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The biggest ideas in the 2020 liberal arms race

This is a donkey and a lightbulb, a symbol of the 2020 Democratic presidential election race
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Besides attracting a record number of candidates, the 2020 Democratic presidential race could spark the most interesting Democratic political ideas battle in a generation.

The big picture: With no Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in the arena, a dozen or more hopefuls are already searching for ways to break through with a primary electorate that's increasingly looking left.

A sampling of the big ideas at play:

  • "Medicare for All": Sen. Bernie Sander of Vermont has a full-scale single-payer system would outlaw most private insurance benefits and cover everything, for everyone. It could cost about $32.6 trillion over 10 years — roughly what we're projected to spend under the status quo.
  • Reforming capitalism: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has an "Accountable Capitalism Act" that would require big corporations to act in interests of more than just their shareholders, while another bill would ban members of Congress from owning individual stocks, and severely crack down on lobbying by former lawmakers.
  • Taxing carbon: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing a progressive carbon price policy in his state, so anything he pursues on the 2020 campaign trail would likely be similar.
  • Redistributing more money: Sen. Kamala Harris of California has a plan that would give up to $6,000 a year for married couples (3K for singles) making less than 100K a year, The Atlantic reports.It could cost $200 billion a year.
  • "Baby bonds": Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is advancing a plan to give as much as $46K to people upon reaching adulthood, scaled by family income and paid by capital gains and estate tax increases. The money could be used for down payments, college tuition or retirement.
  • Guaranteed jobs: Booker, Harris, Sanders and Warren support various plans that provides a guaranteed job to anyone who wants one.
  • "Abolish ICE": Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said in July that she wants to abolish the agency and end Trump's child separation policy.

The bottom line: Many of these programs will cost serious cash and control of the Senate.

  • But if even some of these ideas make it to a Democratic primary debate stage, the politics of incrementalism will be pushed to the sidelines.

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