September 15, 2015

As our friend Steve. M. discussed today, it looks like the claws are out for Bernie Sanders now that he's picking up some steam in the polls: Did The Word Go Out In Wingnuttia That It's Time To Start Attacking Bernie Sanders? :

All of a sudden I'm seeing attacks on Bernie Sanders in the right-wing media. This is in The Wall Street Journal today:

Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion

Democratic presidential candidate’s agenda would greatly expand government

Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.

In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.

Maybe I just haven't noticed it, but this seems new to me. It's as if Sanders topped Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire in one poll and the word went out on the right to scramble the jets and start trying to take Sanders down.

I'd have thought the wingers wouldn't worry about a wild-haired old lefty, but they know it's a crazy year and a significant portion of the public might go for a candidate who'd have been deemed unacceptable even a year or two ago. They also know that even in defeat Sanders might have a real influence on the way we talk about taxes and government programs and economic inequality.

Right-wingers don't let grass grow under their feet. I guess they're going to try to address this threat now.

And of course our corporate media was happy to play right along as well. Case in point, Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC today, who basically just recited that Wall Street Journal op-ed word for word and asked Sanders to respond. Paul Waldman responded to their nonsense here: No, Bernie Sanders is not going to bankrupt America to the tune of $18 trillion:

The big policy headline today comes from the Wall Street Journal, which delivers this alarming message:

Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’ Proposals: $18 Trillion

Holy cow! He must be advocating for some crazy stuff that will bankrupt America! But is that really an accurate picture of what Sanders is proposing? And is this the kind of number we should be frightened of?

The answer isn’t quite so dramatic: 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. In some ways it’s by spreading out a cost currently borne by a limited number of people to all taxpayers. His plan for free public college would do this: right now, it’s paid for by students and their families, while under Sanders’ plan we’d all pay for it in the same way we all pay for parks or the military or food safety.

But the bulk of what Sanders wants to do is in the first category: to have us pay through taxes for things we’re already paying for in other ways. Depending on your perspective on government, you may think that’s a bad idea. But we shouldn’t treat his proposals as though they’re going to cost us $18 trillion on top of what we’re already paying.

And there’s another problem with that scary $18 trillion figure, which is what the Journal says is the 10-year cost of Sanders’ ideas: fully $15 trillion of it comes not from an analysis of anything Sanders has proposed, but from the fact that Sanders has said he’d like to see a single-payer health insurance system, and there’s a single-payer plan in Congress that has been estimated to cost $15 trillion. Sanders hasn’t actually released any health care plan, so we have no idea what his might cost.

But health care is nevertheless a good place to examine why these big numbers can be so misleading. At the moment, total health care spending in the United States runs over $3 trillion a year; according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over the next decade (from 2015-2024), America will spend a total of $42 trillion on health care. This is money that you and I and everyone else spends. We spend it in a variety of ways: through our health-insurance premiums, through the reduced salaries we get if our employers pick up part or all of the cost of those premiums, through our co-pays and deductibles, and through our taxes that fund Medicare, Medicaid, ACA subsidies, and the VA health care system. We’re already paying about $10,000 a year per capita for health care.

So let’s say that Bernie Sanders became president and passed a single-payer health care system of some sort. And let’s say that it did indeed cost $15 trillion over 10 years. Would that be $15 trillion in new money we’d be spending? No, it would be money that we’re already spending on health care, but now it would go through government. If I told you I could cut your health insurance premiums by $1,000 and increase your taxes by $1,000, you wouldn’t have lost $1,000. You’d be in the same place you are now.

By the logic of the scary $18 trillion number, you could take a candidate who has proposed nothing on health care, and say, “So-and-so proposes spending $42 trillion on health care!” It would be accurate, but not particularly informative.

There’s something else to keep in mind: every single-payer system in the world, and there are many of them of varying flavors, is cheaper than the American health care system. Every single one. So whatever you might say about Sanders’ advocacy for a single-payer system, you can’t say it represents some kind of profligate, free-spending idea that would cost us all terrible amounts of money.

Sanders told Mrs. Greenspan as much when he responded to her little hit job in the video above: Bernie Sanders disputes WSJ claim of $18 trillion in new spending:

Bernie Sanders is pushing back against a Wall Street Journal report that calculated the total cost of his proposed polices as $18 trillion over 10 years.

"That is not the reality, and we will be responding to the Wall Street Journal on that. I think most of the expense that they put in there, the expenditures, have to do with a single-payer health care system," the independent Vermont senator said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday.

Sanders said the WSJ had "significantly exaggerated" those costs, and hadn't accounted for the benefits of "eliminating the cost that you incur with private health insurance."

According to the WSJ, Sanders' program would include $15 trillion in additional costs "for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges."

Sanders, in the MSNBC interview, argued that a single-payer system was preferable to the status quo, in which many Americans' health care is tied to their jobs.

"The truth of the matter right now is that as a nation, we spend far far more on health care per person than the people of any other nation. And yet we continue to have about 30 million people who have no health insurance, many more who are underinsured and we pay, again, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs," Sanders said. "No question to my mind that moving toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program is the most cost-effective way to provide health care to all of our people."

The Journal report also noted that to pay for Sanders' new proposals, he would increase taxes that would bring in $6.5 trillion over 10 years, leaving a $12.5 trillion gap.

Sanders countered that the Journal didn't really delve too deeply into his proposals to tax the wealthiest Americans.

Here's the graphic Mitchell showed during the interview with Sanders. Way to stay "fair and balanced" there MSNBC.


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