Every four years, presidential candidates talk about giving away lots of free stuff in order to get elected. Tim Wildmon, in a recent column, explains the “promise and peril of free stuff.” He believes that Republicans will have to deal with a major challenge. Democratic candidates are offering lots of free stuff. “It’s hard to out free-stuff the Democrats.”
Leading the way in giving out free stuff is Senator Bernie Sanders. One article in the Wall Street Journal estimated that the cost of all his proposals (so far) would be on the order of $18 trillion. The largest amount of that would be for the conversion and full funding of a single-payer Medicare-type health care plan.
Other big-ticket items would be his desire to increase Social Security benefits and to provide free college tuition and better student loan financing. The latter would cost at least $750 billion each year. And I might mention that he not only wants to provide “free” college education for all Americans but even for students who are in this country illegally.
You might wonder how he thinks we will be able to pay for this. His answer is simple: tax the rich. But that won’t work. A few years ago I did a commentary on how much revenue you could raise if you confiscated all the money earned by billionaires and millionaires. The numbers might be a bit different now, but I am sure they are at least the right order of magnitude.
For example, if you confiscated every dime from people with annual incomes of $10 million or more, you would only have a total of $240 billion. Of course you couldn’t actually get away with confiscating the annual incomes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and others.
This election season we will be hearing about government giving away free stuff, but we desperately need to inject some common sense into these campaign pledges.