Senator Kamala Harris is running for president, and she is already being cast as a serious contender for the nomination. Without knowing exactly how the Democratic primary is going to play out (I’m assuming: The Somme), I think this assessment is probably correct. And yet I’m slightly perplexed by the “key 2020 policy agenda” that her “campaign aides” gave to the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein. That policy agenda, per Stein, contains these six items:
Key @KamalaHarris 2020 policy agenda, per campaign aides:
— $2.8 trillion middle class tax cut ("LIFT Act")
— ~$76B in tax credits for low-income renters
— Bill to encourage states to reduce cash bail
— Elections security
— Reduce racial disparity in childbirth deaths
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) January 21, 2019
This list is not exhaustive. But as a “key” outline it’s fascinating nevertheless. There is no “Green New Deal” — indeed, climate change isn’t mentioned at all; there’s no “free college”; and immigration isn’t there even in passing. A good half of the items — cash bail reform, elections security, and childbirth deaths — are, at least within the context of our Leviathan federal government, political small-ball. And the other bits . . . well, they’re completely contradictory, to the point at which, were I a fan of hers, I’d start to wonder whether Harris were actually on my side. To sustain single payer (“M4A”), the federal government would need to substantially raise taxes on which we like to call the “middle-class,” but which, as a result of relentless GOP-led tax-cuts, becomes more and more the “upper-middle class” with every passing year. If Harris is serious about cutting taxes by 2.8 trillion dollars — the first item on her list — then she cannot also be serious about “M4A” (which, interestingly, is the last item). And if she is serious about “M4A,” then she can’t be serious about cutting taxes by $2.8 trillion — a failure that would represent its own political problem had she run and won promising voters a huge break.
Again: I have no idea how the Democratic primary will play out. Perhaps none of this will matter. But were I a serious progressive — a progressive who remembers that a president’s wish-list has to go through Congress before it goes into effect — I’d look at this agenda and assume that the centerpiece of a Kamala Harris presidency would be an enormous tax cut that, over the long run, would make it even harder for Democrats to get to single payer than it currently is. In the general election, the question for left-leaners will be simple: Do you want an imperfect Democrat, or four more years of Trump? In the primary, however, it will not. This is going to be fascinating to watch.