Sanders' supporters want universal health care, free tuition but aren't willing to pay for it

Vox has an interesting story today (credit where due) that cuts against the progressive grain a bit and which also reveals something important about the appeal of far left policy offerings like the ones being made by Bernie Sanders.


The site conducted a poll (with Morning Consult) to find out how much supporters of various candidates were willing to pay for the political revolution Sanders has been promising. Specifically, the poll asked about two different policy proposals: Universal health care and free college tuition. What the results revealed is that most GOP supporters aren’t willing to pay anything, in terms of additional taxes, to make these policy ideas happen. No surprise really since these are proposals GOP voters likely wouldn’t support.

But even among Clinton and Sanders supporters the amount of money people said they were willing to pay, in the form of additional taxes, was less than what the proposals would likely cost:

About 66 percent of Sanders supporters said they wouldn’t be willing to pay more than an additional $1,000 in taxes for universal health care. This includes the 8 percent of Sanders supporters who aren’t willing to pay anything at all…

But Sanders’s plan to pay for universal health care coverage would increase taxes on most voters by more than $1,000…

The kicker for all of this? Some analysts believe Sanders’s plan will cost twice as much as his campaign estimates.

Two points: First, I strongly suspect there is a reason Sanders’ supporters are not eager to shell out more than a little more than they are now paying. It’s because they’ve been told endlessly by Sanders, and others, that the problem is other people–corporations, the wealthy, billionaires–are not paying their fair share. So what Sanders’ supporters have been conditioned to expect is more government services that the greedy fat cats will pay for on their behalf.


Second point: Sanders’ supporters really don’t grasp that there is not an endless pool of free money floating around in the form of wealth that can be confiscated from evil corporations, billionaires, etc. If they did, if they understood that they themselves would bear a large share of the burden for these policy proposals almost immediately, Sanders would be a lot less popular. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be some folks making an argument that, long term, single-payer would be more efficient and cheaper. There are lots of people in Sanders’ camp who believe that.

But clearly not enough do or some of those that do have not done the math. Sanders’ poll numbers and the sheer enthusiasm for his campaign are bolstered by a lot of people who believe they’re going to get everything for next to nothing because, again, they’ve been told someone else will foot the bill.

Turning to the issue of “free” tuition for college, Vox found the same thing:

Sanders supporters are far and away the most likely to want free public college tuition. Still, 14 percent said they don’t want to pay additional taxes for it — and another half said they would only pay up to $1,000 a year…

That said, in a theoretical world where every Sanders policy comes true, they might not even have to pay a dime. The way Sanders proposes paying for free public college tuition is by levying a tax on Wall Street speculators.

Again, I think this makes my first point. Sanders is promising “free” tuition with no cost even in terms of additional taxes. But when asked if they would foot the bill themselves, 14% of his supporters say they would pay nothing while 29% would pay up to $500. That’s about what you would pay for a single 3-credit class at a local community college. Another 21% would pay up to $1000 extra in taxes, so that’s two 3-credit community college classes. Two-thirds of Sanders’ supporters want a full year of state college for less than the cost of one semesters of part-time classes at a community college.


What the poll really shows is that Sanders’ supporters want something for nothing, or at least for much less than it is actually worth. Based on the results of this poll, a majority of his supporters might feel differently about his proposals if they thought they would have to pay for them. As Margaret Thatcher once said of socialist governments, “They always run out of other people’s money.”

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