Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

I, for one, have had quite enough of Buttigieg's glib turbo-wonk shtick. He simply is not being straight with the American people. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

I, for one, have had quite enough of Buttigieg's glib turbo-wonk shtick. He simply is not being straight with the American people. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Pete Buttigieg's Disingenuous Attack on Medicare-For-All

Mayor Pete's plan would be more expensive than Medicare-for-all. He would "pay for that" by keeping more of the cost burden on the shoulders of individual Americans.

Ryan Cooper

 by The Week

In the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, once again Medicare-for-all was a major focus of discussion. Once again, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren defended the plan against all comers — most especially Pete Buttigieg, who had a number of slick arguments about how universal Medicare would be a disaster.

There's just one problem: None of Mayor Pete's arguments are true.

Buttigieg leveled two main attacks. First, along with the moderators, he pressed Warren to admit that she would raise taxes on the middle class to pay for her Medicare-for-all plan. After the New York Times' Mark Lacey asked her if she should "acknowledge" she would raise taxes, she partly dodged the question, saying: "So the way I see this, it is about what kinds of costs middle-class families are going to face. So let me be clear on this. Costs will go up for the wealthy. They will go up for big corporations. And for middle-class families, they will go down."

Buttigieg pounced: "Well, we heard it tonight, a yes or no question that didn't get a yes or no answer. Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular."

It's very obvious why Warren refuses to say this outright, and it is arguably more accurate for her to do so. In the hegemonic neoliberal framework of American political rhetoric, taxes are always a net cost by definition — something that is taken from the American citizenry and spent on government boondoggles or welfare for poor people. Warren doesn't want to hand Donald Trump any attack lines about how she will raise taxes by focusing on what matters — namely, net costs for average people.

And as HuffPost's Arthur Delaney notes, Medicare-for-all critics are leveraging this framework.

The tax question is a trap, premised on the idea that raising taxes is always bad politics. The moderator already knows the candidate's position. Both the moderator and the candidate believe that answering with a simple “yes” would launch a thousand Republican attack ads. Not answering doesn't work either. After the September debate, TV analysts and the Republican National Committee bashed Warren for not disavowing taxes and not embracing them. [HuffPost]

Read the full article here.


© 2021 The Week
Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Bush, Omar, and Pressley Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·


As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Issue Dire Warning as House Bill to Extend Eviction Moratorium Dies

"If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities, needlessly contributing to more death and destruction."

Brett Wilkins ·


Citing Donziger Case, Dems Raise Alarm About Use of Private Prosecutors in Federal Court

Private prosecutions of criminal contempt charges, said a pair of senators, "are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system."

Jessica Corbett ·


'About Damn Time': DOJ Says Treasury Department Must Give Trump's Tax Returns to Congress

"This case is now bigger even than Donald Trump's crimes. Neither the courts, nor the machinery of our government, exist to bodyguard a corrupt private citizen from transparency."

Jake Johnson ·