The Wall Street Journal decided to take Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign seriously enough to calculate the cost of the programs that he proposed. Their price tag was $18 trillion over the next decade. This is presumably supposed to scare people because, let’s face it $18 trillion is a really big number.
Much of the fright factor disappears when we realize that $15 trillion of this $18 trillion comes from the WSJ’s estimate of the cost of Sanders’ universal Medicare program. That is a considerable chunk of change, but as Kevin Drum and others have pointed out this will not be new money out of people’s pockets. For the most part this is money that employers are now paying for their workers’ health care insurance. Instead, under a universal Medicare system the government would get this money in tax revenue. Since Canada and the other wealthy countries with universal Medicare-type systems all have much lower per capita health care costs than the United States (the average is less than half the cost), in all probability we would be paying less for our health care under the Sanders’ system than we do now.