Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pitches himself to American voters as a reasonable and pragmatic centrist. But he’s stocked his campaign team with some of the Democratic party’s most prominent—and extreme—left-wingers.
Last month, Biden announced the creation of several policy task forces designed to bring the party together. Those task forces are a who’s who of the progressive elite—and signal that Biden is going to run for the White House on a platform that is further to the left than any Democrat in history.
His healthcare task force is a haven for advocates of a government takeover of health insurance. Chief among them is Sen. Bernie Sanders, his former rival for the Democratic nomination. Sanders has been stumping for Medicare for All, and the abolition of private insurance, for decades.
Donald Berwick, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, is another longtime advocate of single-payer on the task force. They’re joined by Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who has introduced Medicare for All legislation in the House that’s even more radical than Sen. Sanders’s bill.
With Sanders, Berwick, and Jayapal in his ear, it’s hard to believe Biden ran for the Democratic nomination on opposition to single-payer.
The highest-wattage name on Biden’s climate change task force is New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has made the Green New Deal her signature legislative proposal. According to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation, even the most stripped down version of this plan could increase household electricity expenses by 14%, eliminate more than 1.4 million jobs and yield an aggregate GDP loss of $3.9 trillion by 2040. To meet the proposal’s goal of 100% renewable power would cost more than $5 trillion.
Biden’s economic policy task force includes Stony Brook University Professor Stephanie Kelton as co-chair. Kelton defends a heterodox school of economic thought known as Modern Monetary Theory, which claims that governments can spend freely without regard for deficits. In other words, she’s supplying the theory that will supposedly wave away any concern about the $46 trillion ten-year cost of Medicare for All—or the trillions of dollars the Green New Deal will cost.
Such extreme personnel choices for important policy positions might seem incongruous with a candidate that claims to be an even-handed moderate. But Biden’s centrism has always been a facade.
Consider his own healthcare plan, which would “build on Obamacare” by creating a public insurance option available to all Americans. That plan could narrowly pass as moderate in the Democratic primary with Sanders’s bid for Medicare for All as a reference point.
But remember—a public option was considered too radical by Democrats more than a decade ago, when they enacted Obamacare. While the House included a provision that would’ve established a public option in their version of what became Obamacare, the Senate successfully stripped it out of the final bill.
A public option is simply single-payer in slow motion. A public option would not need to take in premiums sufficient to cover its costs. Plus, the public option will effectively have the ability to dictate what it will pay healthcare providers. Most public option proposals envision paying slightly more than Medicare. For comparison, private plans pay about 241% of Medicare’s rates, according to research from the RAND Corporation.
Add these two factors up, and the public option could easily underprice its private competitors.
As more and more Americans moved over to the government’s bottom-dollar plan, private insurers would be forced out of the market until the public option was the only option, and a single-payer system resulted by default.
Biden’s apparent centrism is a clever bit of salesmanship to American voters. But with the primary well behind him and his newly appointed policy task forces chock-full of progressives, this pretense of moderation will be near impossible to maintain.