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Politico has written several stories about the moderate left’s concern about Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. What’s interesting about this one is the history of how the two candidates have tried to compete for the same far-left voters. Basically it’s a series of one-ups in which each candidate strives to be the one offering the most spending on progressive priorities:
When Bernie Sanders unveiled his education plan a few months ago, he proposed tripling so-called Title I funding for schools. No top Democrat offered anything more generous — until Elizabeth Warren this week called for quadrupling the spending…
In February, Sanders reiterated his proposal to increase Social Security benefits by about $110 a month for low-income seniors and boost cost-of-living adjustments for all recipients. To which Warren countered: No, it should be $200 a month — for everyone. And after Warren unveiled her signature wealth tax for fortunes over $50 million and estimated it would raise $2.75 trillion over the next decade, Sanders, not to be outdone, proposed a wealth tax that he said would bring in $4.35 trillion partly by lowering the threshold to $32 million…
Warren rolled out a green manufacturing plan and other climate proposals that together total about $3 trillion. Sanders’ “Green New Deal,” released in August, would invest $16.3 trillion.
Warren’s supporters similarly say that she shifted the Overton window on student loan debt cancellation by calling to eliminate $640 billion of debt in April. Sanders later put out a plan to get rid of all $1.6 trillion of it. He also proposed canceling all medical debt. Then this past week, after Sanders called for universal school meals, Warren proposed forgiving K-12 student breakfast and lunch debt.
As this left-wing ratchet machine has been working itself into a frenzy of imaginary spending, the candidates have fallen behind in their explanations of how to pay it. As I pointed out earlier today, by far the biggest ticket item in the progressive wishlist is Medicare for All which has been estimated to cost over three trillion per year or about $32 trillion over 10 years. Warren adopted that plan from Sanders too but hasn’t released a plan explaining how she would pay for it yet. All she will say is that costs will go down for middle-class families. Ostensibly that means taxes will go up but will be offset by the lack of premiums and co-pays. But there’s reason to think the math doesn’t add up (see my post for why). In order to provide generous health care for everyone, the majority of people are going to have to pay more than they do now. I wonder how popular single-payer will be once people learn that their costs will go up, not down.
The other problem with this rush to offer voters free stuff is that none of it can happen without majorities, maybe even supermajorities, in Congress. Warren can promise progressives the moon and the stars but it’s not going to happen unless Democrats control the Senate. Even if they take over Congress and the White House, it’s debatable whether most of these proposals could get through the House. Remember that most of the freshmen Democrats elected in 2018 were not like the Squad. Most of them were relatively moderate Dems to took seats away from Republicans by sounding relatively moderate to voters. Are those folks now going to go home and announce a 20+ percent tax hike and all the rest? I don’t think so.
Finally, I think the American people tend to be a lot more fickle than far-left voters imagine. During the Bush years we had the anti-war movement animated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Obama years, we had the Tea Party which fought tooth and nail against Obamacare. During the Trump years, we’ve had the Resistance, which has similarly fought everything Trump has done. You can win an election but that doesn’t mean your opponents go away. Recent history suggests they just get angrier and louder.
So even if you could somehow create a monster bill with all these giveaways in it, and even if you could somehow get the House and Senate to agree, by doing so you’d be whipping up a new batch of angry partisans who would turn out to fight you at every turn. I’m not sure what the anti-socialist party will call itself but it’s a safe bet it will come into being before any of these proposals become law.
Sanders and Warren are selling a fantasy. Why not one-up each other on every proposal when there’s a good chance most of it will never happen anyway.