Left-leaning members of the media definitely don’t want anyone asking Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) whether her plan to provide Medicare benefits for all Americans (as well as her plan to forgive student loans, expand social welfare programs, and tackle climate change) might result in a middle class tax hike.
Following her middling debate performance, journalists who (apparently) prefer Warren were concerned that she was being distracted and, ultimately, derailed by questions probing whether her ambitious platform is in any way realistic. The questions are fair; Warren has promised a lot and there’s no guarantee a single tax hike on “Wall Street bankers” will provide the kind of revenue a “Medicare for All” plan would require in perpetuity.
CNN’s debate moderators wanted to know, quite simply, what would happen when Warren ran out of banker money. But that was clearly a bridge too far for Warren’s friends in the media.
Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post was, seemingly, the first to call out CNN over its obsession with how Warren plans to finance her platform, suggesting in her debate wrap up for the mainstream media publication that questions about a possible middle class tax hike were “doing President Trump’s work for him,” because “it’s legitimate to dig into the costs, but not in a way that creates a nice GOP campaign ad.”
It’s not technically the media’s job to keep a candidate from harming themselves, of course.
The questions, Sullivan adds, “miss the larger lens of overall costs.”
Warren’s bigger problem was, of course, that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is also proposing a “Medicare for All” plan, was right next to her on the debate stage, and openly admitted to the moderators that a middle class tax hike would likely be needed to pay for such an extreme expansion in social welfare. Sanders, however, claims that a slight hike in taxes would be preferable, overall, to having an expensive private health plan for most Americans.
Sullivan was hardly the last to claim that the legitimate query was a “gotcha” question for a Democrat.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who has, himself, questioned (rightly) how Republicans plan to pay for major programs, was also quick to call questions directed at Warren about possible middle class tax hikes unfair. He even went further, suggesting that journalists who ask such questions expose their own lack of credibility.
The "make Elizabeth warren say she would raise taxes on the middle class" question should be a credibility killer. For the journalists who keep asking it.
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) October 16, 2019
And then there’s the Huffington Post’s Lydia Polgreen, who has some helpful messaging advice for Warren.
“Will you raise middle class taxes” is a lazy, gotcha question based on untested premises. A fairer question would be to ask candidates to explain how they’d convince voters of the tax tradeoff’s benefits. https://t.co/BLqtVXpJZ9
— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) October 16, 2019
The linked story explains how Democrats must change the way they answer the “middle class tax hike” question. Rather than avoiding the idea that they’ll raise taxes, or lying about possible tax increases, on the theory that most Americans are opposed to paying more for government services through a system that takes their money by force, Democrats should embrace the idea of Americans paying more overall and argue the benefits of such a “just” system.
That might not be the wildly popular idea that progressives in the media think it is.