Apr 28, 2019

A Democratic fiscal manifesto

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

What should a Democratic presidential candidate's economic policy look like? The field is now up to 20 candidates, with Joe Biden the latest big name to declare that he's running.

The state of play: While Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang have carved out a niche for themselves as the wonks of the race, most of the rest are light on detail, especially when it comes to fiscal policy.

Enter Joe Stiglitz, whose new book, "People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent," presents itself as "a platform that can serve as a consensus for a renewed Democratic Party." Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate who worked in the Clinton administration, has written a coherent manifesto that could quite easily be adopted by a majority of the Democratic candidates.

  • The book avoids labels. While a lot of its prescriptions can be seen as socialist, Stiglitz goes no further than to say that he's a "progressive capitalist." And while he says that the government should spend as much money as it takes to bring the economy to full employment, he nowhere deviates from economic orthodoxy. Nor does he even so much as mention modern monetary theory.
  • A much stronger antitrust regime is at the top of Stiglitz's agenda. He calls for breaking up Facebook and aggressively regulating all monopolists, however they arrived at their position. (That includes pharmaceutical companies with patented drugs.) He also wants to limit the degree to which companies can use and agglomerate data; even after it's broken up, he says, Facebook should probably be regulated as a public utility.
  • A guaranteed job for all who are willing to work is also on the list. Stiglitz opposes a universal basic income, saying it's too expensive and doesn't place sufficient value on employment. The jobs guarantee would not explicitly be a form of reparations, he says, but by its nature it would disproportionately benefit African-Americans.
  • Public options should be introduced in many areas of American life, says Stiglitz. Americans should have the option to sign on to Medicare — just like they should have the option to pay extra money into their Social Security accounts, rather than relying on Wall Street for their pensions. They should also have the option to obtain a mortgage directly from the government.
  • College should be paid for through an Australian-style graduate tax. Graduates earning more than $30,000 might pay 1% of their income toward repaying their student loans; those on seven-figure salaries might pay 4%. After 25 years, the loans are forgiven.

Why it matters: Stiglitz is a critic of what he sees as the incrementalist approach of Presidents Clinton and Obama. "Our polity has slid so far that we are now compelled to turn to fundamental issues in order to cure what ails us," he writes. "Minor tweaks of current arrangements won't get us to where we need to be." Whether or not his specific ideas are adopted, you can expect such maximalism to be a theme coming from most of the Democratic field.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,097,909 — Total deaths: 59,131 — Total recoveries: 226,106Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 277,828 — Total deaths: 7,406 — Total recoveries: 9,772Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primary elections by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Government will cover uninsured patients' coronavirus treatment

Azar at Friday's briefing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The federal government will cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House briefing Friday.

How it works: The money will come from a $100 billion pot set aside for the health care industry in the most recent stimulus bill. Providers will be paid the same rates they get for treating Medicare patients, and as a condition of those payments, they won't be allowed to bill patients for care that isn't covered.

More states issue stay-at-home orders as coronavirus crisis escalates

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic persists. The order goes into effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through April 30. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also issued a statewide social distancing order on Friday.

The big picture: In a matter of weeks, the number of states that issued orders nearly quadrupled, affecting almost 300 million Americans.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health