One of the aspects of Joe Biden's frontrunner candidacy that I'm eager to track is his willingness to stand up to the hard left on certain key policies -- and the extent to which he can frame his own preferences with rhetoric that signals sympathy with their cause. This healthcare answer, for instance, may provide a fascinating glimpse at this balancing act. Does Biden believe the government should provide healthcare to illegal immigrants? Pay attention to his response, which sounds like a 'yes.' But is it, really?
"Look, I think that anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for. That's why I think we need more clinics in this country...By the way a significant portion of undocumented folks in this country are there because they overstayed their visas. It's not people breaking down gates coming across the border, so the biggest thing we got to do on this thing is tone down the rhetoric. We know why it's happening. It's to create fear and concern."
On the surface, this reads like an endorsement of a position that could pose a significant general election vulnerability. But couldn't Biden just be saying that when someone shows up at a hospital or treatment center in urgent need of life-saving care in America, they get treated? (I'll briefly note that while Obamacare defenders argued that uncompensated care at emergency rooms would decline due to the law, the opposite has happened). That's not the same thing as favoring an expansion of government entitlement programs to illegal immigrants. Notice how Biden quickly pivots away to some non-sequiturs about how most illegal immigrants are here due to visa overstays, followed by a rote condemnation of rhetoric that fans the flames of "fear" and "concern" (he's surely above such things, you see). He gives a fairly vague answer on the healthcare issue, then quickly shimmies over to safer political ground.
It's not a bad piece of jiujitsu, but it's also not sustainable. In a debate or Sunday show setting, people are going to want a clear response on the underlying policy question. Will Biden live up to his "moderate lane" billing? And if so, how will he handle the savage attacks from his left flank? Will primary voters punish him for not embracing the most left-wing and woke position, or might he benefit, due to this effect? While we're on this overall topic, we might as well draw attention to the latest analysis demonstrating that single-payer healthcare isn't affordable:
Bloomberg News: “Tax Hikes on Wealthy Alone Can't Pay for Medicare for All Plan” https://t.co/lcIOULy7Pw— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 9, 2019
To pay for those programs, the candidates have focused on taxing the rich. But many of the plans they’ve put on the table would require across-the-board tax increases that would hit middle-earners as well as the wealthy, public policy analysts say. None more than Medicare For All. Raising the more than $30 trillion needed to fund Sanders’s health plan over a decade would require doubling all personal and corporate income taxes or tripling payroll taxes, which are split between employees and employers, said Marc Goldwein, a senior vice president at the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
And that's pegging the price tag at "only" $30 trillion, which is a few trillion less than a number of mainstream estimates -- and several trillion additional dollars under what some experts say would be a likelier and more realistic cost. And even that's a fraction of the broader progressive agenda, as exemplified by Elizabeth Warren's breathtaking orgy of proposed new spending:
Warren’s most repeated phrase on the campaign trail is very likely some version of “I have a plan for that.” It’s become so ubiquitous, in fact, that her campaign has started selling t-shirts and tote bags with the phrase, “Warren has a plan for that.” But a recent analysis by the Washington Free Beacon reveals that Warren’s “plans” are incredibly costly. She’s introduced plans to cancel student debt and provide free tuition; to provide universal child care; to combat the opioid epidemic; and she backs the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Combined, those programs would cost $129 trillion over 10 years, an absolutely astronomical figure.
Her plan is to confiscate astonishing sums of privately-earned dollars so that the government can "fix" a bunch of problems that it's already at least partially caused or exacerbated. How creative and constructive.