By Rick Newman
Sen. Elizabeth Warren insists she’s a capitalist who “sees the value of markets.” But an exclusive Yahoo Finance analysis of her policy proposals puts her on the more socialistic edge of the Democratic field, barely to the right of Bernie Sanders.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, by contrast, has resisted efforts to label him a capitalist. Yet he lands at the more capitalistic end of the Yahoo Finance analysis, along with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.
As the field of Democratic presidential contenders swells, the primary-election process is shaping up as a tug-of-war over what type of economy is best for the nation. Leftists want far more government intervention in health care, energy, transportation and other sectors, to address worsening income inequality. Centrists insist pragmatic, market-based policies can solve pressing problems. And some candidates claim to be one thing while backing policies suggesting they are something else.
To clear the smoke and identify who stands for what, Yahoo Finance analyzed four key economic policies of 15 leading candidates (including Joe Biden, reportedly set to announce soon), and placed each of them on a spectrum ranging from more socialistic to more capitalistic. We used a 3-point scale to rank the candidates’ policies on health care, taxes, trade and climate change, then tallied the scores to reveal an overall economic orientation for each. (Please check out our complete methodology.)
There are several useful takeaways for voters. It’s no accident that the two declared candidates with gubernatorial experience—Hickenlooper and Inslee—are at the capitalistic end of the field, since governors have to work with businesses to develop pragmatic tax and regulatory policies that generate jobs. Joining them at the capitalist frontier is Delaney, who made millions starting and running two successful businesses, and only ran for office after that.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, not surprisingly, is the most socialistic candidate among Democrats, with a well-developed plan to sharply raise taxes, nationalize health care, cover college costs for many families and roll out other generous government benefits. Sanders has also signed on to the Green New Deal, which would border on a government takeover of the energy sector and force radical change in transportation, as well.
How big of a role for government
At least 7 of these candidates—Sanders and Warren, along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, plus Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang—support Medicare for all, which would essentially nationalize the health care industry and eliminate the private insurance that now covers nearly 180 million Americans. That might lower the total cost of health care, while covering more people, but it would also be massively disruptive and require sharp tax hikes. There are other ideas for working toward universal coverage with a broader government role, while keeping the private health care system mostly intact.
On taxes, we considered plans to redistribute wealth through taxation—such as Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax—as more socialistic. Politicians don’t often tout tax hike plans, but they do sometimes favor sweeping new programs—such as Sanders’ free-college plan—that necessitate higher taxes. We also rated those more socialistic. Tax hikes aren’t inherently bad, but economists generally say growth is strongest with the lowest possible level of taxation needed to meet public needs. And there are other ways to raise up those left behind, such as Delaney’s plan to incentivize investment in underperforming parts of the country.