Bernie Sanders made something very clear tonight at a Democratic townhall event in Iowa: He wants to raise taxes.
"We will raise taxes. Yes we will," Sanders said in response to a question about how Sanders would pay for the immense cost of his single-payer health care plan, which would make government the universal insurer for every American.
In the plan, Sanders calls for individuals to pay an "income-based premium." But this is basically just another way of describing a new tax that would hit most everyone, including middle-income earners.
Sanders admitted as much tonight, but also defended himself, saying that under his plan, the taxes would replace health insurance premiums.
"But let me be clear," Sanders said, "There's a little bit of disingenunity out there. We will raise taxes but we are also going to eliminate private health insurance premiums for individuals and for businesses."
Even still, this would require raising about $1.35 trillion in new revenue each year—the initial cost estimate for Obamacare was a little shy of $1 trillion over a decade—under the rosiest possible assumptions. Actually, scratch that; rosy assumptions is too kind. The Sanders plan simply assumes that we'll reduce health care spending in the U.S. by nearly a half a trillion dollars a year, without offering any details at all about how that will happen. In fact, the incredibly generous, cover-everything-at-no-cost plan it seems to sketch would almost certainly not achieve the sort of savings Sanders imagines. If anything, it would likely lead to massive increases in health care utilization and spending. It is a fantasy of easy, effortless savings that makes no attempt to reckon with the trade-offs it would inevitably require.
So yes, Bernie Sanders is admitting the obvious: As president, he'd push to raise taxes. Of course he would! But even in this admission, he's not telling the whole truth about what his health care plan would entail.