An Open Letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren

An Open Letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Image Credit: MLK Breakfast via Wikimedia


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Chris O'Leary
Former Marine, Internet Marketing Expert
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Dear Senator Warren, 

If the Texas Democratic primary were held today, you would have my vote. 

I have watched with interest and growing admiration as you’ve worked your tail off on the campaign trail, talking to people, sharing your story, outlining your plans and showing the American people exactly what kind of detail should be communicated about what a candidate for the highest office in the land intends to do with the power we entrust them with.

I cannot recall being more impressed with a political candidate. Your candidacy gives me, and many like me, hope that the next eight years might be entrusted into hands competent to guide this country through the challenges of the next decade. 

For the first time, when you took the debate stage Tuesday as the front runner, I saw you struggle to communicate a point related to your ideas. I’m speaking of course, about what has become the standard attack on your Medicare for all plan. 

The question is how you mean to deliver Medicare for all without raising taxes on the middle class. The reason it’s being asked is so that your opponents can point to your refusal to say whether taxes will have to be raised on the middle class and then call your answer evasive. In all honesty, even those of us with ears can understand why some people think it sounds evasive. 

We do, however, hear what it is you’re trying to say, and I empathize with you since the full answer doesn’t fit neatly into a debate stage soundbite. They know that, of course, it’s the reason they’re attacking that point.

 To many, it sounds like an attempt to avoid revealing a hard truth. I come at this from a different perspective, and I’d like to share that perspective with you. I come at this from the perspective of a man who was firmly opposed to single-payer health care, but one who changed his own mind by doing the math.

 When I hear you saying “I have made clear what my principles are here, and that is costs will go up for the wealthy and for big corporations, and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down,” I hear exactly what the math told me.

The problem you run into is that you’ve done the math as well, and in order to do Medicare for all and keep it deficit-neutral, the money is going to have to come from somewhere. Although you intend to get Medicare for all done without burdening the middle class and low-income Americans with more taxes, who knows how the negotiations will play out when you start working on it in 2021?

 What would happen if you committed today that it would be done with no tax increase on the middle class, since that is your intention, and at the finish line, the only way to get it finally done was to add $10 per month to the Medicare deduction in everyone’s paycheck? We know exactly what would happen. The Republicans would start howling about “You get to keep your doctor!”

So let’s look a little more deeply at the story told by your response to these repeated questions. As one of the foremost experts in the United States on consumer bankruptcy, you know medical expenses are far and away the most common cause of consumer bankruptcy in this country. You know that the average American spent $10,345 on health care in 2016 and it’s only gone up since then. None of your Democratic opponents in this race disagree that something has to be done to ease that burden on the American people, especially those living under last year’s $61,372 median income line, as health care expenditures eat through more than 17% of their total income.

But! We are told, The United States can’t afford to pay for health care for all her citizens. The deficit would skyrocket! We would go broke in 10 years! Trillions of dollars! In one of the debates earlier this year, I even heard a Democratic candidate respond to the point that Canada is perfectly able to do it with something to the effect of “But they only have about 30 million to care for while we have hundreds of millions!” Yeah. No kidding. So do the math. 

Let’s start with basic math. What would it take to mirror what Canada is doing?

Canada spends about $242 billion per year on their universal health care system. That money ensures that all 36 million Canadian citizens are covered by health care. This means that the system costs Canada $6,604 per citizen per year.

How much does Canada spend on health care? | CIHI

So what would a similar system cost us?

First, since those figures came directly from the Canadian Government, we have to look at the exchange rate and see what that is in US Dollars. Right now, the exchange rate is .76, so that works out to $5,025 in US dollars.

There are currently 328.5 million US citizens, multiply that out and you arrive at the number. $1.65 trillion per year. Yes. See? I’m not pulling punches here. No one is asking for “free stuff” here, just a realistic examination of the costs. 

There it is. That number they keep trying and trying to terrify us with. It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? $1.65 T, trillion dollars. Boy, do they love to make it even scarier by naming the 10-year cost, not so subtly forgetting to make it clear that $17 trillion is what it would cost over 10 years, not per year. And of course implying that it’s $1.65 trillion more than we’re already spending, which of course it isn’t. And that last is the thing.
How much more would it cost us to provide Medicare for all than it would to do what we already do?

We’re already spending:

$672 billion on Medicare

$565 billion on Medicaid


$79 billion of the VA’s Budget is for Veteran’s Medical Care.

All three of these programs would be rolled into the new system which covers everyone.

SO. The first $1.3 trillion is already covered.

That leaves a little less than $351 billion

It’s clear that your intent is to show the large multinational corporations that since they no longer have to cover the portions of employee premiums many of them do, it makes sense to chip in a bit more to the pot to help get this done. And by raising taxes on big businesses and the wealthiest Americans, that extra could be covered without any extra burden on the middle class. 

But what if, imagine there was no other way to do it but to add a bit to everyone’s Medicare tax? How much would it take to generate? Another easy question to answer. There are right now about 142 million taxpayers in the US. If for some reason people don’t trust that you will find other sources of revenue to make up the difference and want to know how much would be needed, they can do the math as I did. 

Now. What would most people rather do? Pay an average of $10,345 per year, or have an average of $95 per paycheck withdrawn saving them an average of $7,875 per year, putting $656 per month back into their pockets, while understanding that is the most that would possibly be needed to keep the entire thing deficit-neutral, even if you, Senator Warren, can’t find at least some of that money elsewhere?

How would you like that in a nice debate stage nugget? 

“You know, it is my intention to advocate to get Medicare for all done without raising taxes on the middle class. But as you can see from all the plans I’ve laid out, I’m realistic about things, first of all, that the President of the United States is not a dictator. So if, while I’m fighting to get every American covered by this single-payer plan without raising taxes, the only way we can get it through Congress is to ask the average middle-class taxpayer to contribute, you can be absolutely sure that I will not sign that bill if that tax increase does not represent a significant reduction in that average American citizen’s health care costs!”

There’s my two cents, take ‘em or leave em. Once you get it done, come out to the Dallas area, and I’ll use some of my $656 to buy you a Michelob Ultra. You’ll forgive me if I choose a beer with a bit more bite.


Chris O’Leary

Richardson, Tx.

3rd Texas Congressional District

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  • comment-avatar

    Except, if you cut healthcare spending in half to 1.7 trillion a year, every healthcare system in this country will fold. Period. Only a person that struggles with math and basic economics would think that cutting healthcare spending by 50% wouldn’t create a crisis of untoward proportions in the healthcare system. How would you propose they handle a 50% revenue cut when most systems currently have a few percentage points in margin? Lay off half the workforce? Massive paycuts? Good luck finding a doctor or nurse or pharmacist or physical therapist or occupational therapist. Need an MRI? Good luck finding a machine. Systems won’t have the revenue to expand capacity to meet demand.

    You want single player, it is going to cost 3-5 trillion a year. Particularly if everything is paid for. It’s an insane idea as proposed.

    Free healthcare is free if the services are provided free of charge. Well, they aren’t and they won’t be.

    Please approach this topic from an intelligent and reasonable position in the future

    It frightens me how little people understand healthcare

    • comment-avatar

      JR, you’re not cutting what goes to the providers in half. You’re payign the health care providers just about the same.
      The only thing that changes is the profit motive of the middle man.

      • comment-avatar

        I’m sorry, but I don’t really get what you mean. Are you saying that insurance companies will make less money?

  • comment-avatar
    Cassandra October 24, 2019

    Love it!