Perhaps you’ve noticed: Democracy has forced you to make very tough decisions in campaign 2020. And all the usual news sources you once relied upon to make things clearer have let you down.
You’ve largely been left to forage on your own, from what started out as a couple dozen presidential wannabes promising you a world of grand goals. Among the grandest were the ones you cared about most — because they involved the future security of your health care coverage. And the actual cost you never really knew of Bernie Sanders’ sweeping democratic socialism reforms.
Now, after the stunning Super Tuesday results limited the Democratic options to just two — Sanders and Joe Biden — you mainly need to find a clear way of comparing what their two decidedly different reform programs will mean to America’s challenging needs and already soaring deficit. And especially you want to know whether Sanders’ costly “Medicare for All” plan or Biden’s way more modest public coverage option to the existing government plan will keep your family secure. Especially if President Donald Trump’s Republican-pushed court challenges succeed — and deep-six your present Obama health care that guarantees coverage of pre-existing conditions.
(Spoiler alert: Keep reading; after we recite your 21st century Info Age problems, you’ll actually discover some helpful news at last — in the form of investigative, in-depth punditry.)
At present, your all-news cable TV channels no longer give you in-depth news in those reported, scripted, carefully edited and packaged video pieces you once got on broadcast TV news. Now cable news mainly gives you a Washington version of the old “Hollywood Squares” — a news screen filled with squares, each containing a talking head. And that’s all they do — just talk. They mix facts and opinions, an unscripted, unedited, stream of punditry. Cable news networks may as well rename their news shows — welcome to the “Washington Squares!”
What a waste, this wasteland. On days when there are no huge breaking news events to cover, what cable news gives you is really like old-time radio news, with screens showing you people doing what they did on radio: Just talking. Cable TV doesn’t use its visual capability to give you the graphics that can soar or plummet as the numbers change. And we’ve especially missed the public service journalism we could be having if TV entered a new era of computerized graphics to report cost and care changes in competing health care proposals.
So I set out this week to provide you with the sort of in-depth or investigative journalism that, frankly, we always just called “journalism.” Then, on Thursday morning, I tuned to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and saw that a former Washington news colleagues had beaten me to the scoop. Yet again. (Decades ago, Steve Rattner was a New York Times Washington correspondent when I was Newsday’s Washington bureau chief. Then he left journalism for the world of New York finance, and was President Obama’s point man in rescuing the beleaguered U.S. auto industry. Now he’s back in the straddle again, writing Times op-ed pieces, opining on “Morning Joe.”) On Thursday he impressively filled our screens with visuals — charts of motionless bars and pies that clearly revealed the huge cost differences we need to know in candidates’ health care plans.
Sanders’ Medicare for All would virtually double the federal government’s current health care spending, which, over 10 years, amounts to 22.2% of America’s gross domestic product. Sanders’ plan would be 43.1% of the GDP. Elizabeth Warren’s, 34.8% of GDP. And Biden’s, just 24.3% of GDP — barely more than America now spends. Rattner’s sources were the Sanders’ campaign, Washington’s Progressive Policy Institute think tank and the Congressional Budget Office. (Several hours later, Warren ended her presidential campaign — the final casualty of the stunning Super Tuesday primaries that resuscitated Biden’s nearly moribund campaign and rocketed him into front-runner status.)
Sanders’ spending pie chart showed that the Vermont senator proposed domestic spending totaling a whopping $57 trillion — with his $30 trillion Medicare for All plan being half of his democratic socialism pie. The rest included Sanders’ Green New Deal, free college tuition and wiping out student loans. All impressive goals (see also: GOAL$).
But finally, the Sanders’ revenue pie chart shows that while he lists revenue for individual taxes, corporate taxes and other revenue, almost half of Sanders’ revenue pie — $27.2 trillion — is missing. If that is ever actually added to America’s deficit, it will produce a national debt “KA-CHING!” heard ’round the world.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.