Four Questions the Media Needs to Ask Our Democratic Presidential Candidates… But Hasn’t.

The Media Needs to Do a Better Job of Challenging the Democratic Presidential Field.

The primary mission of a free press is to provide credible information to the American people concerning public affairs, information that will ultimately assist the public in determining who they will vote for. But with its recent focus on Russian collusion and the Trump impeachment inquiry, the mainstream media has been distracted from covering more pressing concerns of everyday Americans. There are several reasons for this. Leftward bias among media correspondents is certainly one of them. Pandering to political constituencies by both parties obligates the media to report on issues that are not a priority public concern. But a third and more substantial reason may be that many correspondents lack depth in public policy, particularly in civics and economics, that might provide them greater insight into what questions to ask of public officials. Now that we are one year away from the 2020 presidential election, here are some relevant questions the media should be asking the Democratic candidates for President, but have not. .

Question #1 to Senator Elizabeth Warren Concerning Medicare-for-All.

Senator Warren, you have proposed a Medicare-for-All plan that your own campaign estimates will cost $52 trillion over 10 years, including $20 trillion in new spending. You have explained that your plan will increase taxes in order to pay for this program, but you have ignored any proposal to pay for the $42 trillion in unfunded benefits Medicare has already promised to current and future seniors. How do you plan to pay for your proposed expansion of Medicare benefits on top of Medicare’s existing unfunded liabilities without taxing the middle-class?

Of course, the answer to this question is that America cannot afford Medicare’s existing $42 trillion in promised benefits any more than the $20 trillion in Warren’s newly proposed spending. Given Medicare’s existing liabilities, the mainstream media should be asking Warren whether she should fix the problems within the Veterans Administration healthcare system first before expanding Medicare. Instead of talking a good game, that would allow Warren to demonstrate competent executive leadership.

Question #2 to Senator Joe Biden Concerning a Public Healthcare Option.

Senator Biden, you have publicly committed to fixing Obamacare and to providing a government run public option for healthcare insurance. President Obama once voiced similar support for a public option saying it would be run under the same rules as any private sector health insurance company. First, are you committed to a public option that would be run under the same rules as private sector plans? If so, given that there are approximately 1,300 health insurance plans that currently operate in the U.S., why do you believe we now need 1,301? Alternatively, if your public option will not be run by the same rules as private sector plans, why should anyone believe such a plan would be established for any reason other than to undermine private health insurance markets?

Politicians who advocate a public option, or any health insurance plan run by the federal government, will tell us they can administer such a plan more cost efficiently than the private sector by removing the profit motive. However, removing the profit motive also undermines free-market competition that drives improvements in quality of care and cost-effective service delivery. Biden’s plan for a public option is nothing new, and the media should be pressing him for details on how his plan would be run differently from those currently in the private sector.

Question #3 to Mayor Pete Buttigieg Concerning the Constitutional Limits of Government.

Mayor Buttigieg, you have proposed a multitude of tax-and-spend social welfare programs to compete with your fellow Democratic presidential candidates. Some have even described your proposals as Elizabeth Warren “lite because they expand the role of the federal entitlement state. For example, your proposals include universal child-care, affordable housing, college subsidies, and workforce training. You have also invaded the purview of the employer-employee relationship by proposing a national $15 per/hour minimum wage and the abolition of right-to-work laws in 27 states. Do you believe in federalism as defined by the nation’s Founders? Likewise, where do you draw the line to limit the power and role of the federal government in the lives of Americans? What constitutional authority can you cite that would allow you as President to extend the role of the federal entitlement state?

Pete Buttigieg’s agenda defines him as the latest iteration of a tax and spend liberal who seeks to expand the federal government’s role beyond what the Constitution permits. Add to this the fact that he believes in a fundamental right to an abortion, one must question his understanding of the Constitution and the limits it places on government’s role in our lives. Former Senator Warren Rudman was once quoted as saying that “the American people have the constitutional right to be wrong.” So does Pete Buttigieg, but not by swearing an oath to defend the Constitution and then abandoning the limited role it establishes for the federal government.

Question #4 to Bernie Sanders Concerning Income Inequality.

Senator Sanders, you have decried income inequality and stated that wealthy Americans are not paying their fair share in taxes. You have also suggested that the middle-class in America is shrinking. Now you have proposed a wealth tax to reduce income inequality that would be applied to individuals representing the top 0.1% of wealthy Americans. Why do you obsess over income inequality and the personal wealth of the very rich when independent research shows the middle-class is doing quite well by moving up the economic ladder and not down?

As Senator Sanders correctly points out, the wealthy have been gaining in their aggregate share of wealth for some time now. However, it is a well-established economic fact that income inequality tends to grow, not shrink, during periods of strong economic growth. Would Sanders suggest we stop the economy from growing just because skilled individuals among the wealthy class know how to create new wealth? His proposed economic and tax policies would suggest yes.

Dr. Mark Perry of the University of Michigan has been monitoring the economic health of America’s middle-class relative to the wealthy for years and is not concerned. Perry notes, “Yes, the middle-class is disappearing as we hear all the time, but it’s because middle-income households in the US are gradually moving up to higher-income groups, and not down into lower-income groups.” The real challenge we face in American is replacing the middle-class individuals who have moved up the income ladder with those still stuck at the bottom. The Pew Charitable Trusts release a study in 2012 on income mobility that confirmed this fact. If Senator Sanders and his progressive counterparts in the Democratic Party want to solve a real problem, maybe investing in those in the lower income brackets so they can acquire the skills necessary to move up into the middle-class should be his focus. This would certainly be a better use of Sanders’ time rather than all the ballyhoo about the income inequality.

The Media Needs Improved Grounding in Civics and Economics to Competently Do Their Jobs.

The American media has failed to effectively challenge the Democrat’s economic policy proposals because they consistently demonstrate they lack a competent understanding of free-market economics. For example, many have been schooled in the virtues of progressive “middle-out” Keynesian economics that seeks to redistribute wealth from high income earners to the middle-class. But advocates of such redistribution falsely believe that government is smarter than the private sector when allocating financial resources in order to create broad-based prosperity. The perfect example of this is Barack Obama’s stimulus and redistribution programs that held our economy back from achieving anything close to 3.0 percent in annual growth rate during his presidency.

Likewise, media professionals rarely question the constitutionality of Democratic policy proposals, including the wealth tax as proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But a wealth tax by percentage of personal assets is flatly unconstitutional. According to the Constitution, a direct wealth tax must be allocated to the states according to population, not personal wealth. This means states with lower aggregate wealth per capita would have to pay a higher tax per capita than wealthier states with the same population base. Absent a constitutional amendment, the Warren/Sanders wealth tax would decidedly hurt poor Americans that Democrats claim they want to help.

Americans depend on a free press to provide them with insight into the credibility of political candidates and their policy proposals. However, they also deserve a more informed press that is prepared to challenge progressive Democrats whose policies originate from the alternate liberal reality instead of sound judgement.

Eric A. Beck
Free Nation Media LLC
Greenville, South Carolina


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