Edwards unveiled a new health plan that makes me suspect he is actually honest, because he talks about the need to increase taxes to pay for it. Although a good universal health care plan does not require raising any taxes – after all, Medicare and Medicaid together cost more than almost every single-payer health care system in the world – Edwards’ proposal suggests he’s actually serious about this. Better managerially incompetent than dishonest.
At the same time, note that the tax hike Edwards suggests is mild. He plans to raise $120 billion by “abolishing President Bush’s tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year and by having the government collect more back taxes.” Bush’s income tax cut amounted to 4.6%, from 39.6% to 35%; to raise $120 billion a year, the US government needs to raise taxes uniformly by 8.8% on anyone making over $88,000 a year.
In other words, what Edwards is actually saying is that he’ll make sure the IRS collects taxes better. That in itself doesn’t show much courage, but the way he framed it does.
The details of Edwards’ exact plan don’t matter that much. Universal health care is an issue every Democrat and many Republicans are trying to appear strong on. The plan that will end up being passed is going to be a compromise that will make Bismarck’s dictum about laws and sausages appear mild. The only details that matter are those a state legislature passes or even that a governor proposes for his state.
That said, I still think Obama is better, because he’s still better on the honesty thing.