I feel like this ad, and the new health-care plan Biden’s rolling out today, is one part policy to four parts political branding. Biden’s willing to pander to lefties on marginal stuff like the Hyde Amendment but if they demand that he repudiate Obama’s signature achievement he has no choice but to double, triple, and quadruple down in its defense. His whole pitch, especially to black voters, is that he’s running for Obama’s third term. If that pitch means going to war with progressives over their top policy priority then that’s what it means.
In fact, I think it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the ad below is an 80-second excuse to air footage of Biden at Obama’s side at a moment of momentous triumph for the left. Uncle Joe and his team may have decided “We need to get this on TV” and worked backward from there on what the policy should be.
Democratic front-runner Joe Biden today will unveil a health plan that’s intended to preserve the most popular parts of Obamacare — from Medicaid expansion to protections for patients with pre-existing conditions — and build on them with a new government-run public insurance option.
Biden would also empower Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices, allow the importation of prescription drugs from abroad and extend tax credits to help tens of millions of Americans buy lower-priced health insurance…
“We can’t afford the years it will take in order to write and maybe pass Medicare for All,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. “A stop in progress is unacceptable. That’s why the Biden Plan builds on Obamacare and works toward achieving universal coverage as soon as possible.”
Adding a public option is a concession to lefties, and jibes with polling showing that Americans would be receptive to a government-run plan as long as it remains only an option, with private insurance also on the menu. Price tag: A cool $750 billion over 10 years, to be paid for by rolling back the Trump tax cuts. That’s a lot but a pittance compared to Medicare for All, which, you may remember, has been estimated at $32 trillion over 10 years. Biden’s plan will cost a shade over two percent of what Bernie’s plan will.
That’s one of two compelling arguments that Uncle Joe has against MFA — but he never makes it in the clip below, instead focusing on the feasibility of getting the Sanders plan passed. Although he’s running as a centrist, evidently even Biden is reluctant to suggest that pinching pennies is a good thing during a Democratic primary, when the rest of the field is busy one-upping each other on how much free sh*t they’re willing to provide. The other compelling argument he has, of course, is the fact that enacting MFA will necessarily mean eliminating all private insurance. He mentions that in passing at the start but eventually focuses on how Medicare for All would mean getting rid of ObamaCare specifically — which is true, and again shrewdly leverages Obama’s brand to try to get O fans on his side, but minimizes the problem. Most Americans get insurance through work, not through the O-Care markets. He’s so eager to paint lefties’ support of MFA as a personal affront to Obama that he misses an opportunity to educate people on just how disruptive the new program would be.
And I do mean personal affront. It doesn’t surprise me to see Republicans trying to tear down Barack’s greatest achievement, Biden says near the end here, more in sorrow than in anger, but it does surprise me to see Democrats playing along. What could you say in a Democratic primary about your opponents that’s more scathing than comparing their regard for Obama to the GOP’s? He’s begging O fans here to get indignant and defensive about their favorite president. One part policy, four parts branding.
This ad, by the way, will presumably be framed as a “Biden vs. Bernie” thing when it’s anything but. Bernie is a marginal player in the race at the moment and is likely to remain that way. This is all about Kamala Harris, who damaged Biden’s racial cred with the busing exchange at the first debate and is eager to pick off some of his black support. It’s no accident that the footage of Bernie — and Harris — raising their hands about getting rid of private insurance is included here when Biden complains about Dems eager to get rid of ObamaCare. He wants Obama fans to see with their own eyes that she’s gung ho to dismantle his health-care legacy. Hope they end up onstage together again at the next debate.