Democratic Candidates, Pressured by Party Base, Split on How Liberal to Be

Presidential aspirants test waters on health care, environmental policy; ‘bring on the tension’

Looming over the intraparty debate is the question of how best to beat Mr. Trump. Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, an ally of Mr. Biden and several governors considering entering the race, said “the only way that Trump can win is if the nominee is too far to the left.” Asked his definition of “too far left,” Mr. Markell said it is “the giving-everything-away-for-free lane.”

The contest already is being framed by ideas to the left of those that Hillary Clinton campaigned on in 2016. The biggest names of the party’s opposition to Mr. Trump—Ms. Warren, Ms. Harris, Mr. Sanders and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—all support a single-payer health care system, free college at public universities and the Green New Deal.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Klobuchar represent a continuation of the politics that elected Mr. Obama. Both have spoken of the need to either restore the former president’s policies dismantled by Mr. Trump or build upon them.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mr. O’Rourke are staking out space between the party’s two poles.

Ten of the 16 announced candidates have endorsed Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal, and six back his proposal for free public university tuition. Six co-sponsored legislation to provide federal paid family leave, and eight support the Green New Deal.

Some Democrats are endorsing multiple solutions without ruling out any. Several candidates who support Medicare for All also are calling for incremental health-care improvements. Ms. Warren also has called for a public option to buy into Medicare, and for simply improving the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Booker, who has said he would work with Republicans when possible, has proposed a “baby bond” program in which the government would create savings accounts which would provide $1,000 at birth, and up to $2,000 annually, to every child in the U.S.

.. Enough hard feelings remain from that fight that one of the biggest applause lines for Mr. Booker on a recent swing through the state was his pledge not to attack fellow Democrats.

.. “The Democratic platform already leans progressive. Our candidate doesn’t necessarily have to blow that horn,” said Marjie Foster, the Decatur County Democratic chairwoman. “We need to allow the American people to catch up with the progressive mind-set. If we try to push too hard, we will lose those who are slowly working their way left.”

.. “The litmus test is we need a candidate who can build a coalition to win,” said Mr. Scholten, who is considering a Senate bid in 2020. “If Klobuchar can do it with her message, that’s great. If Bernie can do it with his message, that’s great too. I think it could be someone from either side.”

Where in the world is it easiest to get rich? | Harald Eia | TEDxOslo

In which society is it easiest to get rich? Contrary to common belief, it is not countries like the US or the UK that create the highest number of rich people per capita, but Nordic social democracies like Norway and Sweden. Counter intuitive as it may sound, high taxes, generous welfare states and strong unions makes a better environment for the people who wants to earn huge amounts of money, than free markets, low taxes, and minimal government intervention.

Harald Eia is a trained sociologist who works in television with comedy and documentaries.

It’ll Be a While Before Anyone Underestimates Nancy Pelosi Again

Bret: Anyone who survives a half-dozen bankruptcies and goes on to win the presidency should never be written off.

Gail: Sigh. Good point.

Bret: Trump is a master of inventing new dramas to make us forget the old ones. And if unemployment and growth figures remain good a year from now, he’ll still have a powerful argument for a second term.

Bret: I’m not too worried. Capitalism survived the transition from horse-and-buggy to the Model T. It survived the transition from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy to a service-based one. And it survived the creative destruction of countless other forms of employment. Where, for instance, are the typesetters these days?

Gail: Well, they’re not creating hot new social media sites.

Bret: Now the question everyone is asking is what will happen to all those truck and cab and Uber drivers — a total of three million professional drivers — once driverless cars become ubiquitous. There’s no doubt the transition will be painful for some of them, and policymakers need to be sensitive on that point. But if history is any guide, things will work out. Many of those drivers will find work in industries that currently don’t exist. Just ask yourself, where was the mobile apps economy at the turn of the century? Where was the internet economy in 1990, or the personal computing industry in 1975?

Gail: I still don’t see the truck drivers working on mobile apps. And if you’re worried about the left’s solutions, I don’t see a whole lot of candidates running around talking about the state taking over the means of production.

Bret: Just wait an election cycle or two.

Gail: But if we’re moving to an economy in which trucks are automated, robots do all the warehouse work and some kind of artificial intelligence is taking orders at the restaurant, we’ll need a government that can create a whole lot of useful public service employment to make up the difference.

Bret: Heaven forfend.

Gail: And underwrite free college education for everybody who needs it.

Bret: No!

Gail: And assure lower-middle-class people decent housing.

Bret: My soul is dying.

Gail: All of which would have to be paid for by large taxes on the very rich.

Bret: Now it’s dead.

.. Bret: I’m all for universities figuring out ways to become more affordable for those who need and deserve it, but making college free for everybody makes it bad for everybody. We would wreck a university system that’s still the envy of the world.

.. Bret: As for affordable housing, I’d sooner trust the invisible hand of the market than the heavy hand of the state. Large taxes on the very rich won’t raise the kind of income you need, and sooner rather than later those taxes will land on the decidedly less rich. And A.O.C. should start mastering her facts rather than getting into Twitter wars with fact checkers.

Gail: Hehehe. Knew I’d get you with A.O.C. That’s what people love about her.

.. Bret: I was with you until you mentioned taxes. Purely theoretical question for you (and our readers) for our next conversation: If Congress would agree to cut the top marginal rate to 33 percent in exchange for a pledge by Trump not to run again, would you take it? I’m sure we’ll be hearing from readers on the comments page.

Mr. Cuomo’s Free* College Plan

It’s not as if free tuition for the middle class was a dream that has been burning in the governor’s heart since he was growing up in middle-class Queens. It was, as he said on Wednesday, a bolt of insight from watching the presidential race.

This was not the product of extensive hearings or long study; there was no sense that it emerged because public-policy or higher-education experts

.. let’s examine what is keeping young New Yorkers out of college, and figure out how to get them in and keep them there.

.. It is not for part-time students, a huge portion of the community-college population.

.. It’s not for poor families

.. even though the cost of room and board and books is what’s keeping many poor students out of college, the Excelsior Scholarship covers none of that.

.. Mr. Cuomo is now free to let others sort out the perplexing details while he moves on.

.. it seemed to him that Mr. Cuomo had “hastily reverse-engineered” the process to get the headline he wanted, which sounds about right.

The Cuomo College Fiasco

He could have spent more to help students become academically ready for college, which is the biggest barrier to graduation.

.. But in 2016 Bernie Sanders made a big splash on the campaign trail with a plan to make college “free.”

.. If he runs for president, this will be an outstanding talking point. Unfortunately, the law will hurt actual New Yorkers.

.. First, the law is regressive. It does nothing to help students from families earning less than $50,000 a year. Their tuition is already covered by other programs. But it does pay for tuition for New Yorkers who make double the state’s median income. The higher up the income scale you go, until the ceiling, the more you benefit.

.. Second, it doesn’t make a dent in reducing the nontuition fees, like living expenses, textbooks and travel, which for many students are far more onerous than tuition.

Third, it doesn’t cover students who don’t go to school full time and don’t complete in four years. In 2017 this is the vast, vast majority of all students, especially poorer students.

The continuing myth of free college

The primary problem is that tuition costs at public colleges are mostly controlled by the states and are a direct result of how much money lawmakers dedicate to higher education. Any free tuition plan requires states to pitch in, and we know how well that has worked with Obamacare.

.. Average public college tuition varies by more than 3 to 1 among the states, according to Carey, from less than $5,000 in Wyoming to more than $15,000 in New Hampshire. The range of public investment is even larger, from $2,591 per student in New Hampshire to $14,412 in Alaska.

.. In 1987, U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett suggested that increases in federal financial aid enabled colleges and universities to raise their prices.

.. As Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute has written, capping tuition at zero “limits college spending to whatever the public is willing to invest. But it does not change the cost of college.”

.. public institutions that have been limited by their state legislatures in raising tuition have turned to charging “fees” to students in an effort to raise money. Student fees that cover everything from athletics to technology are hidden tuition increases that won’t be covered by any free tuition plan.