Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) radical agenda would effectively double the size of government with at least $60 trillion in new spending, according to modest estimates.
The radical leftist has been gaining in the national polls and is beginning to take the lead in key early primary and caucus states as the February 3 Iowa caucus, which kicks off the Democrat Party’s nomination process, draws nearer.
Sanders’ lofty proposals to cancel student loan debt, take on big corporations, and address what he considers the climate change “crisis” has resonated with younger voters who are growing weary of capitalism, dismissing the benefits critics say they routinely reap from it.
Sanders’ radical agenda, however, comes with a hefty price tag — a point that has largely remained unaddressed throughout Sanders’ presidential campaign. While the presidential hopeful has lightly addressed the costs of some of his individual proposals, such as Medicare for All, which he admitted will result in tax hikes on middle class Americans, he has yet to release a comprehensive analysis on how much all of his proposals, combined, will grow the federal government in terms of size and spending.
It is a question even CNN has refused to ignore, admitting in an analysis by Ronald Brownstein that Sanders’ agenda would “at least double federal spending over the next decade.” It would also “increase the size of government far more than any modern Republican president, including Ronald Reagan, has sought to cut it,” according to Larry Summers, the former chief White House economic adviser for former President Barack Obama.
Per the analysis:
Sanders’ plan, though all of its costs cannot be precisely quantified, would increase government spending as a share of the economy far more than the New Deal under President Franklin Roosevelt, the Great Society under Lyndon Johnson or the agenda proposed by any recent Democratic presidential nominee, including liberal George McGovern in 1972, according to a historical analysis shared with CNN by Larry Summers, the former chief White House economic adviser for Barack Obama and treasury secretary for Bill Clinton.
Summers said, in terms of spending, Sanders’ agenda is “far more radical than all previous presidencies” on both sides of the political aisle.
“The Sanders spending increase is roughly 2.5 times the size of the New Deal and the estimated fiscal impact of George McGovern’s campaign proposals,” he stated.
“This is six times as large of a growth of government than any of the Ronald Reagan dismemberments. We are in a kind of new era of radical proposal,” Summers added.
Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, added that Sanders’ agenda would effectively double federal spending.
“We are literally talking about increases in government spending that would double the size of government as a share of gross domestic product,” she said, according to CNN.
“It is remarkable how little attention such a huge change has gotten,” she added.
While there is no final number indicating the cost of all of Sanders’ proposals combined, some of the individual plans feature estimated price tags. Modest projections have Sanders’ Medicare for All plan costing $32 trillion (although estimates run as high as $60 trillion for that program alone). His Green New Deal plan, which includes expansions for existing entitlement programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is accompanied by a $16 trillion price tag. His proposal to completely erase student debt and offer free college will, by some estimates, cost $2.2 trillion.
Those three proposals only represent a portion of the costly proposals the socialist lawmaker has put forward on the campaign trail. Others agenda items include universal free child care, affordable housing, a raise in teacher salaries, and a guaranteed federal jobs program.
That considered, his proposals could result in over $60 trillion in new spending over the next decade (using the low-end estimate of his Medicare for All proposal), which is more than what the federal government will spend on all existing programs “from the Defense Department to Social Security and Medicare,” according to CNN.
While Sanders contends that he will pay for his costly proposals by decreasing defense spending while increasing taxes on middle class Americans, Wall Street, and the ultra-wealthy, the revenue generated would not adequately cover the costs of his massive proposals:
The sheer size of Sanders’ spending agenda dwarfs the proposed tax increases he has offered to pay for it, economists across the ideological spectrum agree. Brian Riedl, a former Senate Republican budget aide who’s now a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, has calculated that at most Sanders’ existing proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy, Wall Street and corporations would raise about $23 trillion over the next decade.
“There is nowhere near enough resources that you can credibly collect to pay for spending of this size [from the rich],” agrees MacGuineas. “When you are talking about a doubling in the size of the government, you are talking about significant tax increases on the middle class.”
For instance, his proposed “wealth tax” on large fortunes is designed to raise more than $4 trillion over the next decade, about twice as much as Warren expects her comparable plan to collect.
Yet even if that proposal raises the $4.3 trillion that Sanders’ advisers project, it pales beside the cost of his spending plans under any projections. Likewise, while Sanders proposes raising the top marginal income tax rate to 52% for the highest earners and increasing income taxes on the affluent in other ways, by his own forecast that would raise slightly less than $2 trillion over the next decade. Other Sanders proposals, such as applying the Social Security payroll tax to annual incomes over $250,000, rescinding the Trump tax cuts and imposing an array of other new taxes on corporations, might collect another $4 trillion over 10 years. He would raise about $4 trillion more by imposing an “income-based premium” on businesses for his health care plan (which would essentially offset their savings from no longer providing insurance to their workers). All of this combined still leaves him way short of the estimated cost of his proposals.
“There is no question that any of these big universal programs will need middle-class taxes to be fully paid for,” MacGuineas added.
Sanders’ campaign has yet to deeply address the looming questions and concerns surrounding his costly agenda and the impact it could have on the economy. CNN reported that “multiple officials at Sanders’ campaign did not respond to requests for comments on the scope of his agenda or their own estimates of its cost.”