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Bernie Sanders participates in a Democratic town hall hosted by CNN on Jan. 25 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders did something politicians rarely do at CNN’s town hall forum for the Democratic presidential candidates on Monday night: He explicitly promised to raise taxes if he reaches the White House — and not just for the wealthy.
“We will raise taxes. Yes, we will,” Sanders said.
The soundbite made headlines and immediately had politicos predicting it could be fodder for negative ads. However, what Sanders actually said was more complex, and, in fact, he promised his plan would save Americans money.
Sanders made the comment when he was asked about his “Medicare for All” national single-payer health care program. Moderator Chris Cuomo then noted that critics of Sanders’ health plan point out he will raise taxes to fund expanded social programs. Sanders said he does plan to increase taxes but argued his health plan will save people more money than they spend on tax hikes.
“That is an unfair criticism for the following reason. If you are paying, now, $10,000 a year to a private health insurance company, and I say to you, hypothetically, ‘You’re going to pay $5,000 more in taxes — or actually less than that — but you’re not going to pay any more private health insurance,’” Sanders said. “Are you going to be complaining about the fact that I’ve saved you $5,000 in your total bills? So, it’s demagogic to say, ‘Oh, you’re paying more in taxes.’ Let’s all talk about — we are going to eliminate private health
insurance premiums and payments not only for individuals, but for businesses.”
“Just to be clear, you are going to raise taxes?” Cuomo asked.
“We will raise taxes. Yes, we will. But also, let us be clear, Chris, because there’s a little bit of disingenuity out there,” Sanders said, adding, “We may raise taxes, but we also are going to eliminate private health insurance premiums for individuals and for businesses.”
Calling for tax hikes is not new for Democratic candidates. President Obama campaigned on a tax increase for families making over $250,000 when he was first elected in 2008. Sanders’ top rival, Hillary Clinton, who is leading polls for the Democratic primary, has also called for raising taxes on the wealthy. However, Sanders’ bald admission he would increase taxes across the board rather than just for the rich sets him apart.