Oh, sure, here comes another right-wing misrepresentation of the progressive agenda. Dammit, when will these conservative media outlets quit overestimating the price tag on the brilliance of Democratic Socialism? The worst-case scenarios keep getting picked up by outlets like Hot Air, National Review, and Vox.
Wait, what? Vox? Yes, Vox:
Democratic socialism is having a moment. Sen. Bernie Sanders mobilized millions of voters during the 2016 campaign, nominally as a Democrat but with many self-professed socialists in his bandwagon. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will likely bring her own brand of socialism to Congress next year, having knocked off New York Rep. Joe Crowley in a primary.
However, the democratic socialist agenda will face resistance not only from other lawmakers but from basic math. Their promises, which include free college, a single-payer health care system, guaranteed jobs, and more, would require astonishingly high expenditures that would cause the federal deficit to skyrocket. Once the costs become clear, most mainstream politicians and voters will surely balk. Making big promises is one thing; paying for them is another.
Now wait just a minute, some astute readers will protest, that doesn’t sound like the Vox we know. And you’d be right — because to Vox’s credit, they offered some space to analyst Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute. Riedl also previously served as adviser to Senators Rob Portman and Marco Rubio, as well as Mitt Romney, and did a gig as staff director for the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth.
Riedl has extensive experience in estimating legislative proposals and their costs, which comes in handy even when analyzing pie-in-the-sky proposals. Using projections primarily from either liberal or libertarian-leaning resources, Riedl patiently totes up the costs from all of the above to get a final cost for the first decade of Democratic Socialism — $42.5 trillion in new spending. Riedl provides some context for those numbers:
To put this in perspective, Washington is currently projected to collect $44 trillion in revenues over the next decade. And the Republican tax cut, decried universally by Democrats as irresponsible (and by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as “Armageddon”) will cost less than $2 trillion over the decade.
The 30-year projected tab for these programs is even more staggering: new proposals costing $218 trillion, on top of an $84 trillion baseline deficit driven by Social Security, Medicare, and the resulting interest costs.
How dramatic of a change would that be to the American economic landscape? Catastrophic-level drama:
What would be the effects of such an unprecedented spending binge? Federal spending, which typically ranges between 18 and 22 percent of GDP, would immediately soar past 40 percent of GDP on its way to nearly 50 percent within three decades. Including state and local government spending would push the total cost of government to 60 percent of GDP by that point — exceeding the current spending level of every country in Europe.
These numbers are not partisan. They come from the Congressional Budget Office, top liberal think tanks, and the lawmakers themselves. They are the left’s own figures.
Be sure to follow the rest of the Riedl’s argument at Vox, which deals with the limitations of coming up with the cash. The US would have to seize almost all corporate and personal profits above $90,000 a year, an 87% VAT, or a number of equally horrible ideas. On top of that. those are static analysis figures, which assumes that no one’s behavior will change as a result of the dramatic changes in economic incentives.
To lightly paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. Under Democratic Socialism, we can replace “eventually” with “quickly,” plus add the fact that it would destroy the basis of producing more of our own money, our own resources, and our own control over our personal economies. Kudos to Vox for making that clear.