Pursed lips and clucked tongues signaled disapproval among the wise and responsible when, at a recent televised event, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” from Vermont, did not plausibly explain how he would pay for Medicare-for-all. The remarkable thing, however, is the quaint expectation that any political person should explain how he or she would align proposed expenditures and actual revenues. For decades, the implicit answer has always been the same: They won’t even pretend to align them.
Under a Republican president and, until four months ago, Republican control of both houses of Congress, the nation is about to run trillion-dollar budget deficits with the economy expanding and employment more than full: The unemployment rate is 3.8 percent and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 7.1 million jobs unfilled. As the birthrate declines, the population ages (approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day) and the country is told to be alarmed because too many would-be immigrants are trying to enter the country and its workforce.
Yet Sanders is supposed to hew to some archaic standards of fiscal probity? Why should an avowed socialist be held to standards of fiscal candor and prudence that have no discernible adherents in the avowedly conservative party?