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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.

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)

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."

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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.

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.

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