Editorial: Bernie Sanders flunks math

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a rabid fan base, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s energetic, passionate, comparatively honest in discussing his views, and has proposed plans for free comprehensive health care, free public college and paid family leave.

The trouble is, according to a joint analysis by two well-known Washington think tanks, Sen. Sanders’ generosity will add an estimated $18 trillion to the already-huge federal deficit.

What a surprise!

According to a report released this week by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center — both of which lean to the left — the Vermont senator’s proposed health plan would result in an estimated $32 trillion in additional federal spending over the next 10 years. That’s more than twice the cost quoted by the Sanders campaign. Meanwhile, his free college and medical leave proposals would cost another $1 trillion.

While Sanders has urged a staggering $15.3 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade — to be paid for, in theory, by “the rich” — the study found that his plans would still increase the federal debt by $18 trillion over that time period, $21 trillion counting interest. The analysis states that the huge increase in government borrowing “would crowd out private investment, raise interest rates, further increase government borrowing costs and retard economic growth.”

All of which would hammer job creation and working Americans.

Not surprisingly, the Sanders campaign fired back, arguing that the report “wildly overestimates” the costs of the candidate’s goody basket. “If every other major country can spend less on health care and insure all of their people,” the campaign said, “so can the U.S.”

But nice sentiments and good intentions don’t offset incoherent math. As economist John Holahan of the Health Policy Center points out, the countries cited by the Sanders campaign put their systems in place decades ago. The costs of such an endeavor today for a country the size of the United States would be massive — and with his proposal already hitting the ceiling on taxes for high-income earners, Sen. Sanders would have to implement a new national sales tax or other plan in order to raise taxes on middle- and lower- income families.

As P.J. O’Rourke once famously said, “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.” The same goes for higher education, paid family leave or virtually any other feel-good, progressive social program.

“Feel the Bern” indeed.

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