Common Dreams - November 2019

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, the fourth-largest town in Indiana, is the shiny new object in the race to become the Democrats’ candidate for president in 2020. Coming from almost nowhere, he’s finished first in several recent Iowa polls.

Superficially, there’s a lot that’s appealing about Mayor Pete: He’s articulate, quick on his feet, can speak in full paragraphs—sometimes in Norwegian—and projects a sense of optimism. But when you scratch below the service, it’s hard to find Buttigieg’s core convictions, and and he now appears to have put himself up for sale to corporate interests.

Buttigieg’s Flip-Flop On Progressive Policies

As a virtual unknown, Buttigieg started his campaign backing progressive policies. In February, he called the Green New Deal “the right beginning.” He called for structural reforms, like adding Justices to the Supreme Court and abolishing the Electoral College. He said he was “all for” a single payer health care system and tweeted, “I, Pete Buttigieg, politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare, most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages, that I do favor Medicare for All.”

Buttigieg has flip-flopped on all of these policies. He has now become the most outspoken Democratic candidate in opposing Medicare for All. It would be one thing if his opposition were merely tactical. (While I support Medicare for All, there’s at least a principled argument that it’s not achievable right away and that a slower approach meant to move towards Medicare for All in the medium range is more politically practical.) But Buttigieg has started parroting Republican talking points opposing Medicare for All on principle because it takes away people’s “free choice” to choose private insurance.

Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Want It” is a slick campaign slogan, but bad policy as a long-term solution. Rep. Ro Khanna (D. CA.) said Buttigieg’s plan “won’t bring the administrative costs down of private insurers or maximize negotiation with Big Pharma and hospitals…This means higher premiums, higher drug costs, higher deductibles, and more denied claims for the middle class.” The New Republic's Libby Watson called Buttigieg’s health care plan “the worst yet,” saying it was “deeply stupid.”

The plan, wrote Watson, “betrays a terminal case of Democrat Brain; it is a faux-technocratic fantasia soaked in the utterly meaningless jargon of Access and Affordability that won’t even accomplish the things it pretends to want. It is an insult.” And Buttigieg has taken to attacking other Democrats for being too generous in their proposals to make higher education free.

Buttigieg and the Donor Class

Why has Buttigieg flipped from being a putative progressive to being perhaps the most conservative, pro-corporate Democrat remaining in the field? A good place to start would be to follow the money.

Buttigieg has become one of the biggest recipients of contributions from the health care, financial services, and big tech industries. Under the proposals advanced by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg’s big money donors are the ones who would have to pay higher taxes to support things like free college tuition and universal health care. In Buttigieg, they’ve found a candidate to speak up for their interests.

Buttigieg is the second-largest recipient of contributions from the health care industry, after only Donald Trump. Buttigieg donors include the chief corporate affairs officer at Pfizer, the president of Astex Pharmaceuticals, a state lobbyist for Biogen, a vice president of public policy at Novartis, and the deputy vice president at the nation’s largest pharmaceutical trade association, PhRMA, plus lawyer for AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. ...
Read full report at Common Dreams