Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Bernie Sanders and the $15,000,000,000,000 tax hike

Consider this a reminder that, despite all the talk about Donald Trump's brashness, the most radical candidate for president is the man who has spent this summer cutting into Hillary Clinton's lead on the Democratic side. From the Wall Street Journal :

"Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.

"In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.

"His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.

"To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff."

To put that $18 trillion figure in context, the Journal reports it would represent an increase in federal spending of about 50 percent over historical norms: Washington would come to spend close to 30 percent of GDP vs. an average over the years of about 20 percent of GDP. It would be an increase of one-third over even the higher spending budget forecasters already expect.

For now this massive spending program would be financed largely with enormous deficits, although they could be somewhat smaller because taxes could be far, far, far higher. A Sanders campaign aide told the Journal that Sanders might propose new taxes to cover the entire cost of his single-payer proposal, which would put the tax hike at an astounding $15 trillion over 10 years. That's what a similar congressional proposal was estimated to cost. While Sanders would like you to believe this can all be accomplished by taxing "the rich," that's possible only in his fantasy world. In the real world, the middle class would be soaked because, in the words of bank robber Willie Sutton, that's where the money is.

Oh, and don't forget those words "at least" before the $18 trillion estimate, because it doesn't include Sanders' further proposals to expand federal spending on child care and preschool.

For her part, Clinton has proposed a mere $650 billion over 10 years in new spending, although we may see that number climb if she continues to lose support on her left flank. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday showed Clinton has fallen from 63 percent support among Democratic-leaning voters in July to just 42 percent now. She's even down to 42 percent support among Democratic women voters from 71 percent two months ago -- including just 37 percent of white Democratic women.

As I have noted before , the Democratic Party's leftward shift has been underway for two decades and has been both more consistent and more pronounced than the rightward drift in the GOP that has garnered far more attention and derision. The emergence of Sanders while promoting arguably the most left-wing set of policies in Democratic history shows just how dominant the party's extreme left wing has become.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.