No Bernie, Your Wealth Tax Will Not Pay for Free Childcare

No Bernie, Your Wealth Tax Will Not Pay for Free Childcare
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Since unveiling his plan for a wealth tax, or a tax on the net worth of wealthy Americans, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been using the plan like an irresponsible teenager with a new credit card. It’s maxed out, but Bernie just can’t stop trying to put new expenses on it. His latest declined purchase — free universal childcare and pre-kindergarten.

Sanders introduced this new plan in a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper. When Cooper pressed the senator on how he would pay for this, Bernie confidently whipped out his “wealth tax” credit card once again, claiming he had the means to pay for it with taxes on the rich — before pivoting to a non sequitur where he claimed no one asked how the country would pay for the tax reform law (they did, repeatedly).

But Bernie’s claims regarding what his wealth tax would cover would force FICO to come up with a new minimum credit score. The truth is, his proposed pay-fors are nowhere near covering what he’s already promised to pay for, let alone new plans.

Estimates of how much Sanders’s proposals will cost can vary significantly, but they range from merely eye-popping figures to mind-blowing ones. The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), using estimates from centrist and center-left organizations, estimates the cost of his agenda to be $53.4 trillion over ten years. On the other hand, Brian Riedl, budgetary bean-counter at the Manhattan Institute, places the cost at $97 trillion over that period, even before Sanders proposed his $1.5 trillion free childcare plan.

For context, the federal government is projected to spend $60.7 trillion total over the next ten years. In other words, the most optimistic assessments of his agenda find that it would cost just barely less than the amount the federal government is already projected to spend across every existing program and department.

Up against that kind of fantastical agenda, even a higher tax on wealth than any European countryhas in place doesn’t come close to covering it. The Sanders campaign claims it can raise $4.3 trillion over ten years from its wealth tax, or just 8 percent of the most charitably low cost estimates of his agenda. And incorporating the harmful economic effects of a wealth tax on revenue, the Tax Foundation pegs the revenue to be gained from Sanders’s wealth tax closer to $2.6 trillion.

Now, Bernie has plenty more taxes in his back pocket as well, from a 7.5 percent payroll tax increase to a 35 percent corporate tax rate to a 4 percent across-the-board income tax increase (and more!). But all that adds up to “just” $28 trillion, according to PPI. All those proposals combined maybecover the cost of Medicare for All, but certainly nothing more.

Sanders’s deflection to the cost of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is even more absurd in this context. The TCJA “cost” roughly $1.4 trillion over ten years, but that number is a rounding error compared to the cost of Sanders’s plans.

Making Sanders’s agenda even more dangerous is the fact that the federal government can’t even pay for what it is already spending. The deficit over the next ten years is projected to be $13 trillion, adding to an already substantial $23 trillion national debt. Sanders’s proposals, if implemented tomorrow, would turn a concerning fiscal situation into a national crisis overnight.

The next time Bernie tries to take out his credit card to pay for another massively expensive program, taxpayers should be clear but firm with him — that card’s been declined.

Andrew Wilford is a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to tax policy research and education at all levels of government. 

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