So much for triangulating. After Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential run, Joe Biden waited barely 24 hours before racing to bolster his progressive bona fides. Biden said on Thursday he plans to make 60-year-olds eligible for Medicare, while erasing undergraduate student debt for middle-class borrowers.
For months, Biden has opposed Medicare for All, saying a better path would be to "build on" Obamacare with a "public option." If he really believed this, he wouldn't deprive his public option of 20 million potential customers. That's roughly the number of Americans ages 60 to 64 whom Biden now wants to let hop on Medicare.
Already Medicare is scheduled to be insolvent by 2026. Plans to shore it up for seniors generally go in the opposite direction, slowly raising the retirement age to, say, 67. Sixty-five isn't what it used to be. In 1970, life expectancy in the United States was 70.8. Now it's about eight years longer.
By lowering the age of eligibility instead, Biden would begin shifting Medicare's focus from seniors to everybody else. Don't worry about the funding, he insists, since the extra costs would be "financed out of general revenues."
Biden's new left turn on student loans is equally sharp. His old agenda had three big line items. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he would cancel $10,000 for each debtor. Up to $50,000 more could be forgiven over five years for people "working in schools, government, and other non-profit settings."
Income-based repayment plans would get more generous: Instead of taking 10 percent of the borrower's discretionary earnings, it would be 5 percent, with the balance written off after 20 years.
Biden recently added another bullet: Cancel all federal undergraduate tuition debt for many borrowers who went to public schools, including four-year universities. This forgiveness would be given to anyone who earns $125,000 a year or less. It is not quite Sanders' plan to zero out every last penny of student debt, but it is a huge move in that direction. How much would it cost? There's no explanation.
Biden is trying to make his candidacy alluring to fans of Sanders, the socialist who called for a "political revolution." The trouble for Biden in November will be selling suburbanites on his new proposal for Medicare for All on the installment plan.
Today's editorial is from The Wall Street Journal. The views expressed are not necessarily those of this newspaper.