Bernie Sanders $18 Trillion Would Save Us Money

Bernie SandersRecently, 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:

But we are already spending a ton of money on health care — with embarrassingly poor results. In 2013, total premiums for private health insurance cost Americans $962 billion, individuals and families paid $339 billion out of their own pockets and “other private revenues” accounted for another $121 billion of health care (data here). That’s $1.4 trillion of health care spending, paid for by families and businesses, most of which would be replaced by Sanders’s plan. Project that out for ten years, add health care inflation, and you’re talking about a lot more than $15 trillion.

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:

Bernie’s proposed spending on education and infrastructure aren’t really “spending” at all, but investments in the nation’s future productivity. If we don’t make them, we’re all poorer.

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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders $18 Trillion Would Save Us Money

  1. Thanks for the Reich link. I keep forgetting to check out his site, as I agree with him on almost everything and he’s a teacher, not a reporter. But what a great teacher! Any sane country would have made him head of state long ago; nothing he proposes is radical and he never runs out of positive ways to frame problems.

    • Yeah, I like him very much. But I tend to skim his work because he’s more of a generalist: he puts together the thinking of other people. But he’s very a effective communicator — and a natural in front of a camera. He’s in my RSS feed, so I always stay up on what he’s thinking. But he’s no Dean Baker!

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