That wasn’t the question.
Instead, it was a convenient way of avoiding the truth, which is that she would have to raise taxes on middle-class families.
Then Warren pivoted to taking 70,000 selfies as though we wouldn’t notice her non-answer.
In the past, few challengers or in the media have tasked her about funding her plans, but this time, her Democratic challengers and even her allies called her out on what will be a tax increase for American families:
Mayor Pete Buttigieg quipped:
“Well, we heard it tonight, a yes or no question that didn't get a yes or no answer… Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this.
No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi-trillion-dollar hole in this Medicare for all plan that Senator Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in…”
Senator Bernie Sanders, who advocated for Medicare-for-all when it was a fringe idea, even admitted what Warren would not say:
“At the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people will save money on their health care bills. But I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up. They're going to go up significantly for the wealthy…”
At least Sanders was honest that it will take a tax increase on the middle class to fund such an expensive plan.
Warren still wouldn’t admit the dirty secret that she would raise taxes on middle-clsss Americans, so Senator Amy Klobuchar swung one more time:
“At least Bernie's being honest here and saying how he's going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up. And I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're going to send the invoice.”
Warren will never say that she will raise taxes on regular Americans because that would mean admitting that free college, free childcare, and free everything is really expensive and that taxing the rich will never be enough to pay for it.
Americans may like the idea of Medicare-for-all but their support plunges when they learn that it will require tax increases. According to Kaiser Family Foundation polling released earlier this year, over half (56 percent) of Americans supported it compared to opposing it (42 percent). They like the idea that it would eliminate premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs.
But when told that Medicare-for-all could lead to higher taxes, support plunged 37 percent. Support fell even lower when they heard it could lead to delays in the delivery of care.
Americans want better healthcare but they do not want tax increases to pay for it.
Warren needs to be honest and tell Americans that under her leadership, her answer to improving healthcare would be higher taxes and delayed care. She won’t though because it would seal her defeat.