(This article first appeared on February 3, 2020)
Recent polls indicate that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is overtaking former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic frontrunner in the upcoming presidential election.
And Moe Vela, the former Director of Administration for Vice President Joe Biden and currently on the Board of Directors for TransparentBusiness, is critical of Sanders’ self-proclaimed socialist ideas.
“I feel relatively confident that socialism, or anything close to it, has no chance of beating Trump in 2020,” Vela told Yahoo Finance. “If Bernie Sanders is his opponent, [Donald Trump] will use the word socialism. And polling shows very clearly that centrist, moderate Democrat doesn’t like the word socialism. And in particular, Latino voters in Florida, for example, they see the word socialism, they run the other direction. Because many of them, either their families or they, themselves, have come from countries where they were victimized by socialism.”
Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have both proposed forms of Medicare for all as their solutions to the current health care system in the U.S. And according to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more Democrats support building upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — which is basically Biden’s plan — rather than replacing it with a type of Medicare for all.
‘The Oprah Winfrey of electoral politics’
A November 2019 Gallup poll found that 39% of Americans have a positive view of socialism, a 3% increase from 2010. So why is it popular among some Democrats?
“I call it the Oprah Winfrey of electoral politics,” Vela said. “And here’s what I mean by that. You get a car. You get a car. You get your college debt paid off. You get a house. You get this paid off. You get this free. Oh, that’s free.”
He continued: “And so what millennial in their right mind is going to hear that and not think that’s exciting? Oh my goodness, I don’t have to pay off my college loans. Oh wow, I’m guaranteed this and that. And the reality is, it’s very misleading, socialism. And the way Bernie Sanders presents it, in my opinion, is extremely misleading and deceitful.”
The Sanders campaign declined to comment.
Sanders has branded himself as a democratic socialist. In a speech at Georgetown University, he said: “We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. That is what I mean by democratic socialism.”
The positive views of socialism are “simply because I think people hear it and it sounds so good,” Vela said. “I like free things too. I go to sales at department stores all the time because I’m attracted to a sale. However, the reality in policy, in the United States and in governance, is somebody has to pay for that.”
‘Medicare for all things’
Sanders’ Medicare for all plan is projected to add $13.4 trillion to deficits over a decade and cost $30.6 trillion. An analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) estimated that it would also increase national health expenditures by 6% between 2021 to 2030.
As part of the pitch for his plan, Sanders has even called for the elimination of private insurance companies. Vela said this elimination of choice could backfire.
“The extreme left — this kind of socialist leaning, the Bernie Sanders kind of faction and some Elizabeth Warren folks as well — they don’t even want to talk about health care unless it’s the universal health care, Medicare for all things,” Vela said. “But the polls also demonstrate, there’s a majority of Democrats who don’t support Medicare for all in the form that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are proposing.”
The latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed majority support for Medicare for all, but even more said they liked having a public option (68%).
“What the polls are showing is that we don’t want that power of choice to be taken away from us,” Vela said. “If I want to keep my own, I should be able to keep my own. If I want to select from Obamacare, from the health care exchange, I should be able to do that. And if I can’t afford either of those or don’t have access to those systems and processes, then of course we should have a Medicare for all component as a catchall. And so that way, we get everybody covered.”
Other candidates like Biden and Pete Buttigieg have put forth health care proposals similar to what Vela suggested, particularly Buttigieg. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor unveiled his Medicare for All Who Want It plan last year, emphasizing his plan “gives people a choice.”
“To me, in a democracy like ours, to remove by choice of anything is horribly offensive,” Vela said. “We pay our taxes. We all work so hard and we’re trying so hard to survive and to thrive. And part of the beauty of a democracy is with that contribution that each of us makes in our taxation, should come the power of choice.”
He continued: “That’s what I see in the polls consistently is people are not comfortable with Sanders and Warren taking away your ability to choose. And we can still get to Medicare. We can still get that health care for all. And we will get there and we can get there. But it does not have to include taking away your power of choice.”
‘I’m sick and tired’
Vela is also critical of both Sanders’ and Warren’s proposals for a wealth tax on high net worth individuals.
“I have to tell you where I find this socialism and the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren approach offensive — the very divisive, elitist vilification of people who have lived the American dream and have succeeded,” Vela said.
Back in September 2019, Sanders tweeted: “Billionaires shouldn’t exist.” Under his Tax on Extreme Wealth plan, there would be a 1% tax on the top 0.1% of American households. The tax “would start with a 1% tax on net worth above $32 million for a married couple,” according to the release. “That means a married couple with $32.5 million would pay a wealth tax of just $5,000.”
Meanwhile, Warren’s Ultra-Millionaire tax would impose an annual tax of 2% on every dollar of net worth a household has above $50 million, with the rate increasing to 6% for every dollar of net worth over $1 billion.
“I come from a different approach,” Vela said. “You don’t have to punish somebody for succeeding to bring other people up. We don’t have to bring people down to bring people up. Let’s create an economy that applauds and celebrates success… My goodness, I’m sick and tired of hearing how bad somebody is because they succeeded. How did we get to that?”
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.