Free stuff, Democratic Party style

A few days ago, Steve wrote an important and insightful piece called “The Genealogy of Free Stuff.” Citing a Wall Street Journal editorial, Steve stated that Elizabeth Warren’s agenda is so far beyond extravagant that “socialism” seems an inadequate adjective.

Steve offered two explanations for the leftward lurch he described. First, hard-left Democrats are convinced that anyone can beat President Trump, and thus see this as the time to go for broke (no pun originally intended). Second, Trump has abandoned fiscal restraint, and therefore Democrats need to offer ever more goodies to remain ahead in this department.

There’s probably something to both explanations, but let’s not overlook the irresistible urge of left-liberals to redistribute income and trash our free enterprise system. It’s possible, I think, that Warren would be running the same campaign, and drawing the same level of support, even if she and her followers realized that Trump won’t be easy to beat and even if Trump were exercising fiscal restraint. I’m almost certain that Sanders would be.

How extravagant are the proposals of these two and other leading Democratic candidates? This Washington Post article provides the numbers:

A Washington Post review of the major spending proposals of the leading Democratic presidential candidates found 10-year costs ranging from about $4 trillion to more than $50 trillion. The annual federal budget now is about $4.5 trillion.

Even the most sparse of the 2020 plans dwarfs what successful Democrats pushed before. As she seized the Democratic nomination in 2016, Hillary Clinton proposed a 10-year agenda estimated at $1.45 trillion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Hillary Clinton was a piker. Who knew?

The price tag for Sanders’s agenda tops $51 trillion over ten years, according to the Post. Warren’s agenda comes in at more than $30 trillion. Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden, alleged “moderates,” would spend $6.5 trillion and $4.1 trillion, respectively, in the broad categories of health care, housing, the environment, criminal justice, education, child care and other anti-poverty initiatives alone.

Further down the food chain, the picture is similar. For example, Andrew Yang’s universal basic income of $12,000 per year for every American adult would cost around $24 trillion over 10 years, according to the candidate’s own estimates. Yang also wants to hand out $100 to induce Americans to vote.

And let’s not forget the reparations favored by several Democratic candidates, including Warren (but not Sanders). The cost of this pure handout is not included in the $30 trillion-plus price tag for Warren’s agenda.

Are Democratic voters on board with the massive amounts of new spending? It looks that way. The Post cites a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this month. It found that 56 percent of Democratic primary voters prefer candidates who propose “large scale policies that cost more” compared with 38 percent who like candidates pitching less-expensive policies that would bring less change but potentially be easier to pass into law.

Whether 56 percent of Democratic primary voters are comfortable with the price tags associated with the Sanders and Warren agendas is less clear. I’m pretty sure the electorate at large isn’t.

Not in good economic times when such spending seems unnecessary and not in bad times when it’s especially clear that we can’t afford it.

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