Wednesday, November 6, 2019


November 6, 2019

Liberals, and the Democratic Party to the extent that it is controlled by liberals, have a strong tendency to court political self-destruction by carrying good ideas too far.  They forget that, whether they like it or not, many Americans are either less liberal than they, or are annoyed by what seems to be liberal arrogance, or both.  Unable to learn, resentfully unaware that criticism might be valid, they play into the hands of the reactionaries by plunging ahead.  I’m afraid that the Democratic primary race may be another example of this unfortunate tendency.  One of my concerns is the Medicare plan put forth by Elizabeth Warren.

Donald Trump is the worst President in American history, but because he has a loyal following, and because of the peculiarities —to put it generously — of the electoral system, with the aid of vote suppression (and, dare we say, foreign help), he might limp into another term.  I must say that I still find that unlikely, but polls show that it could happen.  In any case, it would be foolish for Democrats to ignore the possibility. Any program or attitude which drives away voters who are not committed Democrats, whether we describe them as independent, moderate, centrist, or whatever, would be ill-advised.
Senator Warren is one of the most admirable figures in contemporary politics, and her generous instincts and intentions cannot be doubted.  However, her advocacy of Medicare for all and her tax plan to fund it seem to me to fall into the familiar self-destructive category.  A recent poll showed Senator Warren trailing Trump in Michigan, Florida and North Carolina, only even with him in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  (Biden does better).[78]  Her plan may contribute to that showing.

Senator Warren’s tax plan seems a work in progress and descriptions of it by her campaign have varied, but its main outlines are troublesome.  The summary set forth here [79] shows that the plan is questionable as policy and as to its fiscal assumptions.  (It does contain independently valid proposals such as repealing the Trump tax cuts and taxing foreign earnings).  As I noted earlier,[80] the proposed wealth tax, which has grown to help fund Medicare, would be difficult to enforce.  Chances of getting the plan through Congress aren’t high, so advocating it may be pointlessly divisive.

The structure is complicated enough that, even if technically sound, it would be confusing and disruptive in application. It is a radical shift; incremental changes often are more successful and less frightening. Most importantly for 2020, it plays into the Republican cry of Socialist regimentation! by abandoning private insurance and increasing government control. 



79. it-add-up/

80. See my note of February 17, 2019.

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