Elizabeth Warren refuses to admit she will raise middle-class taxes

It’s a simple yes or no question


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By Greg Fournier, Collegian Columnist

One of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s signature and most controversial policies is the Medicare for All plan that she borrowed from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to Warren’s own impassioned statements on the bill, middle-class healthcare costs will go down, as the government will foot the bill for their medical coverage. However, as any rational person would understand, this plan would cost a lot of money. In fact, the proposal would cost a total of $34 trillion over the next decade. That figure, according to The Atlantic, is “more than the federal government’s total cost over the coming decade for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined.”

With Warren’s insistence that she has a plan for everything, you would think she would be forthcoming in her plan to pay for the bill. However, Warren keeps demurring the question of whether she will have to raise middle-class taxes to pay for Medicare for All. On debate night, Warren repeatedly refused to answer the simple yes-or-no question: “Will you raise taxes on the middle class?” In what Warren undoubtedly believed to be sly political maneuvering, but is really just side-stepping the question, she stuck to her guns, declaring, “I will not sign a bill into law that raises costs on middle-class families.”

Warren is not an idiot. She knows that the question is not about costs — it is clearly about taxes. She believes the fact that taxes will increase on the middle class is not an issue because total costs for healthcare will drop. Thus, her answer leaves the viewer wondering if she even heard the question.

Sanders has the same plan as Warren. Indeed, Warren admitted that Bernie’s plan is the “golden standard” in healthcare plans. Unlike Warren, Bernie is honest about his policy — during a debate in June, he readily admitted that middle-class taxes would have to go up in order to pay for Medicare for All.

Other Democratic contenders have pointed this out. The debate last Monday featured several contentious moments, including when Mayor Pete Buttigieg called out Warren for her refusal to meet “a yes-or-no question” with “a yes-or-no answer.” Similarly, Sen. Amy Klobuchar suggested that Warren should be honest about “where we’re going to send the invoice” for her policy – namely to the middle class. Warren insists that her so-called “wealth tax” will pay for the policy, but according to her own website, this would only provide $2.75 trillion over the next ten years – not even 10 percent of what Medicare for All will cost. This is on top of her already extensive list of policy priorities that are similarly expensive, such as forgiving most student debt and providing massive childcare subsidies.

With Warren facing all this criticism, it is worth speculating her rationale. One plausible explanation is that if she wins the primary election, President Trump’s team would attack her in campaign advertisements if she admits that she wants to raise taxes.  This may be true, but her strategy of avoiding the question altogether makes her look even more dishonest than she would otherwise.  If she admitted to the requisite tax hikes, Trump would be facing a wild-eyed progressive with far-reaching policy objectives, but at least she would be viewed as honest.

I see Warren’s refusal to answer this question as a manifestation of the worst forms of politics. Politicians depend on voters — the last thing they want to hear is that their taxes will increase, or that candidates’ policies have any downsides whatsoever. This forces politicians to act as if their policies are trade-off free.

This is one reason why our politics are so toxic. Every policy has trade-offs; while many voters may not want to hear that, politicians know it well. If Warren simply laid out all of the negative aspects of her policies, such as increasing taxes on the middle class, at least a debate could then be had on the merits and demerits of her specific proposals. This is as true on the right as it is on the left, but Warren should heed this advice the most.

Greg Fournier is a Collegian Columnist and can be reached at [email protected].