On Stephen Colbert's CBS late night show, the host challenged Elizabeth Warren on the issue of single-payer healthcare, which she unequivocally supports. He attempted to nail the leftist Senator down on the question of whether or not middle class Americans' taxes would have to go up (they would, a lot) in order to fund the program she and Bernie Sanders have proposed. She ducked, he drilled down further, then she ducked again -- prompting the comedian to call her out on it, seemingly to her surprise:
“You keep being asked in the debates, how are you going to pay for it? Are you going to raise the middle class taxes?” Colbert said.
“Right,” Warren said.
After a comic pause, Colbert asked “How are you going to pay for it? Are you going to raise the middle class taxes?”
“So here’s how we’re going to do this,” Warren said, launching into her familiar response. “Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations…”
“Taxes which is what you mean by ‘costs’?” Colbert interrupted.
“Yes. And hardworking middle-class family are going to see their cost goes down…” Warren continued.
“But will their taxes go up?” Colbert pressed.
“Here’s the thing,” Warren began, but Colbert cut her off again.
“Here’s the thing,” he said. “I’ve listened to these answers a few times before, and I just want to make a parallel suggestion to you that you might defend the taxes, perhaps, you’re not mentioning in your sentence.”
This is about as hostile as it gets for a Democrat on national entertainment television, and Colbert immediately pivoted to offering Warren advice on how to make the argument in favor of middle class tax hikes for the greater good of single-payer healthcare. His critique, you see, came from a place of support and agreement; he simply wants her to be the most effective leftist she can be. The political problem is that coming out and saying, "yes, we're going to raise all of your taxes a lot, but it'll be worth it" is highly politically risky. To wit:
If [voters] were told that a government-run system could lead to delays in getting care or higher taxes, support plunged to 26 percent and 37 percent, respectively. “The issue that will really be fundamental would be the tax issue,” said Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who reviewed the poll. He pointed out that state single-payer efforts in Vermont and Colorado failed because of concerns about the tax increases needed to put them in place.
The other fundamental problem for Warren is that her plan would rip away private healthcare plans from nearly 180 million Americans, making such coverage illegal. At the last Democratic debate, Warren tried to brush this off by claiming that few Americans love their insurance companies. What many, many Americans do value quite strongly, however, is the coverage and providers they come to rely on. Polling underscores that reality, which is a massive political liability for single-payer advocates, who explicitly want to permanently uproot tens upon tens of millions of people from those existing arrangements:
According to Gallup polling from late last year, 82% of Democrats said the quality of health care they received was either good or excellent. A large majority, 71%, believed their health care coverage was either good or excellent. Even when it comes to health care costs, 61% of Democrats said were satisfied with what they paid in health care. The same poll also notes that the vast majority of all Americans are satisfied with the quality of their health care – rating it ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ (80 percent) – and their level of coverage (69 percent).
In addition, a recent Kaiser poll recently found that 86 percent of Americans with private coverage were satisfied with it. Healthcare disruption is deeply unpopular, as both parties have learned in recent years. Warren may try to "here's the thing" her way out of addressing these facts, but she can't deflect away from much higher taxes, illegal private coverage, and long, bureaucratic wait times for care. I'll leave you with this:
By my count, this raises Sanders' proposal costs to between $62 trillion and $85 trillion over the decade. Adding in the $15 trillion baseline deficit, and we're looking at a budget hole of perhaps $100 trillion (40% of GDP). No taxes are closing that gap. #Fantasyland https://t.co/9V1Ro5mcrW— Brian Riedl (@Brian_Riedl) September 18, 2019