Bursting the Bernie Bubble

When Bernie Sanders speaks, it fills me with joy. I get happy—giddy, even. He tells me that I can have free health care, a higher wage, and even free tuition (something even Henry Kravis won’t provide me). What he doesn’t tell me is how he’s going to make it all happen. And when I find out about his plan, it really troubles me. Why don’t I “Feel the Bern”? Because I’m worried that if Bernie Sanders is elected, the American people will ultimately be the ones burned.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the price tag of all of Bernie Sanders’ policies comes to 18 trillion dollars over ten years. That’s more than our 2014 GDP and it’s almost as much as our national debt. It’s also over 4.7 times our annual budget. In order to finance Sanders’ plans, the federal government would need to increase its annual revenue by 60 percent.

The ways in which Senator Sanders plans to raise this tremendous amount of revenue are diverse and extensive. They include taxing corporations, Wall Street, and fossil fuel companies. They also include absurd taxes on employers who pay worker salaries, the middle and lower classes, and artwork. The people who would bear the biggest brunt of Sanders’ policies, however, are overwhelmingly the wealthy, some of whom would see their income tax rates double.

The economics of Senator Sanders’ tax plan are sketchy, at best. The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank on fiscal policy, estimated that Senator Sanders’ tax plan would raise just 13.6 trillion dollars of tax revenue over ten years, falling 4.4 trillion dollars short of Sanders’ goal. Even worse, the Tax Foundation estimated that the net effect of Sanders’ plan would be a -9.5 percent contraction GDP and nearly six million jobs lost over ten years. New tax revenue in this economy would only total 9.8 trillion dollars, nearly 8.2 trillion dollars short of full funding.

In economics and the real world, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There’s also no such thing as free college or health care or sick days or social security or bridges or family leave or jobs. Someone must adopt the cost and, with an aging Baby Boomer generation, that someone is soon going to be you or me.

My objections to Sanders’ policies are philosophical as well as practical. As mentioned, Sanders’ plan disproportionately affects the upper class, particularly households earning more than $250,000 per year.  As anyone who has ever heard Sanders speak knows, there’s no love lost between him and the rich. And his tax plan takes square aim at this select few.

Whether or not the rich have more ability to pay is irrelevant. To me, there’s something wrong with targeting a group of Americans with what Chief Justice John Marshall appropriately called “the power to destroy.” While many at the top of society are there because of inherited wealth, there are also many people who have realized the American Dream and worked their way up through society.

I know this because it’s what my parents went through. My mother, who worked for her immigrant family’s grocery store in Arkansas when she was in middle school, went on to be valedictorian in high school and college and an MD and PhD recipient from the University of Chicago. My father, who paid his way through college selling shoes at a local store, went on to start his own trading firm, buy a house, and send his kids through college.

Neither of my parents will tell you that their lives or their rise were easy. They’ll tell you it takes hard work and sacrifice and determination in adversity. But that’s what the American Dream is. The American Dream isn’t achieved by working eight hours per day at a minimum wage job. It’s achieved by working 80 hours per week and going to night school to get a college degree at the same time. To arbitrarily target people who have achieved the American Dream would not only be unfair, it would be unwise.

Some people argue that Sanders’ attraction is not his potential for real political gains but his idealism that is needed to guide the country. Unfortunately, when we live in the real world, reality has a habit of crashing down on top of our heads. By focusing his campaign almost entirely on economic issues, Sanders’ endangers the future of America by leaving other vital issues unaddressed.

That’s why I’m not Feeling the Bern. Sanders has a lit a fire under the American people and shone a light on an issue that is important; however, his outlandish economics, deliberate targeting of a single group, and lack of experience prevent him from gaining my support.

Zachary Wong CM '19 writes from a moderate Conservative viewpoint, not necessarily to change minds but to challenge beliefs.

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