Matthew Iglesias at Vox deconstructs Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals and concludes:
Bernie Sanders’s campaign and his most fervent supporters are going to read this article as harsh — and in many ways it is. But the truth is I think there’s a lot to like about Bernie Sanders. I share Sanders’s admiration for the Nordic social model, I agree with him in principle about single-payer health care, I appreciate that he has co-sponsored sophisticated bank regulation bills like Sherrod Brown’s collaboration with David Vitter, and his advocacy of a financial transactions tax is admirable. To the extent that Sanders is running a campaign that’s about raising issues and securing national attention for some ideas that don’t normally come up on Meet the Press, I applaud him.
But Bernie-mania has gotten a lot bigger than that. He’s obviously still the underdog, but he’s doing well — he’s rising in the polls and to my eye bested Clinton in a debate. It’s possible to imagine him winning the nomination, which means it’s possible to imagine him becoming president.
Which means that we in the media need to start taking his campaign seriously, but also that Sanders himself needs to take his campaign seriously. Build a real model of the higher education plan. Come up with some notion of what kind of health insurance the Berniecare single-payer plan is going to provide. Address the whole range of outstanding issues with Obama’s Wall Street agenda. Maybe talk to some people about foreign policy. We appreciate that it’s not his passion in life, but it’s a crucial part of the job, and he needs to be more comfortable talking about it.
A once-dull Clinton coronation is suddenly looking like a potentially exciting race. That’s great. But if the scrappy, not-so-far-behind-anymore underdog is content to run on vague slogans, it could also be a bit scary.
Young Ezra was looking forward to digging into the plan. He was pretty disappointed, too:
Another question Sanders’s plan doesn’t answer but is crucially important: How do you guarantee physical access to medical care? Right now hospitals charge Medicaid one price, Medicare a somewhat higher price, and private insurers an even higher price. If the entire system is squeezed down to Medicare pricing, a lot of hospitals are going to close. How will Sanders keep that from happening? Or will he let it happen, even if it means people in rural areas need to drive hours for care?
The easy rejoinder to this is that this is just a campaign proposal, and these are details that can be worked out in the legislative process. I disagree. Sanders is proposing a huge, disruptive reform here — he owes the public answers to the most central, obvious questions about how that reform would work. Perhaps more importantly, he also needs to show that he’s at least aware of the difficulties of a single-payer system and has realistic ideas for managing the transition.
Moreover, the fundamental debate between Sanders and Hillary Clinton — and Sanders and the GOP — is whether single-payer is a good idea at all. That debate can’t be resolved unless these kinds of questions are answered.
In the absence of these kinds of specifics, Sanders has offered a puppies-and-rainbowsapproach to single-payer — he promises his plan will cover everything while costing the average family almost nothing. This is what Republicans fear liberals truly believe: that they can deliver expansive, unlimited benefits to the vast majority of Americans by stacking increasingly implausible, and economically harmful, taxes on the rich. Sanders is proving them right.
A few days ago, I criticized Hillary Clinton for not leveling with the American people. She seemed, I wrote, “scared to tell voters what she really thinks for fear they’ll disagree.” Here, Sanders shows he doesn’t trust voters either. Rather than making the trade-offs of a single-payer plan clear, he’s obscured them further. In answering Clinton’s criticisms, he’s raised real concerns about the plausibility of his own ideas.