Pricing the Bern: WSJ puts Sanders' proposals at $18 trillion over 10 years

It took the United States almost 240 years to hit a national debt of $18 trillion, although to be more accurate it took us about the last 40 of those years to run up most of it. Bernie Sanders would like to double down on it over the next ten years. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler estimates that the added costs of Sanders’ proposals over a decade would tally $18 trillion — so far:


Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.

In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.

His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.

To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.

Like much of what Sanders says, this doesn’t exactly add up. First, even if one accepts that $6.5 trillion in taxes can be realized, that leaves us about $11.5 trillion short. We’re already adding between $500 billion to $1 trillion a year to the national debt, thanks to Barack Obama’s demands for deficit spending on many of the same priorities as in Sanders’ proposals. Sanders wants to tack on an extra $1.15 trillion on top of that, even with the tax increases.


Those tax increase proposals, by the way, will certainly fall short. If Sanders can’t do this basic math, then it’s a cinch he’s using static tax analysis — the same kind that routinely plagues Democratic “revenue” proposals, and is currently plaguing ObamaCare. Those analyses presume that tax hikes bring no change in behavior and therefore far overestimate their potential revenue. (In the case of ObamaCare, Democrats made the same assumption about revenue from the tax on so-called “Cadillac plans,” while at the same time insisting that the tax would encourage lower usage of medical services.)

So on what will Sanders spend all this fantasy cash? The WSJ has this helpful chart:



Sanders wants to redo the 2009 Obama stimulus package, only spend more on it the second time around. Have we discovered more “shovel-ready jobs” in the six years since? But that’s only the third-most expensive item on Sanders’ wish list. He wants “Medicare for all,” expanding a program that already has massive gaps between its future commitments and its resources to the entire population. Social Security is already running on fumes, and Sanders wants to increase benefits.

These are the proposals of a person who has lost touch not just with math, but with reality. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get up on a stage and promise free stuff for everyone and have people love you for it. That’s the basic mechanism for pork-barrel spending, too. The problem comes when you finally run out of money to deliver on your promises, especially when those promises will upend the economy, chase investment away, and fundamentally transform the US into Greece. Even the promises are the same — earlier retirement! Bigger benefits! Free education! Soak the rich! 


Feeling the Bern yet? It’s Obamanomics on steroids. Sanders goes the full Socialist, and even Democrats know never to go the full Socialist — at least until now.

My friend John Hinderaker at Power Line spent time yesterday looking at Sanders’ speech to Liberty University, and came away thoroughly unimpressed at every turn:

it would be hard for anyone in this room today to make the case that the United States of America, our great country, a country which all of us love, it would be hard to make the case that we are a just society, or anything resembling a just society today.

In the United States of America today, there is massive injustice in terms of income and wealth inequality. Injustice is rampant.

Bullshit. Inequality does not equal injustice. In fact, a society without unequal incomes and wealth would scarcely be worth living in. One wonders: what society, contemporary or ancient, does Sanders consider more just than ours? Soviet Russia? Maoist China? Communist Cuba? He doesn’t say, of course.

In my view, there is no justice, when here, in Virginia and Vermont and all over this country, millions of people are working long hours for abysmally low wages of $7.25 an hour, of $8 an hour, of $9 an hour, working hard, but unable to bring in enough money to adequately feed their kids.

Bullshit. There is a market for labor, whether Sanders likes it or not. Someone who wants to earn more than $7.25 an hour should gain skills and experience that are worth more than $7.25 an hour. Actually, hardly anyone works for that low wage, and 64% of those who do are working part-time. Half are aged 16 to 24, doing precisely what I said–gaining skills and experience so that they can advance and make more. Sanders wants to make it illegal for teenagers and part-timers to work for the wages they can command, even though they want to do so. He thereby dooms them to unemployment. Thanks, Bernie!

In the last two years, 15 people saw $170 billion increase in their wealth, 45 million Americans live in poverty. That in my view is not justice. That is a rigged economy, designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everybody else.

Bullshit. What does Sanders want to do about the fact that the people who founded Facebook have made a lot of money? Prohibit innovation? Limit the number of people who can access popular web sites? Make it illegal to sell advertising if the owners of the web site are already rich? The only “remedy” he can come up with is higher taxes, but America already has the most progressive income tax regime of any developed country–more progressive than Sweden, Denmark, you name it. And yet Democrats like Sanders keep telling us how awful things are for most Americans. Maybe we should try lower taxes on the “rich,” since the world’s highest taxes evidently haven’t worked. By the way, when Democrats talk about rich people, they always use Mark Zuckerberg–a Democrat, no doubt–as an exemplar, but when I read the fine print, I always find that they mean me.


His speeches make as much sense as his economics, which is to say none at all.

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