Warren Adviser: Tax Plan 'Not Enough' To Cover Medicare For All

Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren / Getty Images
October 17, 2019

One of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D., Mass.) top economic advisers acknowledged Wednesday that the senator doesn't have a sufficient tax plan to pay for her proposed single-payer health care system.

"Her taxes as they currently exist are not enough yet to cover fully replacing health insurance," University of California, Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez, who helped develop Warren's "wealth tax" proposal, told Bloomberg News.

Warren's campaign claims to have proposed about $7.3 trillion in tax increases, enough to pay for an agenda it projects will cost about $6 trillion. However, with Medicare for All costing more than $3 trillion a year, experts across the spectrum told Bloomberg the math means she would have to raise middle-class tax rates as well.

"She is offering a Medicare for All plan and not offering even close to enough to pay for it," the Tax Foundation's Kyle Pomerleau told Bloomberg. "One place she hasn't gone yet is raising the existing individual income tax for top earners."

Warren drew criticism from fellow 2020 candidates at Tuesday's debate for being evasive about whether she would hike middle-class taxes to pay for Medicare for All. The program is projected to cost more than $30 trillion over the next decade, and according to Warren would ultimately eliminate private health insurance plans.

Warren has consistently said "costs" will go down for middle-class Americans when Medicare for All is enacted, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who boasts that he "wrote the damn bill," has admitted taxes will go up for that group. He said the savings the middle class will get from having government-provided health care will offset increased tax payments.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.), and former vice president Joe Biden hammered Warren at the debate over her slipperiness on the issue.

"At least Bernie's being honest here in saying how he's going to pay for this ... I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're going to send the invoice," Klobuchar said.

Saez, along with fellow Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, helped Warren develop her "wealth tax" proposal, which would levy a 2 percent tax on the the fortunes of Americans above $50 million. Those worth $1 billion or more would pay a 3 percent tax on every dollar above that amount.

Warren has claimed the tax, which would raise an estimated $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years, would help pay for such programs as universal child care, universal pre-kindergarten, free public college, and the cancellation of 95 percent of student loan debt. Saez and Zucman initially said the wealth tax would raise $2.75 trillion, but recently revised their estimate.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, told the Washington Free Beacon in July that Warren's wealth tax idea wasn't new but it was "terrible."

"The definition of insanity, they say, is to do the same thing over and over again but expect different results," she said. "The definition of arrogant is to observe country after country dropping their wealth tax because it failed to achieve its goal but believe that you can do better than they did."