My last blog provided some thoughts on the ideology and legislative goals that seem to drive the GOP and I promised to flip the page from red to blue this time. I must confess, however, that I somewhat regret that decision. One blog is not adequate to shed much light on the many proposals being presented by the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential candidates and the timing this blog would probably be better next July when the party platform has been written.
Still, even now there’s something fundamentally different about the policies several of the Dem hopefuls are championing. Calling for free college education, government provided health care benefits for everyone and the Green New Deal demonstrates a big shift to the left.
All Dem hopefuls want to significantly raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, increase the minimum wage and enact immigration reform. These initiatives follow from what Democrats have typically championed over the years. Their proposals this year, however, are much bolder and more controversial. Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal top the list.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All seems to have moved from the fringes to become a mainstream idea for Democrats. The millions of underinsured and uninsured citizens facing the high cost of prescription drugs and medical services are driving its popularity. Sanders’ plan to replace employer provided health insurance that now covers an estimated 155 million employees, however, is being called radical and disruptive.
According to this brief summary (found here), Sanders’ proposal would phase in over four years. It would cover inpatient and outpatient hospital care, emergency services, primary and preventive services, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, maternity and newborn care, pediatrics, long-term care services and dental, audiology, and vision services. There would be no deductibles, no surprise bills for out-of-network services and no copays, except for brand-name drugs. Businesses would simply pay a Medicare payroll tax to secure health care insurance for their employees.
More moderate candidates favor a “public option” where prospective insureds could buy-in to Medicare if that is their best opportunity for health insurance. Every Democratic candidate would, at the very least, attempt to expand and improve the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) if other more expansive health care programs couldn’t be achieved. Health care will remain a key issue for Dems as the primary season continues.
There have been several cost estimates for Medicare-for-All that run as high as $38 trillion over the next decade. The big question, of course, is how will such a plan be funded? Needless to it would necessitate some very serious tax increases.
No problem, Democrats in general favor higher taxes, particularly on the wealthy. A proposal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) would establish a 70 percent tax rate on individual earnings over $10 million, which would only apply to a limited number of top wage earners.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed what she calls an “ultra-millionaire tax” of 2 percent annually on net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, going to 3 percent on net worth over $1 billion. This is a wealth tax, not an income tax.
Sanders has proposed legislation that would impose a progressive estate tax that would reach 77 percent on those over $1billion. He has also proposed a Wall Street “speculation tax” on financial investment transactions. Sanders admits to being a “democratic socialist” and his more liberal proposals are not widely accepted by congressional Democrats.
Neither is the Green New Deal (found here) of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Conservatives have their wish list to dismantle the social safety net; the GND resolution is what many liberals hope to achieve. Ostensibly its purpose is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses to combat climate change but its scope goes far beyond that. It’s a clarion call to further racial equality, protect natural resources and the environment, provide a stronger voice for labor in the work place, ameliorate inequality, expand health care insurance coverage and much more.
The words “as much as technologically feasible” are used as a qualifier in the GND regarding lowering emissions from buildings, transportation and agriculture; so, it doesn’t call for eliminating airplanes or hamburgers as some claim. Yet, I believe it would keep lawmakers and regulators busy for a decade or more and that it would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court before it could get off the ground. The same fate could befall Medicare-for-All legislation should it became law.
To greater or lesser degrees, Democrats tend to support most of what my last blog stated that Republicans oppose or would limit, including L.G.B.T. rights, legal abortion, gun controls, climate change initiatives, campaign finance reform, immigration reform and clean energy programs.
My caveats: President Trump and many Republican politicians are calling their Democratic opponents radical socialists. True socialists believe that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the government. No Dem that I know of is advocating for this type of economic system or anything close to it. But even if they take control of Congress and the White House in 2020, Democratic policies will be constrained by the growing deficits from FY 2019 and beyond and they could be taking power during a recession, just as President Obama did in 2009. Neither party has a viable plan to control federal deficits and that, in my opinion, is a huge problem.