Harris: Don't think of our agenda in terms of "cost," but investment

Say, didn’t the Democrats make this argument when it came to Porkulus — the 2009 stimulus bill that cost nearly a trillion dollars of borrowed money? At least Kamala Harris took a page out of a well-known playbook to avoid discussing how we’d manage to pay for an additional three trillion per year just for Medicare for All, let alone the Green New Deal. Speaking in Iowa to CNN’s John King, Harris argued that “it’s not about a cost.”

Be sure to note the shocked, shocked look on Harris’ face when King asks, “Can we afford it?”

KING: Can we afford it?

HARRIS: Of course we can afford it.

KING: $2.5 trillion, $3 trillion a year for Medicare for all by some studies. I don’t — depending on which portions of the Green New Deal you pick to do first — that’s money. You know what the Republicans are going to say — tax and spend liberals, pie in the sky.

HARRIS: One of the things that I admire and respect is the measurement that is captured in three letters, ROI. What’s the return on the investment? People in the private sector understand this really well. It’s not about a cost. It’s about an investment. And then the question should be, is it worth the cost in terms of the investment potential? Are we going to get back more than we put in?

Ahem. This “investment” spin might work if we weren’t already borrowing 40 cents on every dollar the federal government spends. The national debt just ticked past $22 trillion, and it’s accelerating towards $23 trillion. We spend almost as much on interest payments on our debt each year as we spend on the Department of Defense, plus we have hundreds of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities from our “investments” in Medicare and Social Security which are about to come due.

Not only can we not afford the “investment,” we can’t afford the economic disruption that would come from either M4A or the GND, and especially not both together. We need our economy to grow rapidly to keep pace with the debt we’re amassing. A slowdown would put us in serious danger of default. If we’re looking for an investment, it should be in structural reform of the budget and our entitlement programs. Fixing those and ending deficit spending might leave us some room for other investments down the road. For now, we’ve “invested” ourselves into near-bankruptcy.

After this clip, King asked Harris to explain why Democrats lost Iowa after Obama won it twice in a row. King wasn’t satisfied with Harris’ dodge on that question either:

KING: I want a better answer than that. In the sense that don’t you have to know why it happened to know how to fix it?

HARRIS: No question. But not only why it happened. I think that the bigger question is, what do the American people want from their leader. That’s the question I ask. And when I sit down with folks in their living rooms, in a coffee shop in a town hall, what they are talking about is the need to be able — to be able to work hard and be able to pay the bills at the end of the month.

KING: But those are pretty big wows. I mean do you get — do you think that President Obama just failed them? They got the sense that they didn’t deliver enough change? Was Hillary Clinton just a bad candidate? Was Donald Trump just great?

HARRIS: John — I think it is a mistake to assume that people are one issue or that they’re monolith. There are people who voted for each of the candidates based on a variety of issues. But I’m going to tell you what I’m hearing in 2019 leading up to 2020. I’m hearing people in the state of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina wherever you want to — name the state — Wisconsin, Michigan. I’ve been to those places, too.

What they want to know is that people who want to be the leaders of this country are actually seeing them and thinking about the issues that keep them up at night. That’s what they want. And whoever has the best plan for that, and I think speaks most truth about the reality of American life today, and speaks truth and with an honest heart and purpose about what can be the vision for our country, I think that’s the person who the voters are going to support.

“I don’t want to be over-judgmental,” King told a CNN panel immediately after the interview aired, “but she’s going to need a better answer than that.” Harris will also need a much better answer as to where we’re going to get $3 trillion or more every year on top of everything else we’re spending, too. Just mentioning “ROI” will not cut it.