To young liberals, Bernie Sanders is a hero. The senator of Vermont speaks truth to power and rattles cages. His win in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, while narrow, makes him a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
To President Donald Trump and his supporters, however, “Crazy Bernie” is a godsend, a guy they’d love to run against. South Carolina GOP leaders have urged Republicans to vote for him in the state’s open Democratic primary. And Republican senators have refrained from investigations into his background.
One big reason for this is Republicans know that large segments of the electorate would be repelled by Sanders’ vast expansion of government spending at a time when Uncle Sam is already running $1 trillion annual deficits and is more than $23 trillion in debt.
Increase spending by $51.5 trillion
According to the liberal Progressive Policy Institute, Sanders’ proposals would increase federal spending by a whopping $51.5 trillion over a decade. That’s seven to eight times what relative moderates like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are pushing. It is also more than 50 times the size of Obamacare, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2010 would cost less than $1 trillion over 10 years.
The biggest-ticket items on Sanders’ wish list include:
►$24.4 trillion to finance his “Medicare for All” proposal.
►$16.3 trillion for the “Green New Deal,” far more than other candidates would spend to combat climate change.
►$2.2 trillion for child care, pre-K and K-12 education.
►$2.1 trillion for higher education and debt forgiveness.
►$1.4 trillion for expansion of Social Security programs.
It’s true that, under Medicare for All, people wouldn’t have to pay private health insurance premiums any more. And Sanders proposes $22.5 trillion in tax increases and military spending cuts to help offset the cost of his spending spree. But that still leaves a gap of more than $25 trillion.
As far back as the 1950s, federal spending has hovered around 20% of the U.S. economy. Its highest in that span, 24.4%, was more the result of a steep recession in 2009 than a massive increase in spending.
Spending would be 37% of GDP
If Sanders were to get all of his proposals enacted, his federal government would rise to 37% of the economy, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. This would be an enormous departure from what has been a social contract between the government and the governed.
Of course, a President Sanders would not get all of his spending and tax proposals enacted. In 2005, President George W. Bush proposed a partial Social Security privatization only to see it die amid fierce opposition. And the Affordable Care Act passed by a single vote. A decade later, Republicans are still fighting in the courts to repeal it.
Compared with what Sanders wants, those were very modest tweaks to social spending. And even they proved to be very difficult sledding.
More immediately, Sanders’ plans, if presented to voters, would make it considerably harder for Democrats to win the White House. Some of his proposals address vital issues but are simply too ambitious. Others, like forgiveness for student loan debt, are unfair and unworkable from the get-go. A major expansion of government is not going to sell with suburban professionals — the demographic that swung heavily Democratic in the 2018 midterms and is arguably the most fertile ground for their nominee to work this November.
For Democrats, this should pose a number of questions. Foremost among them: Why are they spending so much time debating these costly, unrealistic plans when they should be focused on preserving Obamacare protections and the rule of law?
If you can’t see this reader poll, please refresh your page.