Journalists are now obsessed with Elizabeth Warren's flat-out refusal to answer their gotcha question about whether Medicare for All will require raising taxes on the middle class. "Warren dodges questions on middle-class tax hikes under 'Medicare for All,'" screamed a CNBC headline Tuesday night, with similar headlines gracing the sites of Politico and Fox News.
Warren undoubtedly drew more scrutiny at Tuesday’s Democratic debate than any of her rivals, as she fended off attacks from the moderate-lane candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg as well as the more entrepreneurial ones such as former Congressman Beto O'Rourke and Andrew Yang. By night's end, Warren had clocked more time than any other candidate with 22:47, with Biden taking a distant second with 16:39. But the media criticism about Warren not answering their pet question on middle-class taxes is completely irrelevant if a candidate’s health care policy reduces the overall costs for middle-class taxpayers. And that's exactly the pledge Warren made Tuesday night.
"I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families," Warren said from the debate stage in what amounts to a bona fide campaign promise on health care.
But the bottom line is that, regardless of Warren's answer on any single question, she has repeatedly made where she stands perfectly clear—she's on the side of struggling workers, both low-income and middle-class. In fact, Warren regularly offers among the clearest of responses on discussions concerning the economy, income inequality, solvency, and the power that major banks and corporations wield in America. Here are a few examples that demonstrate Warren's precision about both the issues and the way she would tackle them.
Warren defended her wealth tax, which came under fire from both O'Rourke and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "Taxing income is not going to get you where you need to be the way taxing wealth does,” Warren said. “The rich are not like you and me. The really, really billionaires are making their money off their accumulated wealth, and it just keeps growing. We need a wealth tax in order to make investments in the next generation," she added, arguing that simply changing the income tax structure would not do enough to address major inequities.
"My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax, it's why is it does everyone else on this stage think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans," Warren declared.
Warren wants a wealth tax on billionaires. She wants it to increase government revenues in order to pay for universal child care for children up to age 5, universal pre-K, higher wages for teachers and child care workers, and tuition-free college. These were all concepts she made perfectly clear.
Warren also illustrated the inherent harm giant companies like Amazon pose to small businesses and the overall economy. Noting that Amazon accounts for 49% of all online sales, Warren said the tech giant then collects information on all the small businesses people are buying from. "Then Amazon does something else—it runs the platforms, gets all the information, and then goes into competition with those little businesses," she explained. In other words, Amazon preys on the very small businesses that are using its platform to sell their products.
"We need to enforce our antitrust laws, break up these giant companies that are dominating, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Oil—all of them," Warren concluded.
The need to break up those companies is the very reason Warren also invoked her pledge not to take campaign donations from high-powered executives in major industries. "You can't go behind closed doors and take the money from these executives and then turn around and expect that these are the people who are actually finally going to enforce the [anti-trust] laws," Warren warned in an exchange with California Sen. Kamala Harris.
"If we're going to talk seriously about breaking up Big Tech, then we should ask if people are taking money from the Big Tech executives," said Warren. "If we're going to talk seriously about breaking up big drug companies, we should ask if people are financing their campaigns by taking money from Big Drug executives. If we're going to talk about Wall Street and having some serious regulation over Wall Street, we should ask if people are funding their campaigns by taking money from those executives."
Reporters remain fixated on a pet question that actually reveals very little about how Warren's policies would affect the bottom line of middle-class taxpayers. On Tuesday, Warren repeatedly offered crisp answers from the stage, clarifying both why certain issues matter to the American public and where exactly she comes down on those issues.