As 2020 Democratic presidential contenders unveil their ambitious progressive platforms, one thing is very clear; if enacted, taxpayers will be on the hook for trillions of dollars, according to The Hill.
Taking the cake would be Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-VT) "Medicare for All" bill, coming in at a cost of $32 trillion during its first 10 years, or an estimated 10.7 - 12.7% of GDP, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Candidate Jay Inslee's "Global Climate Mobilization" plan touted by environmentalists as the "gold standard" would cost the United States $3 trillion over 10 years. The plan would see the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, encouraging "climate" refugees from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua to resettle in the United States, doubling the US investment in the Global Climate Fund for green technology, and cutting fossil fuel subsidies while "implementing widespread prohibitions against financing for fossil fuel projects overseas."
Joe Biden wants to repeal GOP tax cuts and eliminate oil subsidies for his $1.7 trillion plan.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wants to eliminate tuition at public colleges and erase student debt at an estimated cost of $1.25 trillion over 10 years. She would pay for it by slapping a 2% tax on Americans worth more than $50 million and a 3% tax on those worth over $1 billion.
The Democrats have proposed a raft of smaller plans as well, such as Sen. Kamala Harris’s (Calif.) plan to raise teacher pay or Sen. Cory Booker’s (N.J.) proposal to make rent more affordable through housing credits, both of which reach into the hundreds of billions.
In many cases, the Democrats are explaining how they’d pay for the plans, either by rolling back the GOP’s tax cuts, levying new taxes on the wealthiest Americans or eliminating corporate subsidies.
They also argue that the changes they seek will in some cases pay for themselves, either by lowering the cost of health care and drug prices, creating new green jobs or unlocking private sector investments -The Hill
Some Democrats, including a few 2020 contenders, have knocked the grandiose plans - warning that "massive government expansions" will spook swing voters, providing ammunition to Republicans who have raised concerns that the country is sliding into socialism.
"When you poll these issues, they’re initially popular, but when people learn about the price tag they quickly become unpopular," said GOP strategist, Matt Gorman. "It all fits into the broader narrative that Democrats have gone all-in on government intervention and beyond that, socialism."
The proposals also indicate that both parties have placed concerns over deficit spending on the back burner.
President Trump had expressed interest to work with Democrats to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure bill, though he has since backtracked. And fiscally conservative groups were irate with the GOP Congress for passing a $1.7 trillion spending package in 2017 that was signed into law by the president.
The federal deficit jumped 38 percent in the first seven months of the current fiscal year, ballooning to $531 billion, well above the previous year's $385 billion mark.
As liberals push to redirect government spending for their own proposals, they say they’ll make the case that Republicans are standing in the way of progress through their own wasteful spending and tax cuts for the wealthy. -The Hill
"If we hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, if we stop shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to the Pentagon war machine, if the Bush and Trump tax cuts had never passed and if we treated taxes as our dues in society, not a burden, we could fund all [these Democratic proposals] and more," said progressive strategist Jonathan Tasini.
Polls show that healthcare is a top voter concern - however Sanders' Medicare for All proposal has become a subject of controversy among Democrats who are concerned about its price tag, and what it would do to the US economy. As The Hill notes, support drops dramatically for universal health care coverage and a single payer system when voters are told they'd have to pay more in taxes.
"It’s very common with these health care plans that they’re very popular at the bumper sticker level and then become less popular as more details come out" according to Kaiser Family Foundation senior VP for health reform, Larry Levitt.
Sanders aside, most of the other 2020 contenders, including those who have co-sponsored Medicare for All, have pitched several ideas to either expand Medicare, or take incremental steps towards a single payer system that would allow people to keep their current insurance if desired.
Former Vice President Joe Biden opposes Medicare for All, but supports lowering payments to hospitals and doctors, while eliminating consumer copays, deductibles and premiums.
Several other 2020 contenders have also raised concerns about the cost and scope of Medicare for All.
“It’s political suicide,” former Rep. John Delaney (Md.) wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
On the environment, Democrats are making the case that global warming is an existential crisis and that no cost should be spared to address it.
But they also say that their green jobs plans will stimulate the economy and rebuild crumbling U.S. infrastructure.
Biden released a plan this week calling for $1.7 trillion in federal spending over 10 years, with trillions more coming from private sector investments. Biden proposes raising that money by repealing the GOP tax cuts and eliminating subsidies to big oil companies. -The Hill
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has pushed for a $10 trillion plan to effectively combat climate change, something that's low on the list of voter priorities.
"People in the heartland just don’t see climate change as the emergency that Washington does," said Myron Ebell, who was tapped to lead Trump's environmental transition team. "They’re much more sensitive to energy costs and often have to drive longer distances to work or rely on pickup trucks or big rigs for work. They’re not looking to disrupt the flow of their lives."
That said - even if Democrats take back the White House in 2020, they will be hard pressed to push through their ambitious plans while the Senate is under GOP control.
According to Tasini, "Assuming Democrats hold the House and win the White House, every proposal to make the country better, more fair, and environmentally sustainable will be dead on arrival in the Senate as long as Mitch McConnell is majority leader."