Hillary Clinton sharpened her long-running attack on Bernie Sanders for championing an agenda that includes tax increases on middle-class families to pay for all the new government programs he is proposing.
“There are serious questions about how we are going to pay for what we want our country to do,” she said. “I am the only candidate standing here tonight who has said I will not raise taxes on the middle class. I want to raise incomes, not taxes.”
Sanders was unrepentant. He said most of the programs he is proposing would be funded through new levies on the wealthy and the financial industry.
“This country and the middle class bailed out Wall Street,” he said. “Now it is Wall Street’s time to help the middle class.”
Both Sanders and Clinton accused each other of not documenting in detail how the funding plan would work. And both insisted that they have provided a full explanation.
But the tax clash was sharpest on the issue of healthcare. The Sanders proposal to provide Medicare-style healthcare to every American would be funded with new taxes, including on the middle class. Sanders said it was disingenuous of the Clinton campaign to suggest this was an onerous burden.
“I am disappointed that Secretary Clinton’s campaign has made this criticism,” he said. “It is a Republican criticism. Secretary Clinton does know a lot about healthcare, and she understands, I believe, that a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program will substantially lower the cost of healthcare for middle-class families.”
He said they would pay a slight increase in taxes, but save more than $5,000 in health insurance costs. “A little bit more in taxes, do away with private health insurance premiums,” he said. “It is a pretty good deal."
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, one of the moderators, pressed Sanders on the point, noting that he had vowed earlier in the campaign not to raise taxes on the middle class for anything other than funding a paid family leave program.
“It is not breaking my word,” Sanders said. “It is one thing to say I am raising taxes; it is another thing to say we are doing away with private health insurance premiums. … There are huge savings in what your family is paying.”