The Warren Problem

The Warren Problem


Leonard Zwelling

These opinion pieces and a lot more in The New York Times on Sunday November 3, Monday November 4, and since paint a clear picture of the problem Elizabeth Warren faces if she is the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 2020. This has all come up now that she has finally released her plan to pay for the Medicare For All health care system that she thinks is the solution to the health care problem in the United States.

Here’s the real problem. Is there a health care problem in the United States and if there is, isn’t it important to name it?

Yes, there is, but it’s not just that health care costs too much in the U.S. though it does. It costs twice as much per capita as any place else on earth, BUT…

About 150-170 million Americans get their health insurance through their employers. Many of them like this. They depend on this private insurance to pay for the care their families want and need. Private health care is a huge industry involving insurers, providers and drug and device makers. Ms. Warren wants to take that away and replace it with a government paid for plan that will be funded by new taxes on the wealthy and additional revenue drawn from the employers who pay for it now. In this plan, Ms. Warren says, there will be no new taxes for the middle class, but only on the top 1%. The fact that the top 1% is not just billionaires does not seem to phase Ms. Warren who is really pressing for a socialist health care system akin to what is available in Canada and other western countries. Unfortunately, what comes along with such a system is rationing of health care and long waits for procedures. You see, that’s the trade off in health care among cost, access and quality. To keep costs down and quality up, usually means access drops. Today, access is pretty good for many (but not all) Americans, and thus costs are high. Quality? Well, who knows?

As these and many other articles make clear, Ms. Warren’s plan will have a devastating effect on Wall Street and the wealthy as the health care system becomes the first means of wealth redistribution. Taxes on the rich will go up. Ms. Warren is even proposing taxes on the value of equity owned by the wealthy whether or not they liquidate the stock. She wants the money of the wealthy whether they cash out or not. Remember, that stock was bought with taxable income. How many times is the government going to get a bite at the capitalist apple?

Now this is providing many people with a really tough choice.

On the one hand, many people feel that Donald Trump is the worst thing to happen to American politics since Richard Nixon and want desperately to replace him. Count me in that group.

On the other hand, most Americans are not ready to throw over their private health insurance for a government run system. What we need is a plan for how we get from where we are to where Ms. Warren wants us to be without disrupting access to the care we have come to expect, let alone a drug shortage if the government starts to control the price of prescription drugs. And what about a shortage of less well paid doctors?

The obvious way is to have a public option or a way to buy into Medicare for everyone and then see if people prefer it to their private plans. That would be a capitalist solution to a societal problem.

In other words, Ms. Warren’s plan is fine as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go far enough in delineating the actual process of implementation of her plan to tax the rich and overturn the health care system.

To many of us, the choice between Warren and Trump is a no win proposition. Biden has more rational policies, but my goodness, he tends to make little sense when he talks. Frankly, as someone five years his junior, I think he’s too old. In fact, he’s so old he doesn’t recognize the fact that he’s too old.

Where does that leave us one year from the general election and three months from the Iowa caucuses?

Not in a good place.

Bernie is unelectable. Talk about old. He sounds like one of those two old Muppets in the balcony.

Mayor Pete is young. Too young, and while his turn may come, I don’t think it’s in 2020.

Who’s left who can actually beat Trump?

My fear is that it is no one. Cory Booker has great ideas, but seems to be attracting a non-following. Amy Klobuchar has great ideas, too, but she, like Booker is getting no traction although if she could come in third in Iowa, she has a prayer. Andrew Yang has attracted some attention, but his message is to give away money. Americans are not ready for that although I understand that this too is income redistribution that puts more buying power in everyone’s hands. Just assure me that the extra thousand dollars a month won’t be spent on illicit drugs, please.

I am coming to the conclusion that the Democrats have a death wish and no matter what Nancy Pelosi and her minions do in the House regarding impeachment, Trump will survive, go on to fight another day, and very well may win.

The only real hope is that Ms. Warren comes to her senses and realizes that gradualism is more appealing to Americans than socialism. Income redistribution may be important, but doing that abruptly through the financing of a new health care system run by the government is a really bad idea.

I really like Ms. Warren’s enthusiasm and her devotion to the country. But if she is going to beat Trump, she needs to shift to the right. Especially on health care and she needs to do so soon.

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