3 economic ideas Democrats can run on

Rick Newman
Columnist

Democrats are enthused about the midterm elections in November. There’s maybe a 50-50 chance they could regain control of the House of Representatives, and an outside chance they could reclaim the Senate. But what are they running on? What do they stand for?

Dems will obviously run hard as a counterweight to the disruptive presidency of Donald Trump. But it’s better to run for something than against something. So at the recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, we asked Harvard Kennedy School professor Jason Furman, who was one of President Obama’s top economists, for some ideas. He offered three:

More immigration. “That’s actually the single most important economic issue we face,” Furman tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “Without immigrants, our workforce in this country would fall. The United States would become more like the Japanese economy, which is not a model that we should want to emulate. Immigrants don’t just support the workforce, they also enhance our productivity growth.” Many economists agree.

[More from the Milken conference: What the Trump tax cuts got wrong]

Furman would allow more legal immigrants into the country, both high-skilled and lower-skilled. He’d create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented migrants living in the United States. “If you want to throw in some border security with all of that, that’s fine too,” he says.

Infrastructure spending. “We don’t need a public works program when the unemployment rate is 4%,” Furman says. “But we still need infrastructure for the long run future of our economy.” And raising the federal gas tax would be a reasonable way to pay for it, he believes. President Trump and some Republicans also support more infrastructure spending, but Congress is stuck over how to pay for it, since the GOP is disinclined to raise the gas tax (or any tax).

More healthcare reform. “My favorite idea on health care is one that neither political party likes very much,” Furman says. “Something that we have in the law now called the Cadillac tax for high-cost health plans.” The so-called Cadillac tax was included in the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010. It would impose a 40% excise tax on expensive health insurance plans that cover lots of services. The idea is to reduce excessive health care costs by forcing more people into thriftier plans that only cover services likely to be useful. Economists generally like this approach, but patients don’t, and  Congress has delayed it until 2022. It may never go into effect.

Furman isn’t a fan of “Medicare for all,” Bernie Sanders’ plan to move everybody, eventually, into a government-run plan. “I get nervous, one, about the cost, and two, about the disruption,” Furman says. “A lot of people actually do like the health insurance they have now, and this would be very disruptive.” Sounds like a lesson learned from the rockier moments of the ACA rollout.

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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman

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