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Biden wants to expand Obamacare, Trump wants to replace it
01:51 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Lanhee J. Chen is the David and Diane Steffy Fellow in American Public Policy Studies at the Hoover Institution and Director of Domestic Policy Studies in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University. He served as policy director to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and senior adviser to Marco Rubio’s campaign in 2016. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinions at CNN.

CNN  — 

Joe Biden’s campaign policy agenda will add $5.4 trillion in new federal spending over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan research-based initiative at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Biden has many aggressive plans, which include remaking the US health care system, expanding housing subsidies, and making public colleges and universities tuition-free for families making less than $125,000 a year. In fact, one economist concluded that Biden’s policy platform added up to “the largest proposed spending increase by a presidential nominee since George McGovern,” the Democrat who in 1972 proposed a universal basic income for all Americans.

Lanhee J. Chen

And yet, despite these historically expensive ideas, few are paying attention to Biden’s policies. They should.

The reality of Biden’s policy proposals stands in sharp contrast to a campaign that has positioned him as a centrist Democrat. His platform reflects the triumph of the progressive left and would mark a substantial increase in the size and scope of the federal government. If Biden is elected and signs into law even a fraction of what he’s proposed, he would govern as an unabashed progressive and would be one of the most liberal presidents in American history.

At a macro level, Biden’s proposals would significantly worsen America’s fiscal condition. Indeed, fiscal responsibility hasn’t been in vogue in Washington for some time, and things have only gotten worse during President Donald Trump’s time in office. This year’s budget deficit is expected to surpass $3 trillion, more than three times the $984 billion deficit the federal government ran in 2019, and about five times the $587 billion in 2016. A significant amount of this increase can be traced to the Covid-19 relief packages that earned bipartisan support this year and will increase deficits by around $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Recent government estimates conclude that the debt held by the public will exceed $33 trillion by 2030, or around 108% of our nation’s gross domestic product.

The specifics of Biden’s proposals demonstrate just how far to the left he is. Indeed, some of his ideas were taken directly from far-left progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In health care, Biden’s public option, which would create a public plan to compete with private insurers, would displace many employer-sponsored arrangements.

According to my own research, a feasible public option could cost up to $700 billion over the first 10 years. Notwithstanding the argument that the public option is more incremental than Medicare for All, I find that, over the next 30 years, it would become the third-most costly entitlement program – only surpassed by Medicare and Social Security.

Biden has also proposed lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60, increasing subsidies furnished through the Affordable Care Act, and expanding long-term care benefits – plans that researchers at the Penn Wharton Budget Model estimate would cost an additional $352 billion over the next ten years.

Biden is also proposing the expansion of Washington’s role in Americans’ lives, along with massive increases in spending in areas like education, infrastructure and housing, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model. His education plan, which will cost almost $2 trillion over 10 years will include creating a universal and free pre-K system for all 3- and 4-year-olds, increasing federal funding for K-12 schools (particularly those serving lower-income students), and providing two years of debt-free community college to everyone, or tuition-free public college to low- and middle-income families.

He has proposed infrastructure spending with an estimated cost of $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years that would go towards high-speed rail, public transit, “green” energy, and water projects.

Biden also has a housing plan, estimated to cost $650 billion, that expands the low-income housing tax credit, expands the availability of Section 8 rental housing assistance vouchers to low-income Americans, and creates a new Affordable Housing Fund to incentivize the construction of new affordable housing stock.

It’s not only Biden’s spending plans that are progressive. He’s proposed tax increases estimated to raise $3.4 trillion over 10 years, including hikes in corporate, income, payroll, and capital gains taxes, the bulk of which affect high-income households. But the Penn Wharton researchers conclude that his tax increases will hit families at all income levels, raising the effective tax rate for taxpayers in the middle quintile by 0.4%, while top 0.1% of earners (those making over $3.3 million a year) will see an increase of 12.4% in 2021.

A similar analysis from the Tax Policy Center estimated that the Biden tax plan would raise revenues by $4 trillion and lower after-tax incomes across-the-board, with each household in the lowest income quintile paying on average $30 more in 2021, while each household in the top 1% would see increases on average of about $300,000. Indeed, Biden’s tax plan, if enacted, would represent the fifth largest tax increase (as a percentage of GDP) since the 1940s, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group.

It’s fair to argue that Biden’s plans aren’t as progressive as those proposed by some of his competitors for the Democratic nomination (Warren backed $30 trillion in tax hikes), or by some progressives in Congress. But the size and scope of his proposals dwarf those of recent Democratic nominees for president. His budget is one of the most progressive in recent campaign history and more than double the one proposed by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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    It’s easy to ignore policy discussions during a presidential campaign, particularly when so much mudslinging is going on. But a closer look at Joe Biden’s platform reveals some important indicators of the progressive policies he will pursue, if elected. Those who think they’ll get a moderate in the White House should think again.