Bernie Sanders: The 18-trillion-dollar man

Most of the attention which Bernie Sanders received following the Democrats’ debate in Las Vegas centered on his dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s email scandals, but when you go through the entire replay there were plenty of good bits to be found in there. One of them was his fierce defense of socialism and declaration that “capitalism has failed,” as demonstrated by some people in the United States being quite wealthy. Bernie sang the praises of modern “democratic socialist” nations like Denmark and offered plenty of prescriptions for how America can learn from our socialist betters and bring on a new era of peace, love and flowers. He would be expanding healthcare programs, forgiving debts and giving away all sorts of goodies. But what would all of that cost?

Ed Morrissey is on vacation at the moment, but he left us a column at The Fiscal Times which adds up the bill. And boy howdy… it’s a big one.

What Sanders doesn’t want to explain is the costs involved in democratic Socialism. On Monday, Reuters columnist Daniel Indiviglio analyzed Sanders’ proposals and foresaw an $8 trillion deficit in its first decade. Expanding Medicare would cost $9.6 trillion alone, with another Obama-style infrastructure stimulus for supposedly shovel-ready jobs adding another trillion dollars. His tax hikes would only bring in $4 trillion, leaving a massive hole in the US budget. “If Sanders wants to realize his socialist dream, he’ll need much higher taxes to achieve it,” Indiviglio concludes.

The Wall Street Journal priced out Sanders’ agenda and found that it would require “at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade. That may be a low estimate. Last month, The Wall Street Journal priced out Sanders’ agenda and found that it would require “at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade,” an amount that surpasses the current total national debt of the United States. Nationalizing the US health industry into Medicare will cost $15 trillion, according to Laura Meckler, and Sanders’ expansion of Social Security will cost another $1.2 trillion.

As Ed goes on to note, even the big ticket items spelled out in those two reports don’t tell the full story. The “free college” programs being pushed by Barack Obama and endorsed by both Clinton and Sanders will run up another 3/4 trillion in bills. (I don’t think anyone has ever let them know that nothing is ever actually free.) Also not included is the hit to the economy from mandating extended family leave for workers by employers who will have to make up for the loss in productivity and replacement labor elsewhere.

And to pay for all of this Sanders is talking about a tax hike not seen in most of our lifetimes. Even if he managed to collect every bit of it from both wealthy Americans and those who are lucky enough to simply have a decent job, the total revenue increase over the same period might be as high as $6.5 trillion. The rest of that mountain of bills would accrue directly to the national debt. But hey… the Democrats have never worried about paying those bills off anyway, so why would the Socialist?

This is a pattern we’ve seen before and we know how the story ends. But Bernie is wrong to point to Denmark as his model. That’s a tiny nation with a lot of nationalized energy income. If he wants to see what America looks like after a decade or so of those sorts of policies the example he should be highlighting is Greece.