It turns out that not all Democrats want to go The Full Socialist in 2020 after all. After a couple of years of pushing Medicare for All while safely in a minority where those plans would never come up for a vote, Democrats now face a situation where voters might actually take their plans to nationalize health insurance more seriously. Ten years after watching their party’s standing implode from last such attempt, a number of Democrats are now pushing a more incremental approach to expanding Medicare:
Several likely 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are pushing plans for something short of universal health care, a move already creating friction within the party’s empowered left wing, which has panned any attempt to water down the progressive dream of a single-payer system.
One idea gaining support is allowing some demographic groups to buy into Medicare earlier than age 65, while still incrementally building on Obamacare coverage gains.
“It’s easy to say ‘Medicare for All’ and make a good speech, but see no action,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a potential 2020 candidate whose own bill would give retiring police and firefighters access to Medicare before 65. “I want to see action.”
It’s a pathway Brown and many in the party establishment have gravitated toward in recent months — one that balances the desire to make a Trump-era lurch leftward with memories of the political blowback Democrats endured for a decade after their last revamp of the nation’s health system.
They’re probably also taking a lesson from the Republican failure to deliver on their key agenda promise to repeal ObamaCare. That likely undercut any chance they had to keep the House in the midterms and put the party out of joint with its conservative-activist base. The populist-activist base might be similarly at risk if significant progress isn’t made on the border wall in the next two years, and Trump clearly understands what that means for his re-election chances.
Democrats need to learn a lesson about pushing radical reform and about managing expectations. Brown’s correct that anything that moves the needle on expanding government-run healthcare would be seen as a win unless Democrats run on promises to turn Medicare into the exclusive single-payer healthcare system in the US. That won’t succeed without gaining a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and even a success in that process could turn disastrous later on, as ObamaCare proved. Better to offer expansions, such as pay-ins for those 55 and older and for retired first responders that won’t drive Medicare into immediate bankruptcy, as well as flood already-narrow Medicare provider systems with new patients and create long wait times.
Unfortunately, the presumed front-runner for the nomination wants to go The Full Socialist:
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) will run for president proposing a nearly $3 trillion tax plan, billions in tax credits to low-income renters, a Medicare-for-all health-care system, and a reduction in cash bail for inmates charged with criminal offenses, her aides said. …
Aides said Harris’s platform will incorporate Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all health-care proposal, while also pushing enormous tax relief intended to help low-income renters and boost incomes for working-class families.
In that combination, Harris appears to be unique. Several other liberal presidential candidates favor Medicare-for-all and new government spending programs. For instance, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will tout her plan to create a universal paid leave program, while Julián Castro, who was an official in the Obama administration, will propose universal prekindergarten, funded by the federal government.
Harris, by contrast, is expected to run on both a single-payer health program projected to cost more than $30 trillion, as well as tax benefits that would significantly reduce federal revenue. Supporters say that reflects her willingness to try to use different solutions to solve big problems.
It also reflects her disconnection from fiscal reality. At least Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was floating a tax hike of some sort to pay for her pie-in-the-sky Green New Deal. Besides, didn’t Democrats shriek over the GOP’s tax reform because it cut revenue (in the short run under static tax analyses) while spending continued to increase? It’s not like either of our garbage status-quo political parties have any credibility on deficit spending any longer, but this is just shameless.
The big question won’t be whether any Democratic nominee backs Medicare for All. It’s whether any of them will have the intestinal fortitude to make the obvious point that it won’t work, and run to the center. No figure on the 2020 Democratic horizon comes to mind, so be prepared for The Full Socialist — and the Big Letdown shortly thereafter.