The Bernie Sanders budget math

October 13, 2015

By Daniel Indiviglio and Richard Beales

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Breakingviews estimated on Monday that Bernie Sanders, the socialist U.S. presidential wannabe, would spend $8 trillion more over 10 years than his higher tax proposals would bring in. Readers questioned our figures. As with rival analyses, many assumptions are required. Some of them are laid out in more detail in the graphic below.

The Bernie Sanders budget math

Sanders has touted policy ideas like a shift to a largely government-run, or single-payer, healthcare system and, on the revenue side, a higher effective corporate tax rate. Quantifying the financial impact – especially when looking forward 10 years – is a game of many variables. Breakingviews’ effort, which estimates that Sanders would add $12 trillion of expenditure and only $4 trillion of revenue over a decade, is no exception.

A greater government role in healthcare might, of course, reduce the total public and private cost of all things medical. In fact, Breakingviews reckons that in aggregate these outlays would decrease by $2.5 trillion over 10 years. But Washington would spend nearly $10 trillion more than under current policies, and the figures in Monday’s piece were designed to show changes in the government’s books.

It’s no surprise that the Vermont senator’s plans are expensive. Many Americans might be fine with that if they thought they’d benefit from better public services. Just as Republican candidates aren’t coming clean about cost cuts to match their proposed tax reductions, though, Sanders hasn’t yet outlined where he’d find the additional government revenue necessary for his plans. Maybe he’ll reveal more during Tuesday evening’s Democratic debate.


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Single Payer makes sense, if the $884 Billion Private Insurance industry is replaced by the government paying directly to the care, that in itself will reduce the cost of our current system.

Posted by slacker206 | Report as abusive

Do you guys know about the concept of cost and cost savings??? With a canadian health care system the US could save about 4k per capita a year. therefor saving 1.2 trillion each year. And with a better education system y’all wouldn’t be my help 😉 (facts?: r/photos/2012/10/02/US_spends_much_more_ on_health_than_what_might_be_expected_1_ slideshow.jpg)

Posted by ToniGrossmann | Report as abusive

Please be more respectful of Bernie Sanders- a candidate for the Democratic party’s nomination. He considers himself a Democratic Socialist, and ranks high in the polls, by anyone’s measure. Your opening with “socialist presidential wannabe” is demeaning- and immediately casts doubt on the accuracy and truthfulness of your conjecture- sorry, I mean “Breakingviews’ estimate” of his budget proposal. As with Any complex analysis, many assumptions come into play. Perhaps his campaign would be willing to share some of his insights with you. Thank you.

Posted by neighbornick | Report as abusive