Recently, when The Wall Street Journal wrote a big article about how Bernie Sanders’ proposals would cost $18 trillion, I was mostly pleased. It indicated two things that are good. First, it showed that he is succeeding enough to cause people to notice. Second, it shows that conservatives are at least a little concerned about him. Republicans can just dismiss him as a socialist if they want. But that’s just for public consumption. They know that in a general election, that isn’t going to mean much. Unless they can tie that word to Sanders’ actual (hugely popular) policies, it won’t mean a thing.
The big “$18 trillion” article is an attempt to do just that. But as Dean Baker has already shown, $15 trillion of that is universal Medicare. And if everyone had Medicare, they wouldn’t have to have private insurance (although they still could). And the one thing we know about Medicare is that it is far more efficient than private insurance. And the bottom line is that the $15 trillion would save the private sector more than $15 trillion. James Kwak laid it out:
So how much would Sander’s $15 trillion Medicare for All system save? That’s open to debate. But one of the economists that The Wall Street Journal article quoted, Gerald Friedman, did some calculations. And he found that over the ten year window that we are talking about here, Sanders’ plan would save the US $5 trillion. So if you add in the $3 trillion of other programs, Bernie Sanders would be saving us $2 trillion — or $200 billion per year. Oh! My! God!
Of course, this isn’t going to make The Wall Street Journal sing the praises of Bernie Sanders. They aren’t interested in saving money. They are interested in serving the interests of the power elite — even if those interests are very short sighted. And even if they liked the Medicare for All program, they know that Sanders is going to push all kinds of other policies that will challenge the rich.
Robert Reich wrote a short article about this issue, 4 Reasons Why The Wall Street Journal’s Attack on Bernie is Bogus. Mostly, it covers ground that I’ve been talking about here. But I thought his fourth point was important:
This is typical. Bernie Sanders has some great ideas for improving the nation. But the conservative response is not to consider them seriously. It is just to start shouting large numbers that are meaningless.