Tomorrow (Wednesday NZ time) is literally D-Day across 14 states in the US when voters go to the polls to select a Democrat candidate to take on Donald Trump in the November presidential elections.
It’s critical for all the leading Democrat contenders – Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Most will, or should, fall.
Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay major presidential candidate, who had risen to the top tier, was unable to build a broad coalition of voters, lost badly in South Carolina at the weekend, and bowed out today.
The South Carolina primary also triggered the withdrawal of billionaire hedge funder Tom Steyer. Biden, on the other hand, restored his credibility with a stunning win. He took 49% of the vote whereas Sanders could barely reach 20%. In effect he reset the Democrats’ race.
Sanders still leads the delegate count on the march towards the July national convention, but Biden is on his tale. Further succession in the southern, mid-west and western states may propel him to the front.
By convention, those who fail to make the 15% cut-off should drop away. Few expect Senator Warren to give up so quickly.
Ahead of Super Tuesday, Sanders has won 56 of the 3979 delegates, Biden 48, Buttigieg 26 and Warren eight. To carry the convention, a candidate requires at least 1991.
The race is turning nasty. Some question why the “independent” Vermont senator Sanders is seeking the Democrat nomination given he isn’t a paid-up member of the party and merely caucuses with them. He calls himself a socialist and shares this with Warren (who is paid-up and is a Massachusetts senator).
Sanders has vast support among the under-30s. He is backed, though, by a vigorous support team called the “Bernie Bros” who fight hard, sometimes literally.
Then, with his support firming, the number-crunchers are beginning to cost his campaign promises. So far, he has promised to provide free education and cancellation of student debt, universal child care, free health-care for all and shutting down the private medical insurance industry, ceasing fracking, a green “new deal” to oppose global warming, expanding social security and retirement benefits. Some of this would be met by raising tax.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates deficits under existing policies for the next decade will cost $US13.1 trillion. A think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute reckons the total is closer to $US53 trillion. According to the CBO, under existing laws, the federal government will spend $US60.7 trillion over a decade.
If Sanders’s programme costs around $US50 trillion over the same period, the size of government would expand by roughly 80% and if all expenditure was met by deficits,
Federal debt would rise from $US16.8 trillion in 2019 to $US66.8 trillion in 2030. Analysts believe the overall level of taxation would double if all spending was met out of tax increases.
The non-partisan Tax Policy Centre thinks Sanders’ proposed tax increases won’t pay for everything.
Sanders wants a wealth tax on those with a net worth of $US32 million or more. This would rise gradually from 1% up to 8& on net worth of more than $US10 billion. All heady stuff which ignores how the wealthy will engage the best lawyers in the land and structure assets to avoid the taxes.
Federal spending would approach 40% of GDP compared with today’s 20%.
With Sanders soaring, business is becoming perturbed. The Wall Street Journal says the rapid ascent of Sanders in the Democratic primaries, despite a weak showing in Saturday’s South Carolina vote, confronts American business with the once unthinkable: the most powerful policy maker in the world could soon be a strident, lifelong critic of capitalism and big business.
This is turning into a race among septuagenarians with Trump currently 70, Sanders 79, Biden 78. Youngsters – it seems – need not apply.