Analysis

Biden Is Not a Centrist

His plans are more left-wing than Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s.

Joe Biden
American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27, 2013 (USN/Karolina A. Oseguera)

Media reports commonly describe American presidential candidate Joe Biden as a “centrist”. He’s not.

Michael Bloomberg is a centrist. Biden may be moderate compared to his Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders. But compared to the more likely alternative, Donald Trump, Biden is decidedly center-left.

This is not just semantics. If a centrist wins the Democratic nomination, some of Sanders’ supporters may be reluctant to vote for him. A center-left candidate, which Biden is, deserves their support.

Health care

The biggest difference between Biden and Sanders is on health care. The second wants to ban private health insurance and enroll all Americans into a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.

Biden’s plan doesn’t go that far, but, if enacted, it would still be the most progressive reform in American health care since Medicaid and Medicare were created.

Biden would introduce a public insurance plan, which could be a stepping stone to Medicare-for-all if it proves more attractive than private insurance. The crucial difference is that Biden’s public option is voluntary.

In addition, he wants to:

  • Eliminate copays for primary care;
  • Raise the eligibility threshold for insurance subsidies under Obamacare;
  • Increase those subsidies, so that nobody buying private insurance under Obamacare would pay more than 8.5 percent of their income on premiums; and
  • Make benefits available to Americans who currently get health insurance through their employer.

Altogether the plan is projected to cost $75 billion per year, which is comparable to the cost of Obamacare itself.

If you believe the government should do more to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care, Biden’s plan should appeal to you.

Other policies

So should his other policies.

  • A $1.7 trillion climate plan that achieves 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
  • $75 billion per year to raise teachers’ salaries, expand access to pre-kindergarten and make the first two years of community college debt-free.
  • The most ambitious plan to fight the opioid epidemic of any candidate.
  • An assault weapons ban, universal background checks and ending the online sale of firearms and ammunitions.
  • A national $15 minimum wage.
  • $340 billion in annual tax increases, more than double what Hillary Clinton ran on in 2016.

The only reason any of this gets described as “centrist” is that Sanders is even further to the left.

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