Joe Henderson: Elizabeth Warren’s big dreams come with a big cost
Elizabeth Warren is the pick in Florida Politics' Influencers Poll.

warren, eleizabeth - speaking in LA
PolitiFact analyzed her plan and the trillions in extra spending that would be needed to pay for it

I saw a headline Monday from PolitiFact that probably caused heartburn for Elizabeth Warren and her supporters. It said Warren’s spending plans total $7 trillion in new spending over 10 years, and that’s before her Medicare For All idea.

It reminded me of a “West Wing” episode. President Bartlet was at a debate when his opponent got off a simplistic, canned response to a complex question.

“There it is,” Bartlet said. “Ten-word answers will kill you in a political campaign. They’re the tip of the sword.”

The headline on the PolitiFact piece actually was 16 words, but close enough. I imagine every other Democratic candidate, except maybe Bernie Sanders, was giddy about that report. It had the look of Bartlet’s sword tip.

Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg already pushed Warren hard in the last debate about the cost of everything she wants to do, especially with Medicare. Warren has been evasive, but PolitiFact gave Klobuchar and Buttigieg fresh material.

Health care is a vital issue everywhere, but especially in a state the size of Florida. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the scope of the problem. Nearly 14% of Floridians had no health insurance in 2018. That’s the nation’s fourth-highest rate.

That’s the problem, so can it be fixed? Taxes will go up; that’s a given. Warren has vowed to increase taxes on rich folks, but that won’t come close to paying for everything.

Klobuchar came up with her 10-word (OK, 16-word) response: “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done.”

Warren’s pitch sounds great on the campaign trail, but pushing it through Congress is another matter.

And details matter. In a true Medicare For All system, private plans like most people have now would exist only as supplemental insurance. Many voters might consider a deal-breaker by itself, and that’s without considering the cost.

Warren has been surging in the polls, but that might slow if the cost of her plan becomes the story. That “pipe dream” comment could stick in voters’ minds.

Dreaming big is central to Warren’s campaign, which is OK until taxpayers see the price tag. They just saw one, so the question is: Now what?

If voters only remember 10 words — well, 16 — I think we know the answer.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


One comment

  • Mary Pezzi

    October 29, 2019 at 1:24 am

    We are already spending $3.4 trillion per year as a nation on healthcare, and $23 billion of that is being paid out as profits to the insurance industry. Reports show we are paying twice as much as the other top 20 nations, and it is not because we are getting more care. It’s because our costs for drugs, hospital care, medical imaging etc are twice as high as other nations, which have long ago moved to a single-payer administration that negotiates and regulates prices. For example, this is why Canada offers insulin at $24 vs insulin in the USA that has skyrocketed to $240. People are rationing their insulin and dying. No other nation puts people at the mercy of multinational corporations when they are sick or injured, or trying to save the life of a child. No other nation does nothing and allows 500,000 families every year to go bankrupt due to unpaid medical bill, including a majority of folks that had insurance at the onset of their injury or sickness. This broken system leaves 83 million people with no insurance or insurance that has a high annual deductible. People are forced into bankruptcy and onto taxpayer funded welfare. Medicaid picks up the bills for 5 out of 6 people in long term care in nursing homes. If we pool our resources via Medicare For All, we can eliminate the high administrative and profit costs associated with private insurance. Employers can no longer provide insurance as a benefit and are sharing more and more of the costs with employees. And why would we continue to have insurance sponsored by employers? People no longer stay at one job for life. Our form of “managed illness for profits” is just a big payout for corporate investors and funds $100 million a year medical CEO’s. I will vote for Senator Bernie Sanders and/or Senator Elizabeth Warren because they will FIGHT FOR THE PEOPLE.

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