The long-awaited New Hampshire Democratic primary is finally here, and presidential candidates are getting mighty desperate to “exceed expectations.” Front-runners Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are looking for strong performances while the rest of the field looks to “duke it out” for good showings. Deflated candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden and resurgent hopefuls like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are throwing everything to the wall to see what sticks, but it’s hard to attack candidates for, say, lacking experience while somehow claiming that former President Obama did just fine in office.
Ditto with deflections like “he took billionaire money!” which may be true but don’t seem to compromise the policy positions of firebrands like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Second-tier candidates should hold their fire on these cringe-worthy criticisms and focus on the radical “democratic socialist” agenda of Sen. Sanders and company. Americans can tolerate candidate inexperience and a few extra campaign bucks, but they taxpayers cannot afford a radical, big-government agenda.
As the cold sun sets in New Hampshire, barbs and clap-backs abound. Feeling threatened by Mayor Pete’s rapid ascendance, Sen. Sanders called Buttigieg Wall Street’s favorite candidate. Buttigieg’s response, “Bernie’s pretty rich, and I would happily accept a contribution from him,” rightly emphasized the absurdity of rich candidates bemoaning the influence of money in presidential elections. Presidential hopefuls like Mayor Pete and Sen. Klobuchar are on firmer ground in eschewing socialism and sticking to substantive critiques grounded in policy. Referring to Sen. Sanders bank-breaking schemes to make America a democratically socialist country, Mayor Pete is rightly concerned that “there’s a $25 trillion hole in how to pay for everything he’s put forward.”
And he has a point: there’s simply no realistic way to pay for the costly entitlements proposed by Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren without drowning middle-class taxpayers in debt. In fact, even Buttigieg’s hyperbolic figure drastically understates how much democratic socialism would cost America. Medicare-for-all would cost taxpayers $32 trillion over ten years, with indirect costs in turn exceeding this astronomical figure. To keep the price-tag below, say, $50 trillion, candidates such as Sens. Sanders and Warren have proposed slashing reimbursement rates for doctors across the country. This would end in complete and utter disaster, costing America’s 7,200 hospitals more than $150 billion each year. Medical facilities (particularly in rural areas) have been struggling to make ends meet, with more than 100 hospitals closing up shop in America’s heartland since 2010. The slowing trickle of private insurance dollars would dry up overnight, causing a catastrophic healthcare drought and compromised care for hundreds of millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, the disaster of democratic socialism wouldn’t stop at the destruction of the U.S. healthcare system. Plans to wipe away more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt and institute free or reduced tuition are popular in the Democratic field, allowing presidential hopefuls to promise even more goodies without detailing how to pay for them. But, as Mercatus Center scholars Veronique de Rugy and Jack Salmon point out in a piece for the American Institute for Economic Research, “Since 1970, federal and state aid funding has increased more than 50 fold, from just $3 billion in 1970 to almost $160 billion in 2017—or $19.6 billion to 167.6 billion in 2019 dollars—at the same time tuition prices have risen 238 percent.” Colleges have come to realize over the past half century that, when taxpayers are footing the bill for higher education expenses, they can simply respond by charging Uncle Sam even more in “rising expenses.” And at the end of the day, it’s taxpayers who pay for all of these shifting costs and accounting tricks.
As New Hampshirites cast their ballots, presidential hopefuls are banking on voters looking past these gimmicks and embracing democratic socialism without a care for the cost. Let’s hope that markets and low taxes exceed expectations in this evening’s primary voting.
Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.