…do they violate PAYGO spending caps? The obsession with deficits by our radical centrist political press corps and by too much of the Democratic Party is going to get us all killed. Or at least very miserable (boldface mine):
When they are inevitably asked by a moderator from MSNBC or the Washington Post how they plan to “pay for” one of their signature proposals — whether it is Medicare for All (Elizabeth Warren), a Green New Deal (Bernie Sanders), baby bonds (Cory Booker), middle-class tax cuts (Kamala Harris), or a universal basic income (Andrew Yang) — they should respond with one word: Mexico.
Mexico, they should say, with the straightest of straight faces, will pay for it.
Yes, that line would get a big laugh from the crowd in the hall. It would go viral online. It would endear the candidate who dares say it to Democratic voters watching at home (many of whom are fed up with debate moderators who constantly frame their questions around GOP talking points). It would help that candidate dominate the post-debate headlines on cable news.
But it would do much more than that: It would serve a major strategic purpose. Democrats who dare to remind pundits and the public of Donald Trump’s ridiculous yet oft-repeated campaign pledge that “Mexico will pay for the wall” would finally be drawing a crucial line in the sand and saying to Republicans, to the media, and even to each other, that they will no longer be playing the tiresome and very right-wing “pay for” game.
The reality is that voters care more about finding solutions to substantive issues than they care about deficits. A new survey conducted by pollsters YouGov for the progressive think tank Data for Progress, for example, found 51 percent of voters back spending billions of dollars on clean energy infrastructure by increasing the deficit, compared to 47 percent who back increasing taxes to pay for such spending.
Back in June, toward the very beginning of the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Florida, moderator Savannah Guthrie of NBC News asked Kamala Harris whether Democrats had a “responsibility to explain how will they pay” for every major proposal they make. “I hear that question, but where was that question when the Republicans and Donald Trump passed a tax bill that … benefits the top 1 percent and the biggest corporations in this country, contributing at least $1 trillion to the debt of America, which middle-class families will pay for one way or another?” the California senator responded, to loud cheers and applause from the audience inside the hall.
Frustratingly, though, other Democrats have failed to follow her lead. Instead, in recent months, establishment-friendly candidates such as Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar have fallen over one another to attack ambitious and progressive policies such as Medicare For All for being unaffordable and, ergo, unachievable. “It’s impossible to pay for Medicare for All without middle class tax increases,” declaimed Biden earlier this month, doing his best impression of a Senate Republican….
Democrats need to stop playing by the old rules. I understand the logic of the “I have a plan for that” mantra; I get the appeal of wanting to be the adults in the room. But the man-child that the Democrats seek to defeat next year was elected to the highest office in the land in 2016 without a plan for anything.
Never forget: He said Mexico would pay for his signature issue. And he won. Now, defiant Democrats should say the same.
Under intense pressure from her rivals, as well as from the media, Elizabeth “I have a plan for that” Warren even released a detailed proposal explaining how she would raise $20.5 trillion to fund her version of Medicare for All. She gained little more than attacks from her left and from her right, not to mention negative news headlines.
This is why I still have some doubts about Warren–it’s not that she’s actually a neo-liberal shill or some other daffiness, but sometimes her political instincts (“her” obviously includes her advisors) are not good when she’s tossed something she didn’t predict (such as the importance of healthcare reform to the Democratic primary electorate…).
The silliest thing about this is that all of the “pay fors” are smoke and mirrors anyway (boldface mine):
These calculations exist in a vacuum. It’s rarer for campaigns to explain how much all of their proposals would cost put together or to convey just how perfectly the political stars would have to align for the math to work just right. Even if those stars do align, the next Democratic administration will inherit a large national debt that will continue rising even without new expenditures on ambitious new programs. They might also inherit a recession—or at least an economy that’s due to experience one soon—which would both increase the budget deficit and prompt calls for an expensive stimulus to speed along a recovery…
But responses like this only sidestep the substance of the concern that our deficits and debt have grown unsustainably large—an idea debate moderators, centrist think tanks, and others will promote no matter how many times Democrats appeal to Republican irresponsibility. If the campaign so far is any indication, progressive candidates will lend credence to that idea by cobbling together elaborate funding proposals.
They shouldn’t. Instead, progressive candidates should challenge the premises of the questions they get about affordability. The soundest response to queries about how we might fully pay for Medicare for All or climate policy is a simple one: We will not.
…there is a large body of evidence suggesting our government has room to borrow and spend more—without having to lean entirely on the kind of largely speculative or even imaginary pay-fors progressive campaigns regularly devise.
Candidates who don’t propose ways to comprehensively pay for their ideas shouldn’t be considered fiscally unserious and progressive candidates shouldn’t indulge the idea that they are.
….the tax increases and cuts to major programs that would be necessary to make a meaningful dent in the national debt are more politically implausible than most progressive agenda items, and responsibly addressing many of the challenges we face as a country and planet—including climate mitigation and adaptation—will incur costs we might not be able to cover in the near term. Let dreamers and idealists pine for balanced budgets. It’s up to us realists to get things done.
As some asshole with a blog put it:
If terrorists were murdering people on that scale, would we be worrying about whether we ran deficits? Of course not. We would spend what we need to spend to stop the carnage. If asked how do you pay for it, I usually respond with something like, “The same way Republicans have paid for their stupid wars and tax cuts for the rich”, followed with “First, we need to stop the dying“:
What infuriates me is that, for the past quarter century or so, balancing budgets has taken priority over providing things we need (never mind providing nice things we want).
We’ve now reached the point where tens of thousands of people die needlessly every year due to inadequate healthcare. Many more suffer and are immiserated. People die because they can’t afford insulin. To use a prominent local politician’s phrase, our healthcare system, despite its overall expense, is inflicting massive American Carnage. This is a full scale emergency.
We need to staunch the bleeding.
We need to stop the dying.
First order of business must be providing healthcare to all. If we stipulate that everything must be paid for up front, it will be nearly impossible to stop the dying. Inflation might rise if we don’t have a payment mechanism, but we have ways to deal with that through both fiscal and monetary means. Yet we know, with near certainty, that if nothing changes, this year, and the next, and the year after that, people will die needlessly.
That is the crisis. The potential hit to after-inflation returns on unearned income pales by comparison.
We will pay for it the same way we pay for things we have needed to do (along with those we haven’t): tax increases (both user fees and general funds) and deficit spending. If the policy makes people’s lives better, it will tend to work out–it’s not like the post-WWII economy was particularly bad.
Enough with PAYGO.