Elizabeth Warren recently came out declaring a Medicare for all plan that she claims will cost $20.5 trillion in New spending and would be no tax increases to middle income individuals.

Josh Jamerson, WSJ: "Is there a salary or income that you would define as middle class when you say 'No middle class taxes?'"

Warren: "Sure, for Medicare for All, it's a billion dollars ... no increases in taxes for anyone except billionaires, period."

However the total combined wealth of all billionaires in the U.S. is only $3 trillion, and Warren is also advocating a 50% capital gains tax rate (some of that increase is indirect), and increases to financial transaction taxation and payroll taxes. These taxes would impact a large swath of Americans, but most prominently the HENRY--High Earnings Not Rich Yet crowd.

Are there statistics somewhere on the percentage of Warren supporters who believed that the middle class will literally pay no new taxes to get Medicare for all?

This question is intentionally modeled off of this one.

  • 2
    I’m not sure why you’re focused on random statements on twitter and not the actual full funding plan. The wealth tax is a part, but the majority of funding will come from redirecting 98% of current employer health care spending from private companies to the government. There are certainly concerns with that, but the lack of billionaires’ wealth isn’t one of them since it’s not the main component of the plan’s funding
    – divibisan
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 18:04
  • How do you define "Warren's supporters" and what mechanism do you think would assess their beliefs? Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 16:04
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    @divibisan I think the point of the question is to very deliberately explore the disparity between the plan, which did not exist until last week, and the impression given by the candidate before last week, which is that new taxes on billionaires will pay for it all.
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 16:24
  • @jeffronicus Considering this is a question about polling, self-identification is fine.
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 17:04
  • Ok I’m retracting the vote based on the question about Mexico paying for the wall being ok. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 23:46

2 Answers 2


This question relies on an incomplete understanding of the proposed funding mechanisms for Medicare For All as detailed here, either on her Official Proposal or the New York Times' breakdown: Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ Math.

  • Most of the increase in federal funding is intended to come from redirecting existing spending by Employers and state and local governments to a new Federal program
  • Wealth taxes on billionaires are intended to provide only a small amount of the proposed funding increases.
  • Other taxes (like increased capital gains and a financial transactions tax) will affect people with lower incomes, but are still primarily targeted at “the 1%” (literally in the case of the capital gains tax).

As the question states, getting $20.5 T over 10 years from Billionaires alone is likely impossible. But that's not what has been proposed. Thus, this answer serves as a kind of frame challenge to that premise, as presented in this question and other critiques of Medicare for all.

How much does Medicare for all cost?

Warren’s proposal is based on Sanders’ Medicare For All proposal which has been assessed by The Urban Center to require $34 trillion in additional Federal spending over 10 years. Her plan makes more aggressive assumptions about the ability to reduce health care costs, and estimates a cost of $26.6 trillion over 10 years.

Out of that, $6.1 trillion will come from state and local governments, as they will no longer have to pay for Medicare. This would result in a total of $20.5 trillion in new federal spending over 10 years.

Where will the money come from?

Where will that $20.5 T come from? According to the released plan, the lion’s share of the new funding comes from redirecting employer health care spending from private companies to the government. The rest would come from increased taxes on corporations, capital gains, and financial transactions; increased IRS enforcement against tax cheats; and taxes on increased take-home pay from the elimination of employee health care premiums.

Despite the outsized attention it has received, the increased wealth tax on billionaires, which is what the above tweet is referring to, is not a major funding source. It is estimated to provide only $1T over 10 years, which is not an unreasonable amount to collect (compared to $20T).

What has Warren said about who would pay?

Here's Senator Warren's official statement on who will pay for Medicare for All:

I asked top experts – Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics; Betsey Stevenson, the former Chief Economist for the Obama Labor Department; and Simon Johnson – to examine options for how we can make up that $11 trillion difference. They conclude that it can be done largely with new taxes on financial firms, giant corporations, and the top 1% – and making sure the rich stop evading the taxes we already have.

That’s right: We don’t need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All.

So the line, as it has been fairly consistently, is no new taxes on the middle class.

This plan keeps to that, with new taxes falling only on the rich. It is inaccurate, though, to say that only Billionaires will have new taxes, and certainly wrong to say that only the rich will pay:

  • Will only billionaires pay for Medicare for All?
    • No, most of the money will come from the places where health care spending currently comes from, which includes employers, and existing taxes.
    • If the funding works as intended, workers not in the top 1% of incomes will pay less for heath care than they do now, but it will not be "free".
  • Will only billionaires pay new taxes?

Can we say if people think that only billionaires will have to pay?

It is currently much too early to know whether people trust this plan. Since it has only been out for a few days (it was released on November 1st), most people probably don't know anything about it yet. In contrast, Trump had been talking about Mexico paying for “the wall” for 3 years by the time the other question had been asked.

But a more accurate question (and the one that polls will likely focus on when they become available) would focus on the lack of new middle-class taxes, since that seems to be the main point that Warren is emphasizing with this plan.

  • 20
    @Sjoerd Yeah, it’s a frame challenge answer: the question takes as a premise that it’s impossible for M4A to be paid by billionaires because of X. This answer points out that that premise is incorrect.
    – divibisan
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 21:03
  • 6
    That is not a premise. The question "what percentage believes it can be paid?" is totally independent of whether it can or cannot be paid. Therefore, your supposed "frame challenge" doesn't challenge a premise.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 21:06
  • 8
    @Sjoerd The majority of the question is devoted to arguing that it cannot be paid. Either remove that part and just ask for polling info (in which case this answer wouldn’t apply) and/or vote to close as speculation since there has obviously been no polling on this yet
    – divibisan
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 21:10
  • 4
    One paragraph is not a majority - the quote itself takes more space on my screen. To me, it looks like a short explanation why the poster is interested in the answer. And I believe we routinely allow this kind of questions about current affairs, see e.g. "Why is Trump moving to Florida?" politics.stackexchange.com/q/47328/8912
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 21:14
  • And everything after How much does M4A cost needs attribution. I realize this is a new question, sometimes it's best to wait for new information to answer.
    – user9790
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 22:19

I wrote this as a comment, but since it was deleted... there will probably be no such poll (on billionaires alone funding Warren's proposal) because the Warren campaign corrected the claim quoted in the OP's question soon thereafter:

Asked about Ms. Warren’s comments, a spokeswoman for her campaign acknowledged that taxes would increase on the top 1 percent, and said Ms. Warren had been referring to her wealth tax proposal when she said taxes would increase only on billionaires.

By the way, the academics studying inequality in the US point out that here's a huge rift between the billionaires (or even just the 0.01%, whose wealth exceeds $100 million) and even the rest of the 1%.

First, there are those at the bottom of the 1 percent. Those are folks who are worth single-digit millions, around $7 million or so as of the latest Fed survey. The people between the top 1 to 0.5 percent have seen their share of national wealth remain flat for the past 20 years. [...]

The big winners are those in the top 0.01 percent. These folks, who have a net worth of more than $100 million, have seen their share of wealth more than double since 1995, from around 5 percent to just under 12 percent. Over the past half century, they have nearly quadrupled their share of wealth.

In other words, the 0.01 percent is leaving the 1 percent in the dust.

However, what the Warren campaign has been saying (and have not retracted/corrected) since Nov 1, as a tagline for their health plan is

Democrat Warren: Medicare for All would not raise U.S. middle-class taxes 'one penny'

I could not find however an actual poll of her supporters on this, perhaps because the slogan/proposal is rather recent.

For now, Warren's plan has been criticized as unrealistic or at least undesirable by her main rivals in the Democratic primary though: Biden, Sanders and Buttgieg all took issue with it. Biden probably came out in the strongest terms against, saying Warren "is making it up" in terms of cost estimates. So believing her plan might ultimately become synonymous with supporting her candidacy, over that of the other Democratic contenders.

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