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Bernie’s Plan to Pay for His Plans Doesn’t Add Up

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio

As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ascends to the top of the shrinking list of nominees for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, he has come under increased scrutiny to explain how he would pay for his audacious agenda. In response to the pressure, Sanders released a plan to pay for his plans. However, it seems as if Sanders’ plan-payment plan is heavy on rhetoric, more than lacking in detail, and not in line with simple arithmetic.


For starters, Bernie claims, “It will cost $2.2 trillion to make public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free and to cancel all student debt over the next decade. It is fully paid for by a modest tax on Wall Street speculation that will raise an estimated $2.4 trillion over ten years.”

What does a modest tax on Wall Street speculation mean? And how does Bernie know it will raise $2.4 trillion over the next decade? Those are key questions that Sanders fails to address, making this payment plan as empty as a Joe Biden campaign rally.

Second, Sanders states his “proposal to guarantee housing as a human right and to eliminate homelessness will cost $2.5 trillion over the next decade. It is fully paid for by a wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent – those who have a net worth of at least $32 million.”

Bernie declares his wealth tax, which is likely to be challenged as unconstitutional, will raise $4.35 trillion over the next 10 years. This is preposterous. Americans who have earned—not inherited—vast fortunes will not and should not pay an annual tax on their wealth—if anything, it is highly likely high earners will seek ways to keep their wealth out of Bernie’s hands.

Third, “Bernie’s proposal to guarantee universal childcare and pre-school to every family in America who needs it will cost $1.5 trillion. It is fully paid for by a wealth tax on the top 0.1 percent—those who have a net worth of at least $32 million.”


As described above, Bernie’s dubious wealth tax is more likely to cause chaos in the economic market than it is to pay for his “free” housing and universal child care.

Fourth, “Bernie has introduced a proposal to eliminate all of the $81 billion in past due medical debt held by 79 million Americans. It is fully paid for by establishing an income inequality tax on large corporations that pay CEOs at least 50 times more than average workers.”

An income inequality tax? Seriously? Is Bernie running for “president” of Venezuela? This is a complete non-starter.

Fifth, “The $16.3 trillion climate change proposal that Bernie has introduced will fundamentally transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and towards energy efficiency and renewable energy. It will also create 20 million good-paying union jobs in the process.”

To pay for his Green New Deal (GND), Bernie “will” raise “$3.085 trillion by making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.” And this is just the beginning of Bernie’s economic war against the thriving American energy sector.

Bernie also pledges to generate “$6.4 trillion in revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Administrations. This revenue will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.” Free electricity, everybody! Never mind how this miracle will occur. Bernie certainly isn’t concerned with connecting the dots to demonstrate his plans are even in the realm of possibility.


To fund his insane GND, Bernie will cut “defense spending by $1.215 trillion by scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply.” Needless to say, Bernie supplies absolutely no facts on this ludicrous point.

Not only that, he will generate “$2.3trillion in new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.” What about the trillions in lost revenue from Bernie’s demolition of America’s thriving fossil fuel industry? One would cancel out the other—if anything, there might even be a net loss.

And for the grand finale, Bernie goes all-in on his socialist propaganda by declaring he will raise “$2 trillion in revenue by making large corporations pay their fair share of taxes.” Never mind that he fails to define what a “large corporation” is or what “fair share” actually means.

As if his house-of-cards plan to pay for his GND is not crazy enough, Bernie also declares, “By averting climate catastrophe we will save:$2.9 trillion over 10 years, $21 trillion over 30 years and $70.4 trillion over 80 years.” How would these savings come about? This is beyond the pale, even for the Bernie Bros.

And then there is this: “If we do not act, the U.S. will lose $34.5 trillion by the end of the century in economic productivity.” This is typical Bernie-speak: If we do not do what I say, the sky will fall.


At this point, you may be a wee bit skeptical about Bernie’s ability to pay for his mammoth expansion of government. However, this does not even include his plan to pay for his $40 trillion Medicare for All plan.

All said and told, Bernie’s plans are estimated to cost about $97.5 trillion over the next decade. In short, there is literally not enough money in the world to pay for this insane agenda. In other words, Bernie’s plans are unaffordable, unfeasible, and unAmerican.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.orgis an editor at The Heartland Institute.

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