argued that the Sanders plan "really does transfer every bit of our health care
system including private health care, to the states to have the states run. And
I think we've got to be really thoughtful about how we're going to afford what
we proposed." Between that and Sanders's public university free tuition plan,
she said "we're looking at 18 to $20 trillion." And indeed, the single-payer
bill Sanders introduced in 2013 called for a 2.2 percent tax on individual
incomes up to $200,000 and couples up to $250,000 (and higher rates for higher
brackets), a group she pledges would see no tax increases under a Clinton
administration. But the reason that a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll
found 52 percent of Democrats strongly backing a Medicare For All plan, and
another 29 percent somewhat favoring it, is that they understand that there is a
payback for that tax increase. And so does Hillary Clinton.
ignoring the fact that a single payer plan would, as Sanders quickly pointed
out, do "away with the cost of private insurance," meaning that "the middle
class will be paying substantially less for health care," not only was Clinton
wrong on the claim that the Sanders plan would cost the middle class more, but
she knew it. As Sanders said of her, "I know you know a lot about health care."
Hillary Clinton, let's remember, was the point person for Bill Clinton's
unsuccessful 1993 health insurance reform, to the point where it was sometimes
called "Hillarycare." People have applied a lot of negative labels to Hillary
Clinton over the years, but "stupid" is not one you hear very often. This was
not an actor like Ronald Reagan, delivering lines he may or may not have
understood. This was not George W. Bush, struggling over words and concepts.
It was a telling, cynical moment.
In a 2004
, Senator Elizabeth Warren (then a
professor) told Bill Moyers that when explaining a banking industry-backed
bankruptcy bill to First Lady Clinton in the late 1990s she found that "I never
had a smarter student." Warren went on to tell how Clinton flipped from
opponent to proponent of the bill, however, once she saw herself as representing
Wall Street in the Senate.
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health care story is similar. Back then, the for-profit health insurance
industry went all out to obfuscate the facts of the Clinton bill, most memorably
with a series of TV ads featuring a pair of actors named Harry and Louise. Yet
by the time Senator Clinton was running for reelection in 2006, yesterday's
enemies had become today's campaign contributors. The New York Times reported
her the second highest recipient of health care industry campaign contributions,
trailing only Republican Senator Rick Santorum. Washington health care lawyer
and lobbyist Frederick H. Graefe told the paper that "People in many industries,
including health care, are contributing to Senator Clinton today because they
fully expect she will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008."
Therefore he felt that "If the usual rules apply," early donors would "get a
seat at the table when health care and other issues are discussed."
of course, famously does not take such contributions -- and there we have the
root of the difference. So, much as Clinton might hope Sanders backers won't
fret too much about her supposed inevitability as the nominee because she'll at
least give us Bernie-Lite, it ain't necessarily so. As Sanders charged in an
earlier debate, there's always a price to be paid for becoming a darling of the
corporate world. And it's generally the people Clinton claims she'll shield
from tax increases who wind up actually paying it.
Those overwhelming numbers of Democrats who
support a Medicare For All approach obviously include many Clinton supporters.
One hopes they will not sit quietly by as their candidate carries corporate
America's dishonest baggage.