The moderators at tonight’s Democratic debate pretty much wrote the Republicans’ talking points. It was stunning: Over and over, they asked Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren whether they would support “a middle-class tax increase” to pay for universal health care. They allowed the most conservative candidates to say that Warren and Sanders would “rip the health insurance away” from 160 million people who currently have employer-sponsored insurance.
Sanders did a decent job responding, saying that Canada has universal health care, better outcomes, and lower costs. He also said that if the US had universal health care, the money that employers pay for health care could go for “decent wages.”
But he didn’t manage – in the tiny time frame that he got – to make that point more clear. We are paying for health care, one way or another; either it’s coming out of your paycheck because your employer is paying for it, or it’s coming out of your taxes. As Mayor Pete Buttigieg noted, “you are paying the same money from taxes or insurance premiums.”
And if it comes out of your taxes, you are going to get a better deal.
At least it will if your employer uses the huge financial benefit of not paying for your health care to give you higher wages to offset the tax cost. And for those people under union contracts, there’s a good chance that will happen.
What the Democrats need to say is that they will make sure that employers shift that money to better wages. They need to explain how the numbers work for the average person. And that’s impossible to do when the moderators are pushing GOP talking points.
Same pattern happened with immigration, where the moderators kept pushing the question of whether decriminalizing border crossings and giving immigrants health care “will incentivize immigrants to come to this country illegally.”
Yes, said the more conservative candidates. Sanders was the only one who pointed out that there’s a reason people walk for 1,000 miles to reach the US border – and that helping rebuild the economies devastated by NAFTA would do more to decrease immigration more than all the border walls and laws you can pass.
Then we got this: “Is Senator Sanders too extreme to beat president Trump?”
Or: “Are Democrats moving too far to the left to defeat Donald Trump?”
Sanders noted that every credible poll showed him beating Trump in the swing states. Again, Buttigieg: “If we embrace a far-left agenda, the Republicans will say we are crazy socialists. If we run a more conservative approach, they will say we are crazy socialists.” So why not run on things that will work?
Elizabeth Warren had one of the best lines: “I don’t understand why someone would run for president of the us just to talk about all the things we can’t do.”
It just got worse: Moderator Dana Bash asked about Sanders plan to get rid of gasoline powered cars would hurt union members in Michigan and Ohio.
Sanders: “I get a little tired of Democrats being afraid of big ideas. What do you do with an industry the knowingly for billions of dollars in profits is destroying this planet?”
Warren got an excellent point in at the end, saying that people who have more than $50 million in wealth should pay two cents on the dollar above that amount. With that two cents, she said, we can have universal child care, free college tuition, and so much more.
Nobody said a word about urban issues, particularly housing. CNN doesn’t seem to think that matters.
No decisive moments at the debate, although Warren on the wealth tax was close. Sanders and Warren made it clear that the only way any progressive agenda can happen is if we take on wall street and the fossil-fuel industry. The rest of the candidates spoke as if we can work with the existing power structure to solve problems. That’s the big difference we saw tonight.