Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was grilled on Friday during an interview on CBS News after he claimed that no one knew how much his estimated $60 trillion in government programs were going to cost.
“While the new spending programs Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed in his presidential campaign would at least double federal spending over the next decade, he has faced almost no questions from other candidates or the media – on the eve of the last debate before primary voting begins – about how he would implement or finance such a massive increase,” CNN reported last week, noting that his plan “would potentially bring his 10-year total for new spending to around $60 trillion, or more.”
“You are a self-proclaimed socialist,” CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell began.
“‘Democratic,’ put in there please,” Sanders shot back.
“Thank you. Your agenda has promised free health care for everybody, free college tuition, and to pay off people’s college loans,” O’Donnell continued. “The price tag for that is estimated to be $60 trillion over ten years, correct?”
“Well look, we have political opponents who come up –” Sanders responded.
“You don’t know? You don’t know how much your plan costs?” O’Donnell pressed.
“You don’t know; nobody knows,” Sanders responded. “This is impossible to predict.”
“You’re going to propose a plan to the American people, and you’re not going to tell them how much it costs?” O’Donnell persisted.
“Of course I will,” Sanders responded. “Do you know exactly what health care costs will be – one minute – in the next ten years if we do nothing? It will be a lot more expensive than a Medicare for All single payer system.”
The estimated $60 trillion price tag for Sanders’ socialist agenda may be a generously low estimate, as others have noted that his programs could cost nearly $100 trillion.
The City Journal reported last October:
All told, Sanders’s current plans would cost as much as $97.5 trillion over the next decade, and total government spending at all levels would surge to as high as 70 percent of gross domestic product. Approximately half of the American workforce would be employed by the government. The ten-year budget deficit would approach $90 trillion, with average annual deficits exceeding 30 percent of GDP.
The $97.5 trillion price tag is made up mostly of the costs of Sanders’s three most ambitious proposals. Sanders concedes that his Medicare For All plan would increase federal spending by “somewhere between $30 and $40 trillion over a 10-year period.” He pledges to spend $16.3 trillion on his climate plan. And his proposal to guarantee all Americans a full-time government job paying $15 an hour, with full benefits, is estimated to cost $30.1 trillion. The final $11.1 trillion includes $3 trillion to forgive all student loans and guarantee free public-college tuition—plus $1.8 trillion to expand Social Security, $2.5 trillion on housing, $1.6 trillion on paid family leave, $1 trillion on infrastructure, $800 billion on general K-12 education spending, and an additional $400 billion on higher public school teacher salaries.
This unprecedented outlay would more than double the size of the federal government. Over the next decade, Washington is already projected to spend $60 trillion, and state and local governments will spend another $29.7 trillion from non-federal sources. Adding Sanders’s $97.5 trillion—and then subtracting the $3 trillion saved by state governments under Medicare For All—would raise the total cost of government to $184 trillion, or 70 percent of the projected GDP over ten years
Such spending would far exceed even that of European social democracies. The 35 OECD countries average 43 percent of GDP in total government spending. Finland’s 57 percent tops the list, edging France and Denmark. Meantime, Sweden and Norway—regularly lauded as models for the U.S.—spend just under 50 percent of GDP. The U.S. government, at all levels, spends between 34 percent and 38 percent of GDP, depending on how one calculates.
Sanders is not the only Democrat proposing an estimated $100 trillion in government programs as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposals have also received the same estimated price tag.