Hillary Clinton is full of advice for the field of candidates competing for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, but it’s not always (okay, it’s rarely) useful or realistic, and usually centers mostly on avoiding the influence of Russia on campaigns, social media, third party candidates, the White House, and maybe even the supply of toilet paper in her Chappaqua home.
But Wednesday, Hillary Clinton, appearing at the New York Times’ DealBook conference, had some decent words of wisdom for her 2020 successors: let go of progressive politics, especially “Medicare for All” and economy-crippling wealth taxes, before they tank your presidential chances.
“I think the debate within the Democratic Party is a very healthy debate to try to figure out how to achieve the goal of covering everybody with quality, affordable health care,” Clinton offered, after being asked what she felt about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) Medicare for All plan.
“My view on this, having been working on it for many years now, is that the Affordable Care Act took us to 90 percent of coverage, the highest we have ever gotten in our country after many, many efforts … we have a 10-percent gap to fill and we have a lot of learning to do about the best way not only to fill the gap but then to drive down costs as much as it’s possible to do so without undermining quality advancements,” she continued.
She’s right, but perhaps not in the way she thinks. The Affordable Care Act brought coverage up to 90% by instituting a penalty for not purchasing health insurance. The penalty was intrusive and, ultimately, forced those who did not want insurance to purchase plans that became increasingly expensive as more people joined the insurance pool. For those consumers who did not qualify for subsidies, plans could cost upwards of $10,000 per year, some with deductibles of nearly $15,000.
But that doesn’t change that her advice is shockingly prescient.
“I don’t believe we should be in the midst of a big disruption while we are trying to get to 100-percent coverage and deal with costs and face some tough issues about competitiveness and other kinds of innovation in health care,” she continued, still railing at Warren’s plan.
Then she went after Warren’s wealth tax, which could alienate Democratic donors who are concerned about its effects on the economy, and could prove rather difficult to enforce.
“I just don’t understand how that could work,” she added. “And I don’t see other examples anywhere else in the world where it has actually worked over a long period of time. I would be all in favor of reinstating the estate tax because that is much more measurable. It is not as disruptive.”
“If you were going to do a wealth tax and it was on assets … how you would value it is, I think, complicated to start with,” she continued. “But, assuming you can get some system of evaluation, people would literally have to sell assets to pay the tax on the assets that they owned before the wealth tax was levied. That would be incredibly disruptive, so I think there are other ways to raise the revenues.”
Warren’s supporters are likely to be non-plussed by Clinton’s criticism — after all, they probably believe she is part of the “establishment Democrat” problem, rather than the progressive solution. Warren might be advised to take Clinton’s advice. A recent New York Times poll showed Warren trailing President Donald Trump in so-called “battleground” states, where her economic message isn’t resonating with more moderate voters.