South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been the surprise candidate of the 2020 Democratic primary race so far. He has been at the bottom of the top tier of five frontrunners, registering just below Senator Kamala Harris in most polls and well ahead of the rest of the pack. One of the things that has kept him close to the top is his growing reputation as a moderate. He’s pushing a brand of “progressive-lite” policies that are to the left of former Vice President Joe Biden but to the right of Harris as well as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

His Medicare-for-All-Who-Want-It plan is supposed to be the hybrid that could bridge the gap between Biden’s Obamacare 2.0 plan and the full-blown single-payer Medicare-for-All that the progressive frontrunners are proposing. But now that he’s released the rural-focused component of his healthcare plan, any notions that he’s pushing a moderate solution can be tossed out the window.

This is a fiscal monstrosity. We must not have our expectations set by the far-left; Buttigieg’s plan still seems to be less expensive than the radical progressive alternative being floated by some. But that doesn’t mean we should grade on a scale, and compared to the current healthcare system under Obamacare, Buttigieg’s plan is dramatically more expensive.

The short list of details uses the word “expand” eleven times while admitting to “increase” components five times. It’s populism for leftists in that it attempts to address all of the problems faced by rural Americans with their healthcare in one fell swoop. But there are no incremental increases insinuated by the plan. This is a big idea, one that will cost taxpayers a ton of money up front and a ton of money to maintain.

There are clearly challenges with rural health systems. Lifestyle alone cannot be blamed for higher infant mortality rates and lower life expectancy when compared to people living in cities. Access to healthcare is challenging because of the extreme costs of providing it. There is little incentive to build and maintain proper hospitals in sparsely populated rural areas in which the patient base isn’t large enough to sustain full-blown hospitals.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of what he’s proposing makes a lot of sense, and if he detailed a plan with incremental changes it might even be tenable. But he leads with his standard abomination, the Medicare-for-All-Who-Want-It, which is arguably more fiscally dangerous than single-payer. Why? Because mixing the private market to compete with a public option, as he and Biden are suggesting, will hamper private profits to the point that many will pull out of the industry over time. At least with Medicare-for-All we know exactly when private health insurance is to be abolished, allowing proper preparations. With Buttigieg’s and Biden’s plan, the shifting marketplace will become a guessing game. Put too much into the public option and it’s wasted taxpayer dollars. Don’t put enough and it will get crushed under the weight of uncertainty.

But the biggest reason Buttigieg’s rural plan is so bad is because it’s worded as simultaneous major changes. That means big dollars from the outset. If President Trump can’t get Congress to give him $25 billion for the wall, how is Buttigieg supposed to get hundreds of billions, possibly trillions, to put hospitals, nurses, and doctors across farmland, USA?

The release of this plan should mark the end of any discussion that Buttigieg’s healthcare proposal is the moderate choice. It’s neither moderate nor attainable. It seems the Mayor is succumbing to his competitors’ tactic of over-promising “free” stuff.