WSJ: Cost of Bernie Sanders' Agenda: $18T

But 'Washington Post' thinks that figure is nonsense
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2015 12:00 PM CDT
The Cost of Bernie Sanders' Agenda: $18T
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Prince William Fairground in Manassas, Va., on Sept. 14.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Bernie Sanders' populist message has him surging in the polls, but his vision comes at a price: $18 trillion over a decade, to be specific, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper crunched the numbers on his various proposals to arrive at that eye-popping total, one that would amount to the "largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history," writes reporter Laura Meckler. The biggest chunk of the total, about $15 trillion, is associated with Sanders' plan to expand Medicare to all Americans. Other big-ticket items include $1 trillion in spending on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects, and $750 billion for tuition-free public colleges. (Update: A Washington Post analysis of the Journal story makes the case that the $18 trillion figure is grossly misleading. For one thing, that $15 trillion estimate for health care reform is based not on Sanders' figures but on the cost of a similar bill currently in Congress.)

Still, the Journal finds that it's not just conservatives wary of Sanders' initiatives. "We are not a country that has limitless resources," says Jim Kessler of the Democratic think tank Third Way. "You need to tamp on the brakes somewhere, but he doesn’t." To help pay for it, Sanders has so far pitched tax increases, mostly on the wealthy, that would bring in $6.5 trillion over a decade. More tax proposals on the way. His "agenda does cost money,” acknowledges Sanders' policy director. But "if you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.” Along those lines, the Post adds that "while Sanders does want to spend significant amounts of money, almost all of it is on things we’re already paying for; he just wants to change how we pay for them." A blogger at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a different mindset, writing that despite all the attention paid to Donald Trump, the Journal story shows that Sanders is "the most radical candidate" in the race. (More Bernie Sanders stories.)

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