By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
After each election, the losing party typically recalibrates its position and adjusts its message accordingly. However, U.S. history is littered with instances when the losing political party failed to understand why it lost and then embarked on the wrong course, often with disastrous results.
One historic example was Republican Barry Goldwater’s disastrous presidential campaign in 1964. The Arizona senator beat moderate Republicans for the nomination.
But his hard-right conservative views were no match for incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater carried just six states and lost in a landslide. As a result, the Republican Party was forced to reject Goldwater hard-right conservatism and return to more moderate Republican positions that won the 1968 election for Richard Nixon.
Having unexpectedly lost the 2016 presidential race, the Democratic Party may have learned the wrong lesson from its defeat by Donald Trump. Instead of appealing to the middle of the country and what used to be the core of the Democrats’ constituency (white, blue-collar middle-class voters), many in the party have now embraced a socialist, progressive agenda. That agenda includes Medicare for all, free college tuition and a guarantee of federal jobs, plus a litany of other social programs.
Democratic leaders have embraced the progressive cause, but have not articulated how they will pay for all of these agenda items. Those leaders include 2020 presidential hopefuls Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Medicare for All Would Substantially Increase Federal Spending
At the end of last month, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University released a study by Charles Blahous, a senior economic advisor to former President George W. Bush and a public trustee of Social Security and Medicare during the Obama administration. The study showed a “Medicare for all” program would increase federal healthcare spending by $32.6 trillion over a 10-year period.
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), who champions “Medicare for all” or a single-payer system, would build on the current program by requiring all U.S. residents to be covered without co-pays and deductibles for medical services. Under such an arrangement, insurance companies would be relegated to a minor role.
According to the report, tax revenues would allow the government to replace the current system in which employers and consumers share in healthcare premiums. Proponents believe such a system would mean significant savings on administrative and prescription drug costs. But on the downside, this change would substantially increase federal spending.
Conservative estimates in the report project that an increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7 percent of GDP in 2022. This would rise to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP by 2031 and continue to increase after that.
Sanders Releases Information on Funding for Medicare for All
Sanders released a white paper, providing various options on how his proposals would pay for a “Medicare for all” program, also referred to as a single-payer system.
Some of the options would include:
- Making employers pay income-based premiums
- Creating income-based premiums for households
- Using savings from healthcare expenditures
- Making the tax code more progressive by substantially raising taxes
- Making the estate tax vastly more progressive
- Establishing a wealth tax on the top 1% of earners
- Closing loopholes for wealthy business owners
- Imposing a one-time tax on offshore profits
- Leveraging a fee on large financial institutions
- Repealing corporate accounting gimmicks
The total cost of a single payer healthcare system under Sanders’ plan anticipates raising around $16 trillion. However, that does not even come close to the $32 trillion needed to fully fund a “Medicare for all” program, as the Mercatus Center reported.
“Enacting something like ‘Medicare for all’ would be a transformative change in the size of the federal government,” Blahous said. His study also found that “a doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”
Sanders Issues Rebuke of Blahous Report
Sanders blasted the Blahous report. He called the analysis “grossly misleading and biased,” because the Mercatus Center receives financial support from the conservative Koch brothers. Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch serves on the center’s board.
“If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all and achieve better health outcomes while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same,” Sanders said in a statement. “This grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers’ response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”
Sanders has done a cost analysis of the new plan, but the Mercatus Center report is in line with the liberal-leaning “Urban Institute.” This organization evaluated Sander’s single-payer healthcare plan in May of 2016. It reached the same conclusion: the cost to the federal government would be over $32 trillion and the taxes raised would only amount to around $16 trillion. It is unknown where the other $15 trillion would come from.
Democratic Leaders Facing New Political Challengers
Since Trump’s election, the Democratic Party has shifted considerably leftward to embrace progressive policies. That includes supporting political novice Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who came out of nowhere to beat entrenched House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY), in a primary battle.
Ocasio-Cortez has become the champion of the Democratic Socialist movement, running on a platform of “Medicare for all,” free college and a job for all Americans who want one. However, she and other progressive Democratic leaders have so far failed to explain how such programs would be funded.
Explosion of Federal Spending
According to a PolitiFact article, the cost of free college education would be $100 billion with Wall Street providing $75 billion and the states providing $25 billion. The cost of a federal job guarantee would be over $500 billion in the first year alone, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
That is more than the federal government allocates for Medicaid. Taxes on the wealthy to pay for this expense would not come close to covering the annual costs.
Democrats Need to Learn from Their Previous Election Loss
With the mid-term elections less than three months away, is this a winning message the Democratic Party wants to run on? Will the party repeat the lessons of the past and fail to understand the real reasons why the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election?
One only has to remember the words of Anglo-Irish philosopher and political theorist Edmund Burke, who said: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”