Let's hear it for the all-but-official Democratic nominee for president — Hillary Sanders.
With Bernie Sanders's decision yesterday to formally endorse Hillary, the last potential threat to her nomination has been eliminated. In any normal election year, a candidate in that position, especially one running against an opponent as divisive and unqualified as Donald Trump, would begin to pivot to the political center. Instead, Hillary continues to move further and further left. Having apparently decided she can't run as herself — the slogan "Hey, at least I wasn't indicted" is less than inspirational — she is doing her best to morph into the Democratic candidate that some people actually liked.
Last weekend, for instance, she moved closer to adopting Bernie's health-care plan. She hasn't gone all the way — Berniecare's $38 trillion price tag is still a bit high for her — but she will push for a so-called "public option" for Obamacare. This would essentially establish a government-run single-payer system to compete with private insurance in every state. Because the government system is subsidized by taxpayers, it can artificially hold down prices until it drives private insurance out of business. Hillary is also calling for reducing the age for Medicare eligibility to 55. So far she has been too busy playing Santa Claus to put a price tag on this proposal. But it's hard to imagine that adding more people to Medicare will help that program's expected $55.6 trillion shortfall. What these proposals do mean in the aggregate, however, is the slow, painful death of private health insurance in this country.
Just a few days earlier, Hillary had bought into another of Bernie's truly bad ideas: free college tuition. Under her plan, public colleges would be free for all families earning less than $85,000 per year as of now, an income threshold that would rise to $125,000 in 2021. That would eventually make roughly 83 percent of U.S. college students eligible for "free" college at a cost to taxpayers of some $450 billion over ten years. And just to sweeten the deal, she also plans to offer every student, regardless of family income, a three-month moratorium on student-loan payments.
This, despite the fact that nearly everyone agrees that such subsidies simply inflate the cost of a college education. Moreover, her plan would encourage students to spend more time studying subjects that are not going to help them find employment once they get out of college. This would move us further down the road toward the sort of institutions filled with perpetual students that we see in some European countries, which in turn would have serious consequences both for the students themselves and for the economy at large.
And, while Clinton herself hasn't announced it yet, her delegates joined with Sanders's to insert support for a $15 per hour minimum wage into the party platform. This would be on top of all the other regulations and mandates she wants to impose on business, ranging from paid family leave to more stringent overtime rules and scheduling restrictions. Even economists who support an increase in the minimum wage, like Alan Krueger, understand that $15 an hour would be a job-killer. In fact, there's a particular irony about Hillary's embracing a $15 an hour wage at this time, given the concerns about the problems faced by young black men. Black teen unemployment exceeds 31 percent. Eliminating low-wage, entry-level jobs is unlikely to improve that.
Clinton has also largely embraced Sanders-like positions on issues ranging from expanding Social Security and increasing taxes on high-earners to further tightening gun control. The one area where Sanders appears not to have won outright is on trade, where the platform committee declined to formally condemn the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But even here, Clinton has largely abandoned her support for free trade, joining Sanders (and Trump) in wanting to sock American consumers with huge new taxes if they dare to buy foreign products.
Of course it is difficult to determine exactly what all this means for a candidate who has displayed an almost Trump-like lack of interest in principle or consistency. Tomorrow Clinton might have a completely different set of policies. But for now, she is running to the left of any Democratic candidate in modern history — including Barack Obama. And that is just one more problem for voters trying to choose between Clinton and Trump.