Democratic socialism: sounds good, but is way too expensive, and not the future of the Democratic party

Bernie Sanders and now the upcoming Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an American-born of Hispanic extraction who may well sit in Congress this fall, have gotten a lot of airplay espousing “democratic socialism”, which proposes an expansion of social programs funded by the government. While I’m in favor of some of these in principle, nobody really asks—and candidates avoid talking about—how much they will cost. Well, Vox did a survey of what the programs Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez would cost the government (and that means the taxpayer); the sources used to estimate the costs were liberal organizations, so there’s not much anti-progressive bias in the numbers. Many of the numbers come from the Urban Institute, which is a leftist organization often in favor of government interventions.

Read the Vox story by clicking on the screenshot:

Here are the costs that Vox author Brian Riedl came up with:

Medicare for all (Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez): $32 trillion over the next decade

Social Security expansion (Sanders): $188 billion over the next decade

Paid family leave of 12 weeks for new parents (Sanders): $287 billion over the next decade

Free college for all (Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez): $807 billion over the next decade

Guaranteed jobs for all at $15/hr plus benefits (Ocasio-Cortez): $6.8 trillion over the next decade

New infrastructure (Senate Democrats): $1 trillion over the next decade

Payoff of all student loan debt (House Democrats): $1.4 trillion over the next decade.

As Vox notes, this is a huge sum (my emphasis):

Total cost: $42.5 trillion in new proposals over the next decade, on top of the $12.4 trillion baseline deficit.

To put this in perspective, Washington is currently projected to collect $44 trillion in revenues over the next decade. And the Republican tax cut, decried universally by Democrats as irresponsible (and by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as “Armageddon”) will cost less than $2 trillion over the decade.

The 30-year projected tab for these programs is even more staggering: new proposals costing $218 trillion, on top of an $84 trillion baseline deficit driven by Social Security, Medicare, and the resulting interest costs.

What would be the effects of such an unprecedented spending binge? Federal spending, which typically ranges between 18 and 22 percent of GDP, would immediately soar past 40 percent of GDP on its way to nearly 50 percent within three decades. Including state and local government spending would push the total cost of government to 60 percent of GDP by that point — exceeding the current spending level of every country in Europe.

. . . These numbers are not partisan. They come from the Congressional Budget Office, top liberal think tanks, and the lawmakers themselves. They are the left’s own figures. (And note that we included an absurdly low-cost estimate for the jobs guarantee.)

Vox notes that single-payer health insurance is not going to fix government health spending (e.g., Medicare), nor would the moving of money from private citizens (spent on their own healthcare) to government healthcare (via taxes); that has “serious economic and redistributive side effects.” And engineering the $26 trillion tax hike needed to cover this would be nearly impossible, as it would set the payroll tax at 29% (now 15.3%).

The rest of the Vox article tries to figure out how to pay for all this social engineering, and author Riedl concludes that there’s just no way to do it in an acceptable fashion. He concludes like this:

Mix and match these tax policies and it still represents an unfathomable and impossible tax burden. American taxes would be higher than most of Europe because its spending levels would also be higher. (Our health care system would still cost more, and Europe does not have an expensive government job guarantee.)

Taxing the rich is not enough. America would need to match, or even surpass, Europe’s enormous tax burden on the middle class. There is no evidence that American voters will accept this level of taxation.

Democratic socialists are disingenuously cagey about the exorbitant tax burden they require. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently offered a list of tax increases — such as a 28 percent corporate tax rate, a “Buffett tax” on millionaires, and carbon tax — that collectively add up to just $2 trillion over the decade, according to the CBO.

Ocasio-Cortez, only 28, is often touted as “the future of the Democratic Party,” but I haven’t been impressed by her. She’s young, for sure, and that may be why I don’t see her as ready for prime time, but she’s also a new face, a Hispanic woman, and a socialist, which appeals to Sanders fans (note: I voted for him in the Illinois primaries). She’s the social justice warrior that Democrats think, unwisely, is the person that can defeat the Democrats.

But she hasn’t seemed to grasp the difficulties with her proposals, and she doesn’t look especially thoughtful in interviews. RealClear Politics analyzed her statement that unemployment is low only because everyone has two jobs, and found that it, along with much of she said, was a big “pants on fire” whopper (note: I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious lie). Here she is with that proposal, and a prediction that we are (and should) be marching toward socialism and against capitalism. Much as some socialistic programs appeal to me, there’s still a lot to be said for the retention of some capitalism in the private sector.  And let’s face it: America isn’t going to buy a completely socialistic society, and espousing it is political suicide.

Here’s her not terribly well thought out stand on Israel on Palestine, with several professions that she’s not an expert in geopolitics. Well, I agree with the two-state solution, but she needs a more eloquent response.

As I said, she’s young and I won’t hold this against her. But I do hold her adamant and unthinking socialism against her, and that’s exactly what makes her popular.

Like every Democrat, I am desperately looking for a viable Leftist to contest Trump (or, if he’s out, his Republican replacement) in 2020.  Ocasio-Cortez isn’t even close, though of course I’d rather have her in Congress than almost any Republican. But I don’t want the future of the Democratic Party to be ignorance and untenable forms of socialism.



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink


    her Wikipedia entry says she was an Intel … that Intel scholar thing .. prize … winner … in high school, for a high school project she did. Thought that showed she’s got to be scientifically literate- that’s good.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    The $32 trillion for Medicare for all is misleading. Moving money from employer paid and individual paid health care actually reduces this to a $2 trillion savings.

    That plus restoring the $1.5 trillion pays for the first four programs.

    The infrastructure problem must be dealt with and that could be used to replace all those unnecessary healthcare insurance jobs.

    IMHO, the VOX story is flawed.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      This story IS flawed, it’s more propaganda aimed at misleading the public and keeping the profits of the insurance industry intact

      I am really surprised that this was even posted, it’s not researched well and full of exaggerated claims that are designed to fool people who don’t know better

      Even the right-wing think tank funded by the Kocks showed that medicare for all/single payer would cost us MUCH less than the current system

      Where is the comparison of these estimated costs vs the costs we are now paying? they are conveniently left out because it makes the story a lie

    • Peter
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree that Medicare for all would increase taxes but wages net of taxes (roughly speaking, disposable income) would not decrease because gross wages would increase – what employers now pay out as employee health insurance benefits would be added to wages (competition among employers will lead to this outcome). Not sure what share of the people would perceive this correctly.

      • gluonspring
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think it should be too hard to explain. Most people realize that their employer pays money for insurance, money that they never see in their wages. So the pitch could be something like:

        “Your employer currently pays about $10,000/year for your health insurance. Under our plan, that $10,000 a year would be paid into ‘Medicare insurance’. Most Americans would see no net difference in their take-home pay, and the benefits would be blah blah blah”.

        Of course, if we want to extend coverage to people not currently covered that will cost extra (offset some by the people who currently drive up prices with pro bono care at hospital ERs, etc.), and that *net* cost is what matters when talking about the effect on taxes, deficits, and so on. Talking about the gross cost is almost always just going to be propaganda.

        I’m not sure I actually want us to do this, but I’d like people to evaluate it on real criteria not sticker shock propaganda over the “price tag” that treats the gross cost as equivalent to the net differential cost of a program.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Regarding your first paragraph, I was thinking the same thing. One of biggest benefits of a solid white collar job in the US is the massive (untaxed!) subsidy of health care insurance premiums provided by employers. If we went to single pay, presumably this cost would be transferred to another entity (the gov). If the 44 trillion cost estimate includes this, then it is inaccurate to say that single pay will ADD 44 trillion of expense to our system.

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t studied the article, but it seems absurd on the face. Currently annual spending on healthcare is around $3.3 trillion/year. If there were no cost savings at all and the tab were simply moved from private payments to tax collection/distribution that would be $33 trillion over ten years.

      Obviously redirecting the money businesses and individuals currently pay for insurance premiums into taxes is fraught with many issues and might well be politically infeasible. There might be other reasons not to go this route too, maybe big deal breaking reasons. But the intimation that this $32 trillion price tag would be layered on top of existing taxes and health expenditures borders on just telling lies.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:22 am | Permalink

      Our tax rate is the lowest in the developed world
      We can easily gradually double our taxes and then we will have this stuff and the infrastructure we need. Yeah the Baby Boomers won’t like it, but they will die off and then we can actually do the right thing and invest in human capital. I believe we need a VAT tax, taxes in line with Europe, and to reverse the tax cuts for the rich which are nothing more than theft foe the middle class. The government budget is about 4 trillion, so yeah doubling the taxes would be able to funds a 4 trillion dollar tax increase if their numbers are right, and I am being charitable. I don’t want to give any neoliberals who hate democratic socialism/social democracy the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accepting their numbers.

      Beyond that if we can cut out waste in medicine and education (dean’s and administrators are paid too much (then the prices will fall.) All of these policies also invest in people and make them more productive (smarter, more critical thinking, longer lives, more securitt so they can make more optimal decisions.) It’s something we need, and we better get started because when automation lays off a third of the economy in 20-30 years we’ll be hit with a barrage of problems all at once and unemployed people will be calling for universal basic income.

      • Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:13 am | Permalink

        You can delete the shorter comment. My connection was dying so I copied it and tried to post it, but didn’t see it went through so I ended up making it longer and submitting it again.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:34 am | Permalink

      Our tax rate is the lowest in the developed world
      We can easily gradually double our taxes and then we will have this stuff and the infrastructure we need.

      Yeah the Baby Boomers won’t like it, but they will die off and then we can actually do the right thing and invest in human capital. Baby Boomers fear change and are conditioned by years of propaganda to think more socialism or government inevitably leads to the USSR. That’s why they haven’t voted for a single good thing in the last 4 years and actively screw over the following generations. They don’t realize the adage that “fascism is capitalism on life support” is supported by what is happening in America under Trump after years of deregulation, tax cuts for corporate America, and outsourcing for the corporations. The pendulum has swung too far away from the mixed economy toward giving the mega-corporations a disproportionate amount of political power

      Income inequality has soared since the “Great Compression ended in the late 1970s. Wages have been stagnant for 20 years, the Flynn effect has reversed so IQs are now falling, Christian homeschooling is rising, public school enrollment is falling, suicide rates are up, unvaccinated children are rising, and the middle class is shrinking and losing its political power to a handful of rich who keep getting more money and more power. It’s time to stem the eroding of democracy, and restore agency and hope to the people. Failure to do so will just erode trust in our institutions which are at historic lows, and practically in single digits for Republicans.

      I believe we need a VAT tax, taxes in line with Europe, and to reverse the tax cuts for the rich which are nothing more than theft foe the middle class. The government budget is about 4 trillion, so yeah doubling the taxes would be able to funds a 4 trillion dollar tax increase if their numbers are right, and I am being charitable. I don’t want to give any neoliberals who hate democratic socialism/social democracy the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accepting their numbers.

      Beyond that if we can cut out waste in medicine and education (dean’s and administrators are paid too much (then the prices will fall.) All of these policies also invest in people and make them more productive (smarter, more critical thinking, longer lives, more securitt so they can make more optimal decisions.) It’s something we need, and we better get started because when automation lays off a third of the economy in 20-30 years we’ll be hit with a barrage of problems all at once and unemployed people will be calling for universal basic income.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        As a Baby Boomer, I take do want to object to the sort-of-slur and offer one bit of advice that a dotard can offer a young-un.

        When I was a young adult I was distressed by the racism of the grandmother of my then-new bride. I remember thinking that we just had to wait for the old crew to die off and the problem could then be solved.

        Otherwise, I pretty much agree with you.

    • Wayne Robinson
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      I think the $32 trillion cost of Medicare for all is too high an estimate. The American GDP is around $16 trillion, and healthcare accounts for around 16% of GDP (which is actually too expensive in itself for what it actually manages to supply compared to publicly funded healthcare systems in countries such as Australia, Britain and Sweden).

      So if American healthcare was entirely publicly funded at the current cost, it would come to $20 trillion over the 10 years. And there’s efficiency savings not included owing to the elimination of the thousands of private health funds. Hospitals for one thing wouldn’t have to negotiate with many different insurance companies which would also reduce their administration costs.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Not only would 2 trillion less be spent overall on “healthcare”, but this hides a shift in spending. More would be spent on actual provision of health services, but a lot less on insurance paperwork.

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        From a European country with a single-payer system: most of our doctors’ time and efforts are devoted to the required paperwork; some doctors are so depressed by it that they quit working with the health care fund altogether and work only privately with patients who pay out of their pockets.

        • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

          Thanks for reminding us! We need to reject single-payer healthcare because some doctors don’t like the paperwork in an unnamed European country!

          • Posted October 6, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

            It is Bulgaria. Its health care follows some aspects of the British model because of its comparatively low cost. However, we avoid some of the British excesses because of the readiness of our patients to fill the holes in the system out of their own pockets.

            I am not saying that Americans need to reject single-payer health care, just that they should not idealize it. Throughout this thread, I see the American system criticized in its reality and other systems praised in their ideal form that, as far as I know, has never been realized anywhere.

            • Posted October 6, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

              You are correct, of course, about the danger of comparing ideals with actuals. Virtually any good idea can be implemented poorly.

              We should compare the US healthcare system with others in the so-called rich world. The others are pretty much all better than the US one. They cost less, people don’t go bankrupt solely from not being able to cover their medical expenses, and outcomes are as good or better. The removal of worry alone would be a huge benefit. Besides benefits to individuals, there are large benefits to business. In our current system, each company that offers health care must help employees navigate their health plan. This is a huge burden, especially for smaller companies which actually employ the most people.

              I don’t know enough about the details of each country’s healthcare system to recommend emulating one here in the US.

  3. Jochen
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Weird. Other countries can do that, but the US can’t?

    Sounds like the same problem as gun control: Lack of political will.

    The US would have enough funding for all these programs if they changed their priorities.

    It’s disappointing to see how Democratic professors (you are not the only one) are unable to shake their conditioning on what a capitalistic system has to look like.

    Here’s some comparison:
    – everyone has healthcare
    – college education costs maybe $200/year
    – extensive paid family leave
    – no one needs to live on the streets
    – extensive social security support
    – minimum wage 8.84 EUR

    And #4 economy in the world.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      An important reason for why it [i]is[/i] different here is our military spending. The U.S. spends more on that than the next 7 countries combined, and Germany is apparently not one of those next 7 countries.
      But significantly cutting back on our military spending is pretty much impossible. I can’t imagine it happening.

      • yazikus
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        I’d like to see the Pentagon audited, which I don’t believe it has been in decades, if ever. Do we really need to be spending all the we are on the military? Of course not. I knew a fellow who worked in the Pentagon in a department in charge of making sure things like bullets and gasoline were used up in time for the new budget. He said they’d direct troops to literally drive endlessly to finish off the gas, not to mention spending round after round to clean out the stock. We can certainly tighten our belt in this regard.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

          Considered in environmental and resource terms, that is a crime against the entire world.

          Not that the Pentagon is unique in that offending.

          Much of the accounting profession is guilty of insisting that ‘assets’ must either be earning a profit or disposed of (often wastefully, or for scrap). The concept of keeping them in reserve at nominal maintenance cost for when they will be needed seems to be foreign to these graduates of Accounting 101.

          (Or maybe it’s the managers who just passed Accounting 101 while getting their MBA’s.)

          Then there are departments who know that if they don’t ‘use’ their full budget this year, not only will they ‘lose’ that money but their budget might be cut next year. Hence the end-of-financial-year splurge on useless things that nobody needed.


          • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

            But every time people are in trouble, they call the USA. (Well, maybe not anymore.)

      • David Coxill
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        How much does America spend every year on arms ?
        How much has the war of terror ,i mean war on terror cost ?

      • Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:42 am | Permalink

        Isn’t the military expenditure only about 6 percent of GDP? Yeah an audit would find a trilliom dollars of waste over the past two decade or so, but you can’t blame it on the military. Blame the corporate elite and the schizophrenic fear of government and socialism. Unlike in other civilized countries we have been conditioned to not give money to the “lazy poor”, by the churches and by the rich philanthropists we so highly admire like Andrew Carnegie. The problem with America is that we trust institutions more than people.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:41 am | Permalink


          “Isn’t the military expenditure only about 6 percent of GDP? Yeah an audit would find a trilliom dollars of waste over the past two decade or so, but you can’t blame it on the military. Blame the corporate elite and the schizophrenic fear of government and socialism

          That is hyper-simplistic & probably wrong! The military-industrial-political complex is a real thing – you can’t point the finger at one part of the triad because they wash each others hands. When the military acknowledges they have an unwarranted excess of bases [they desire to close a half dozen bases to redirect their budget more usefully] it turns out to be politically impossible because it’s some senators home turf.

          When a new inter-services project appears on the horizon the various services fight over ownership of the biggest slice. Nearly every decision maker in the Pentagon has a retirement plan as an ‘advisor’ with Northrop Grumman or Boeing or the Blackwater USA mercenary army [now going under the bullshit name Academi of all things!] or Halliburton. The same applies to the pols, but they get their trough refilled in real time & it’s mostly legal!

          USA defence spending: It’s 3% of GDP, it’s 35% of total worldwide military spend, It’s less than half of what it was in 1960 [8.4%]. Like most countries the total spend on ‘defence’ is dropping. That said it’s far too much spend & US spend is not sufficiently integrated in policy terms with ally countries**.

          ** e.g. For NATO to be effective all the members would be rationalising/cross-integrating their systems sooner & saving buckets of money, but Putin & his puppy dog Trump are helping to break NATO as are a number of the members who are fundamentally at odds with the means [a nuclear option, forward duel use missiles blah blah] of mutual protection. There isn’t an agreed set of triggers for a swift NATO response to external threats & this division in principles & ideology is being heavily exploited. I can imagine the disaster if a ‘weak’ leader such as Corbyn in the UK gets to be Prime Minister.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry I disappointed you. I suggest you frequent other websites that won’t disappoint you and where you don’t have to insult the host.

      Is everybody in Germany guaranteed a job that makes $15 an hour? Are they expanding Social Security and paying off student loans.

      Do you have the military spending of the U.S.? These things seem to have eluded you.

      Learn how to be civil in your comments, please, and that means not dissing your host.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      And isn’t socialist. Wonder why you forgot that part?

      And of course doesn’t pay to defend … Germany.

      Maybe we should let Europe pay for its own defense, and South Korea too, but as long as we don’t, that cost matters.

      Is 8.84 Euro = $15? Does everyone but everyone have a job?

      Apples are not oranges, and it’s a bit silly to imply anyone count apples is a fool, as you do.

      Oh, what’s up with your CO2 targets?

    • Robert Ryder
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be insulting, Jochen. We don’t go in for that here. So Dr. Coyne and others have been conditioned, but you haven’t? My daughter lives in Germany. There’s no doubt that government supplied social supports are stronger there in many areas, but the streets are not paved with gold. No one is guaranteed a job. Health care is not free. I agree that the U.S. spends too much on the military, but we help defend a lot of countries other than our own. I think it was perfectly reasonable for Vox to try to figure out how much these promises would cost and I appreciate Dr. Coyne sharing his thoughts. Magical thinking in all its forms are fair game.

  4. Ed Buckner
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    This ignores the cost of the insurance programs/administration being replaced by M4A–a huge error.



    • Kieran
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Just wondering if you meant to add an address to the end of your post?

  5. Tim
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Lack of affordability is a false argument. If the US government would de-priorituze spending on “defense,” there are ample funds to pay for programs that truly benefit the citizens of this country.

    In addition, the corporate tax rate has declined over time. There is no reason that huge, highly profitable corporations can’t contribute to the health and well being of the republic that supports their enterprise.

    Citizens are paying their tax dollars into the treasury, how

    We could call this a modern version of “taxation without representation.”

    • Tim
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Apologies, but my post above should have read:

      Citizens are paying their tax dollars into the treasury, however, these dollars are spent in ways that are direct opposition to their views.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      We just need to tax the rich like the rest of us

      The US has an income problem because the richest of us pay no or nearly no taxes.

      • mikeyc
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        That is very, very small part of the reason. Mostly the income disparity problem is because money is privilege, in the job, educational and financial markets and in society as a whole. And privilege generates more money.

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Seize a bunch of hotels, spas, golf courses & overpriced public housing – anything with the taint of T**** or his progeny. Might be worth between $10,000,000 & minus $10,000,000 once the leveraged loans are paid off.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Democrats For Attainder!

      There’s a winning slogan.

    • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      I suppose you are joking!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Yes, I’m joking. The point I failed to make was too much cash liquidity is going into ‘bets’ by financial institutions on projects with no little social benefit that look like they may produce a fast, fat profit.

  7. GBJames
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Medicare for all would, unquestionably, cost a lot of money. But it would cost less than what we currently pay for healthcare as a nation. Vast sums are vacuumed up in the byzantine health insurance industry.

    • yazikus
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention the additional societal costs from the uninsured (those who can’t, or won’t buy insurance). We foot that bill at the end of the day.

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Uninsured people are a problem also in single-payer systems.

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      This is so true I am astonished when people argue against it; there is a middleman between the patient and their medical care and that guy has to get paid too. That right there is giant money suck.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Probably ten middlemen, all with their hands out for their slice of the health care pie.

      • Jessy Smith
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        Many Americans pay taxes on health care and health care research they will never get because they can’t afford health care, insurance and don’t qualify for Medicare.

        Research costs in health care are often public while the profits are privatized and priced out of reach for many taxpayers who helped fund it.

        Controlling the system means huge buying power over drugs and controlling costs which are all over the place and unfairly, often higher for those without health care insurance.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      From Vox:

      “George Mason’s Mercatus Center study did find that single-payer would reduce projected national health spending by 2 percent.”

      It’s specious for Riedl to claim that single payer would cost the government billions more, when the net cost to the nation would by his own admission be less. (And that estimate ignores the considerable cost-control benefits of single-payer.)

      But like the marxist socialists, Libertarians are also living in their own alternate universe.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      And you would actually get what you’re paying for, as opposed to the current system which has created a legal cottage industry out of trying to get out of paying up.

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        From a country with such a system: No, you wouldn’t.

  8. ladyatheist
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    You can’t gain control by appealing only to the coastal & university town democrat voters. The Senate & the Electoral College are skewed toward rural states. Only a centrist can win.

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      ^what she said

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      That’s been the default reasoning for a while but, like all defaults, it is valid until suddenly it isn’t. Centrists like Bill Clinton had their day but now they tend to appear merely as conservative-lite. They seem not to stand for much and that is a big problem. It’s time for the focus to be on real policies and less on the identity groups the candidate belongs to, supports, or is supported by, and their position on the left-center-right continuum.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:51 am | Permalink

      Republicans and Democrats have sold out to so many different special interests that they stand for nothing. We need genuine progressives in the Democratic party to run against so-called centrist Democrats. There is no other way to signal to the needy that you care about them.

      That is the way to pull some of the unemployed rural voters back who voted for Obama before switching to Trump. They care about non-coastal jobs and whatever benefits them economically. Trump paid lip service to that while Hillary did not. If Trump can promise the moon and suffer no consequences, then liberals can make aspirational stretch goals too, and more importantly actually stride toward them and win back trust.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    We have the money, we don’t have the political will.

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us nearly 5 trillion so far, and they will continue to cost us billions more in the future (I do understand that this is for 15 years, not the decade-long costs cited in the Vox article). That could have paid for Social Security expansion, Paid family leave of 12 weeks for new parents, Free college for all, New infrastructure, and Paying off all student loan debt. All of that would cost approx. 3.7 trillion…close to what a decade-worth of Afghan/Iraq wars cost. Sure, it doesn’t cover Medicare for all and Guaranteed jobs @ $15/hour, but it’s a hell of a start. Plus, as others have noted, Medicare for all will cost taxpayers less in the long run.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      And the remaining 1.3 trillion could have been used to go completely solar, greatly improving (ie. reducing) the export of fundamentalist Islam 😁

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

      And the remaining 1.3 trillion could have been used to go completely solar, greatly improving (ie. reducing) the export of fundamentalist Islam 😁

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    In 2016, Democratic Socialists of America declared its solidarity with Maduro’s Venezuela. In 2017, it withdrew from the Socialist International, with which DSA had been affiliated since 1982; voted to support the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions campaign against the state of Israel; and voted in support of reparations in the US to “communities descended from slaves”. Its website announces: “We also believe that the wider system of racist oppression can be defeated, but only with the ending of the capitalist system which birthed it”.

    Wikipedia reports that the median age of DSA members was 68 in 2013 (perhaps heavily weighted by member Bernie Sanders) but had plunged to 33 in 2017. Most of its current youthful members are undoubtedly unfamiliar with the history of East-Central Europe after World War II. There, democratic socialism was so intensely democratic that it acquired a third word in its title: “Peoples” as in “Peoples Democracy”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Disparaging American democratic socialists because of the evils committed behind the Iron Curtain is like chiding Unitarian Universalists for the Spanish Inquisition.

      • mikeyc
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t expect that.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          Sometimes even Sandy Koufax threw an off-speed curveball to keep the hitters honest, Mikey. 🙂

        • JB
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

          NO ONE expects a Spanish Inquisition analogy.

          • Mikeyc
            Posted August 8, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

            THANK you, JB.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

              Damn, that one went right by me, much as I hate to admit missing a meme.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        Unitarians ran the Inquisition?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

          Exactly, the UUs ran the Inquisition to the exact same extent that the DSA ran the Stasi, the StB, and the Securitate.

          • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

            The UUs do not run any Inquisition because the secular society in the USA is powerful. The same way, DSA do not run Stasi/Securitate because they lack the opportunity. But every time when socialists have been in control, very ugly things have happened.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    It is kind of like going out to purchase a new care and deciding to get everything you ever wanted on the car. No one could afford it. But there is no reason to go from one extreme to the other. Right now we have the extreme that says, feed them beans. Give all the money to the rich and everyone is on their own. They want no health care, no minimum wage, no regulation, no protection and certainly, no immigration.

    Democrats should concentrate on one thing at a time. Priority should be health care for all with appropriate taxation of all to pay for it. It should also include reductions in defense spending to assist in making this affordable. It should also include proper management of the health care systems to include using the power of single payer to lower prices. Right now we have none of this. If we just accomplished this along with insuring social security is properly funded and economically healthy that would be plenty for now. Free education, if we are talking about College is simply not yet in the cards. Fact is, everyone is not college material anyway but we should have much more going on in trade schools and even two year colleges.

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    IMO the half-truth behind conservative critics of government programs is that IF they go bad, then they are hard to fix and modify. Furthermore, more extreme forms of socialism often (but not always) lead to economic stagnation.

    But there’s an interesting idea called “market socialism” which is according to Wikipedia “a type of economic system involving the public, cooperative or social ownership of the means of production in the framework of a market economy. Market socialism differs from non-market socialism in that the market mechanism is utilized for the allocation of capital goods and the means of production.[1][2][3] Depending on the specific model of market socialism, profits generated by socially owned firms (i.e. net revenue not reinvested into expanding the firm) may variously be used to directly remunerate employees, accrue to society at large as the source of public finance or be distributed amongst the population in a social dividend.[4]”

    Examples are Yugoslavia and modern Cuba.

    • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      The examples are not very inspiring.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    No worries about AOC running for president in 2020 or 2024. She’ll be 30 and 34; the minimum constitutional age is 35.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      “Let’s see the birth certificate!”

  14. Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious lie.”

    True — I suppose living in an alternate universe doesn’t count as ‘lying’.

  15. Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Of course, Vox only looks at the tab for the federal gov’t. They don’t seem to notice that if the feds pick up our health care costs, we no longer have to pay individually through the nose for health care? So where is the revenue going to come from to pay for Medicare for All? From the money we no longer have to pay private insurance companies and since the taxes needed would not be as great as the cost of the private insurance (Medicare only has about 3% overhead), we will have money left over to put in our pocket. Oh, and 30 million Americans who do not now have coverage will (and still we save $2 trillion over that 10 year span).

    Leave it to Vox to do a cost-benefit analysis and leave out all of the benefits.

    • BJ
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      “They don’t seem to notice that if the feds pick up our health care costs, we no longer have to pay individually through the nose for health care? So where is the revenue going to come from to pay for Medicare for All? From the money we no longer have to pay private insurance companies and since the taxes needed ”

      How does the government paying for our healthcare end up costing less than people paying for their healthcare? Where does this magical reduction in price (and, as you say, increase in revenue) come from? You’ve merely shifted the burden of payment from individuals to the government, and then expanded the amount of payments being made. How are you suddenly locking out the entire private healthcare industry? Where is this new government-run infrastructure coming from?

      The only way this comment makes any sense is if the government is going to open thousands of healthcare centers around the country, completely locking out the entire private healthcare industry (from insurance, to hospitals, to doctors, etc.). Not only would this cost hundreds of billions just to set up (before we even get around to running it), but it would never even come close to happening in the first place.

      If we want a single-payer system (which is what I want) we have to start with slowly imposing regulations on the various sectors of the healthcare industry over many years in order to lower the exorbitant and ever-increasing costs of healthcare in the US. Then you can set up a single-payer system, rather than what you’re proposing.

      What people don’t seem to understand is that we can’t just switch to the types of systems other countries have overnight. It will be a long and extremely complex process. There is no easy solution; no plan that can be explained in two or three sentences.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:33 am | Permalink

        Yes, US health care is by far the most expensive anywhere in the world, but I strongly doubt it is the best. Nevertheless, helthcare is expensive, especially in countries with aging populations (again the US population is far from the ‘most aging’ ones).
        I agree though that switching to a more rational, effective system is not an ‘overnight’ thing.

        • Posted August 9, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

          The last time I looked up the stats, which was for 2015, US healthcare was costing £10,000 per person per anum. The British system was costing a little over £2,000 per person per anum. Even accounting for the wildest exchange rate, the British system is much cheaper than the US system and the British system gets better outcomes for its patients too.

          The problem is that the British $4,000 (using a random conservative exchange rate) is mostly tax whereas the US $10,000 is mostly insurance premiums. If the government is going to switch to single payer, they will have to raise taxes and those people that don’t have insurance or whose insurance is paid by their employer may see that as making them worse off, especially if they are young and healthy. So any transition is going to be really tricky, even though, from the nation’s point of view it really is a no brainer.

        • BJ
          Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          Oh, it’s definitely not the best on average, but it is the best for those who have the money (or are willing to go into debt) for the best treatments. The US is on the cutting edge of treatments and people who have the resources and have very serious conditions often come here to get the best treatment. It would be wise for us to keep the private system for those who want it once we eventually get around to a single-payer system, as most of the innovation takes place there due to the profit motive. While the government won’t be able to pay for the best new treatments for people in the government healthcare system, those new and more refined techniques will eventually lower in price as they get older (and replaced by new ones) and trickle down into the government healthcare offerings. It’s true in all the countries with single-payer/socialized medicine for all that people usually don’t get the best treatment possible, so what I’m discussing here wouldn’t be a problem.

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted August 10, 2018 at 12:06 am | Permalink

            I’m not 100% sure that that is always true.
            Not that the US is not on the ‘cutting edge’ -it is-, but that the ‘cutting edge’ is always best.
            Eg in the US the recommended treatment treatment for VZO (Varicella zoster ophthalmica) pain in the US is neuroleptics and high doses of opiates, with all the connected side effects. A Stellate ganglion block (in the neck!)is much more effective, less side effects and much cheaper.

            • BJ
              Posted August 11, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

              Oh, there’s a big difference between guidelines, and what are the actual best treatments. My point is, if you have the resources, you have (1) a doctor who knows what the best treatments really are, and (2) can tailor an individualized plan for you. There are tons of procedures we perform in this country that are unnecessary (like constant mammographies) and recommended treatments that are not the best course of action (like giving opiates for some things).

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Donald Trump’s proposed military budget for FY 2019 is $716 billion, which is more than a 10% increase over current military spending levels. It accounts for about 55% of all this nation’s discretionary spending, and is more than what’s spent by the next seven nations with the largest military budgets combined.

    WTF ever happened to the “peace dividend” we were promised when the Cold War ended?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Even if we don’t include the billions spent on failed unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan our military spending could be cut maybe in half. There are literally hundreds of military installations that could be combined or closed and still leave plenty to do the job. Also, the military is way too top heaving in rank (meaning way too many officers). Currently this personnel problem would bankrupt any small countries. The after affects of such a military is very costly. With 20 years service you retire on half pay for life. With 30 years it is 75%. You have free medical for life and the cheapest groceries any place you look. I do not say the benefits should be removed, just saying the cost goes on for every member for a long time. Do we need ten aircraft carriers? How many nuclear subs is required? These are what we call high ticket items.

      Trump increases spending on the military and he has no idea what he has or needs. If you ask the military, which is probably what he does, they will always want more. You will never find a general who says let’s cut. They have no idea what cut even means.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        Didn’t the war in Iraq cost trillions?
        There is also spending trillions on useless pieces of scrap metal such as the F-35.
        (It’s 15 pages, but highly interesting, and devastating)
        Indeed, how useful are aircraft carriers in modern warfare? (I don’t say they are useless, but maybe their usefulness should be assessed from time to time, are they?).

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        I don’t think the war in Afghanistan was unnecessary or that it failed altogether. There were no more 9/11.

  17. Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Providing free tuition to public colleges & universities would be easier to sell if tuitions were drastically reduced. The best first step toward that is to fire every single Diversity & Equity Officer and shut down every Gender Studies department.

    • yazikus
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Or, *cough*football*cough*. Those coaches are often the highest paid public employee in the state.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Or, if it weren’t a bad idea. Not everyone should go to University. Subsididizing those who shouldn’t go is a waste of resources, and their time too.

      There’s a real snobbery at work here. University good, trade school bad, no school worse. Society *needs* more University graduates — people like us — but doesn’t *need* more plumbers — people like them.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. When I see one of these plans include a serious provision for trade schools, then I might believe they are more than insincere demagoguery to motivate the Dems’ college-student voter base.

        • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          I would definitely go along with funding trade school attendance. My guess is most Dems would. Dems aren’t in favor of education because college students and faculty vote Dem. That’s Trumpian thinking. Education is a good thing as I imagine most here would agree.

          • Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

            That’s my thinking, and I despise trump.

            Education is a good thing, but most people don’t go to college, shouldn’t go to college, and don’t even want to go to college.

            The current Dem base is comprised of: minorities; single women; and young people. When I see that not every Dem proposal panders to one or another of those three groups, I’ll believe it’s not by design.

            • Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

              I’m part of the Dem base and I am an older white male, as is our host I suspect. I have never voted Republican and I doubt I ever will.

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        When I was going to school in the 70’s and 80’s, we could take elective courses like auto shop, wood shop, welding and many others. Not any more around here. I don’t understand why administrators think everyone wants or should go to a University. Perhaps electives cost too much money or school districts became afraid of litigation. (We were using lathes, band saws, pneumatic tools, etc.)

        Nowadays it seems if you’re going to be a plumber or carpenter you almost have to be born into the trade.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:44 am | Permalink

      every ‘…..studies’ department needs a thorough audit at least.

    • Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      + 1! And also the African-American and Latinx studies.

  18. Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    On most issues I am far from a socialist, but on health care I don’t see a good non-government solution. The US spends far more on health care, and gets far less in terms of health outcomes, than any country in the world. There has to be a better way. I’m guessing it will require more government spending, but it should result in lower overall health care spending. A single payer system avoids a lot of duplication and multiple insurance costs. It also allows better cost control over health care providers. It is not really socialism because health care provision will remain largely in the private sector.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      You are right, it isn’t socialism.
      There are a lot of choices besides monopsony. Switzerland and France have splendid Systems but aren’t single payer. I think Denmark has some sort of mixed system where most costs come from local governments.
      There is a big difference between saying, we should pay for this through the government, and we should control it through the government. It’s the latter which is the harder sell (for good reason too).

  19. josh
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, spending 50% GDP to ensure everyone has good health care, a living wage, higher education, and modern infrastructure sounds like a hell of a deal. We can spend the other 50% on candy and toys.

    As others have pointed out, the bulk of this estimate is expanding Medicare, which replaces costs we already spend privately but with a more efficient system. The Vox article is written by a Republican consultant. His argument against including this is that the transition is hard. Probably true! But somehow every other rich country has a better system than ours and they aren’t failed states. Similarly one has to think about private spending on education and costs from degrading infrastructure, etc.

    One should take seriously the way taxes would have to be restructured to make this kind of system work. They would go up significantly for more than just the idle rich. I doubt that Sander’s specific plan is perfect, but we aren’t actually going to get Dictator Bernie or anything close. Ideas like this are worth discussing and having an economic left wing which has proved it can win at least some regional elections is good for the party IMO. I’m not convinced Bernie could have won the general, but we know stay-the-course Hillary wasn’t a big draw.

  20. Harrison
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Dems could just do what Republicans do and insist that everything they do will pay for itself through unspecified loopholes and magic asterisks.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      “Magic asterisks”…that gave me a chuckle. 🙂

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      “Voodoo economics”

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      A few years ago I would have been aghast at this proposal, because I value truth very highly (I abandoned my religion over truth, after all). But the bad faith of Republicans just increasingly strikes me as completely bottomless. I’m starting to warm up to the idea that, if it’s a pure demagogic propaganda war they want, truth be damned, perhaps Dems should deliver one. Promise the moon! Promise Mars! Promise the whole damn universe for free!

      At least make them pay a price for their strategy.

  21. Brian Jung
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    The total cost of all of these programs is indeed staggering. But of course no one believes that all of these programs will ever be fully realized in their proposed forms and so it’s a little silly to tally them like this.

    If you did an accounting of the social cost of all the entitlement spending cuts that many on the right propose, that would be staggering too.

    What the democratic socialists are proposing is a starting point, a place to begin discussing possible solutions to some of our problems. This makes them, as a group, rather unique.

    Republicans just propose tax cuts for the wealthy as the solution for everything. Except lots of them also like racism.

    Moderate democrats propose compromising with republicans who refuse to compromise. Even if it worked, it wouldn’t be inspiring.

    The democratic socialists have an actual message and a vision. It’s about time someone did.

    • the_eleven
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Excellent comment!

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink


    • GBJames
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      “Moderate democrats propose compromising with republicans…”

      Bingo. This is exactly the problem with the Democratic Party over the last forty years. All it accomplishes is to allow the Republicans to pull the country right-ward cycle after cycle.

      From my point of view, the reason the 2010 catastrophe happened to the Democrats is that President Obama allowed the Republican Party to feign cooperation on the ACA, watering down the law they never intended to help maintain. Democrats in the trenches got discouraged and didn’t come out to vote. The rest is history, as they say.

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      It’s sillier than that. The $10k your employer currently pays into insurance would simply move to taxes in some systems, meaning that the *total* price tag is simply a meaningless number. We’re going to pay at least $34 trillion over a decade for health care *no matter what*. The only question is whether it’s primarily through private payments or taxes. The question of “cost” should be one of net cost, increased taxes *minus* the costs people currently pay for insurance. If you’re not talking about *net* costs you are just doing propaganda, not evaluation.

  22. darrelle
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Modeling and predicting things like this is so difficult it’s closer to a crapshoot than reliable prognostication. But I don’t find this Vox article very convincing. Others have already made some key points why.

    An important point is that most of these programs aren’t simply about the government providing free stuff to everyone, it’s about making the stuff, medical care, education, welfare, cheaper and more effective. Like they are in most other wealthy nations, and even in some not-so-wealthy nations.

    A significant problem to overcome, or endure, is the time it takes for people to get used to significant change. Sort of an ideological inertia. Making big changes like these probably can’t be done quickly without a lot of turmoil. But I don’t buy any of the arguments that people make about why these types of programs could never work in the US. Nearly every other wealthy country has made them work and many of them score better than the US on metrics intended to compare quality of life among countries. If others can do it then surely we can do it too. Right? I mean if we are supposed to be the greatest, bestest, most awesome country on Earth we should be able to do it better and without losing our soul in the process. Right?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      You are right. There is no reason why this country should not have health care for all. It is and should be a shameful reality that we have this condition in the U.S. Big business and selfish power runs this country so the question is, how to change it? How does the power move to the actual people to accomplish good? I believe and will say again, the money has to be removed from the government. If this is not done we will accomplish nothing, so either the people understand this and do this or settle for what we have now.

  23. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    The aspirational list of everything anyone who’s ever labeled themselves by some derivative of the word “socialist” has ever wished for does not a line-item budget make.

    Nobody says you gotta eat the whole elephant, and what you do eat, you eat a bite at a time.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      People iike Ocatavio0Cortez are running on the “whole hog” platform, not single or double issues.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Think that’s Ocasio-Cortez, boss. She doesn’t have her sights set on becoming Caesar quite yet. 🙂

  24. Mehul Shah
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    This is political suicide for the democrats. In a country where ACA is divisive, how does one sell universal healthcare ? And guaranteed jobs for all at $15/hr plus benefits ? I think most liberals would scoff at that.

    • Harrison
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      The ACA is following the arc of every major social democratic program that preceded it: It is becoming increasingly more popular as it remains in effect. Which is why Republicans fought so hard to try to prevent it taking root, and now are reduced to chopping at the roots with axes, trying to kill the tree.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        On what do you base your belief that it’s becoming more popular?

        In 2009, 3/4 of Americans favored universal healthcare. But obama had already made a deal with the insurance industry to implement mandatory private health insurance based on a Heritage Foundation plan. The reason the voters of Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the Senate was because they’d suffered under romneycare, and knew obamacare would be terrible, too.

        For some people, ACA has been great; for many others, it’s made things worse than before.

        Support for universal healthcare is still out there. So long as the Dems stop pretending obamacare is that, and don’t let fantasizers like O-C set the agenda, they might start winning elections and maybe one day pass a true healthcare bill.

        • gluonspring
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

          Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: ACA

          It was slightly popular, became unpopular after 2012 (either from the effect of R election propaganda or effects kicking in or both) then became slightly popular again in Jan 2017 as Rs tried to repeal it. The latter is probably simple loss-aversion, maybe with some effect of the Dems finally messaging that “this isn’t just about giving stuff away to poor people, it’s about your pre-existing conditions”.

          • Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

            Thanks for the link. Fascinating trend.

            Dems and GOPs both err in believing the main gripe for most folks is about ‘giving stuff away to poor people’. But when elites who can afford healthcare no matter what pontificate on & on about covering healthcare for the poor, those in the middle struggling on their own to cover rising healthcare costs grow resentful, and correctly believe those elite lawmakers are out of touch & callously dismissive of the reality of ordinary folks’ lives.

            • Posted October 6, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

              In my country, experience has taught us that every measure touted as taking from “the rich” to support “the poor”, turns out taking from the middle-class people like me. I am glad that the middle-class voters finally got it and then politicians stopped talking about it. I do not say that middle-class should not be taxed to support the poor – of course it should; but the talk about excessive taxation of “the rich” is demagoguery and has always been. Other things aside, the rich are too few and too skilled in evasion to support anything.

              • Posted October 6, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

                I don’t like it when attempts to counter income inequality are called “take from the rich and give to the poor”. It characterizes them as unfairly punishing the rich and giving handouts to the undeserving poor. Income inequality hurts growth as it reduces motivation to try to get ahead in the world. Back in the 50s and 60s, the US led the rich world in upward mobility. Now it is much lower. Our economy would be much stronger if we could solve income inequality.

              • Posted October 6, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

                I see things exactly in the opposite way. It is income inequality that motivates people to try to get ahead. It is difficult to motivate youths to study and become teachers if they can earn the same salary as shop assistants, and even more difficult to motivate some people to work at all if they receive almost the same as welfare.
                I think that, instead of attempts to reduce income inequality, some key services (education, health care) should be subsidized and offered at reduced prices or free.

              • Posted October 6, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                Yet another straw man! We’re not talking about eliminating income inequality, just reducing it to a level that is much closer to optimal. The effect you describe here is, in fact, the goal.

                As I hinted before, income mobility is a related measure and perhaps even a more important one for motivation. It measures the ability to change one’s lot in life. If you are born poor, for example, do you have the ability to enter the middle or upper class?


              • Posted October 6, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

                Where I live, it is possible but difficult for the working poor and even more difficult for the non-working poor. I do not know about the USA.

              • Posted October 6, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

                I am not poor but there are poor people in most areas of the US. Homelessness is a huge problem. I am sure life is tough for them. Republicans would like everyone to think they are all just lazy or want to live on handouts. I am sure that might be the case for some of them but, even then, it is because a better life is not within their reach and taking advantage of the system becomes the only lifestyle available to them.

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      I think the idea is that you will win over zero of the people who don’t like the ACA, but that you will motivate people who are otherwise indifferent to actually go vote. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I think it’s a sensible possibility.

      I think the ACA suffered from some unique problems. The biggest is that most people don’t begin to understand what it is or how it was supposed to work. It’s just complicated and messy. Even people who might have been for it were not excited by it. It didn’t strike most people as universal either. My family, for example, only perceived the ACA to be some kind of welfare program for the poor. They didn’t think it had anything positive to do with them. I think it’s only once Rs tried to repeal the ACA that the message got out about pre-existing condition coverage, for example. I think now my family dimly perceives that they get something out of ACA, but they still want to cut off the poor people.

      Anyway, a universal program is potentially (only potentially!) less divisive because to the extent that it’s universal any benefits it haves are benefits to everyone. Historically this has been one of the reasons Social Security has survived, it’s a universal program so everyone feels invested in it. Gutting Medicare is political suicide. Gutting Medicaid, something for *other* people, is always on the table.

      • Harrison
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        The general construction of the ACA is actually fairly intuitive. Anyone spending a bit of time thinking about the problem would come to a similar solution. You start with mandating that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions, and that they can’t charge them an arm and a leg. That’s step one. Now insurers costs have risen. You deal with that by mandating that everyone purchase insurance to distribute the cost flatly. That’s step two. Now some people can’t afford insurance but are required by law to have it. You then offer subsidies to make insurance affordable. That’s step three.

        What Matt above seems to take issue with and which I’ve never argued against is that the ACA is the apotheosis of a CONSERVATIVE solution to near-universal insurance. It’s always been a conservative plan as much as American conservatives have tried to disown it or paint it as socialism. It deliberately carves out a space for private insurance. And it’s virtually the only way to do so within a conservative framework, which was why when they finally got a chance to repeal and replace it they failed so spectacularly: There was nothing to replace it with that wasn’t either more liberal or several times crappier. In the end the Republicans opted for crappier but couldn’t ram it through.

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 3, 2018 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

          I think you way overestimate the depth of thought the average voter gave to it or the baseline knowledge of the average voter. I think the average person probably does not accurately understand how insurance works in the first place,

          I think the average working class voter heard something about “Obamacare”, and how it was going to help 10 million more people get insurance or something, and that’s about the extent of their knowledge. Having insurance already at their job, or through Medicare, that sounded to them like some kind of program for “other people”.

          I think the program was sold very poorly in that respect. It needed ads, and lots of them, hammering home how the ACA would help people who already had some kind of insurance, repeating the pre-existing condition aspect over and over, with horror stories of people who change jobs and lose coverage and are plunged into ruin. People are not going to educate themselves, that is.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      In a country where ACA is divisive, how does one sell universal healthcare

      It’s pretty bad that this is even a thing. Not supporting universal healthcare is the same as telling poor people who are ill “we’d rather you die than we lift a finger to help you”. If the majority of people in your country have that attitude, it is time to move somewhere civilised.

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Problems are not solved by moving away.

  25. Dick Veldkamp
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    It seems strange to me that “democratic socialism”, would not be possible in the US in principle (not talking about the defunctional political system now). As already noted in (3), European countries manage to do it.

    And that is even with the current corporate tax, which is (in my view) much lower than it should be (and was).

    The real income tax in the Netherlands stands at 45% (a roughly constant percentage over all income brackets if you include all taxes and deductions). On top of that there is compulsory health insurance of about USD 1500 a year per person.

    When I lived in Denmark I paid exactly 50% income tax, but health care was included there.

    That is a high tax rate, but you get much in return.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      “dysfunctional” of course.

    • Posted October 6, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Denmark denies it has socialism.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I dunno what “democratic socialism” is, but social democracy has been a major force in Europe; I hear that Sanders have misunderstood how it works and overshoot the target.

    And I dunno how US economy works. Apparently US is unique among capitalistic nations in its social immobility; quite the opposite, I gather, to the imagined “American Dream”.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      I believe you are correct, jumping class level is not standard. It is always possible but pretty sure that those born in the middle class tend to stay and the same is true for the poor and for the rich. The growing inequality in the U.S. makes this more likely and the social systems such as private schools for the rich, public school for the rest goes right along with this idea. Nearly all the better colleges are priced beyond all but the rich so without financial help or great debt you settle for less. The prejudices are more than color but that is probably true in other countries.

  27. Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    C’mon, you’re going all Max Eastman and Emma Goldman on us again. “Arise, ye victims of oppression, for the tyrants fear your might!”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, just like you’re going all A. Mitchell Palmer.

  28. Martin X
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    We do need a much higher marginal tax rate…70% or higher for the wealthy (to be defined later). And a sharp reduction in military spending.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      I say we do what FDR did to pay for highways, infrastructure, social security, jobs programs, etc. Marginal tax rate of 90% until this house is in order. Then go down to 70% like we did in the 60’s.

      Pipe dream to be sure.

  29. BJ
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    The idea of sending even more Americans to college is one of my biggest bugbears. Everybody thinks it sounds great. “Everyone should go to college!” Except college isn’t all that valuable anymore, unless you take one of a few very specific majors that most people — especially most of those who aren’t going to college without a free college program — aren’t capable of completing.

    Even if we do send more people to college, they will mostly get largely useless degrees and end up either unable to get better jobs than they would have had without college, or getting jobs with significantly lower pay and less security than they would have had if they went into a trade. We should be sending a specific subset of people to trade schools, not to college to get degrees in communications, gender studies, etc.

    By sending more people to college, we are not only adding likely tens to hundreds of billions of dollars to our national debt (which is already worse than it has ever been), but we are engaging in a policy that will produce negative utility. More people going to college will further reduce the already low signalling value of college degrees. Moreover, most people will be putting off getting good jobs for at least another four years, so they will make less, save less, and the government will receive fewer tax dollars while spending more. The average person will then get out of college and end up making less money than they would have if they went into a trade, which will lower tax revenue for the rest of their lifespan.

    It’s a bad idea in every way.

    • BJ
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Meanwhile, single-payer healthcare will not solve our healthcare problem. If we want single-payer (which we should have), we first need to lower healthcare costs through an enormous amount of industry regulation. Our healthcare costs are, by far, the highest in the world.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        If we have to lower costs with the current system first, we’ll never have single-payer care. Bolder steps are needed.

      • Posted August 9, 2018 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        Your healthcare costs are high because you do not have single payer. You won’t be able to reduce them significantly until you do.

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      All the things you mention here are issues certainly but for someone who reads this blog to come out against more education simply boggles the mind. Why would any of the problems you mention be unsolvable? Your descriptions of them practically suggest the answers.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        X is good is not the same as more X is good.

        • Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, I’m missing your point here, Ken B. BJ is talking about “sending more people to college” as am I.

    • yazikus
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      When I read comments like this one on sites like this, I wonder if there is a bit of an educated, well-off bubble at play. Perhaps not, but most Americans do not complete college. In rural areas, many HS graduates go straight into trades or the military. Many don’t want to go to college and go straight into the service industry.
      Also, trade schools are a type of college. Community colleges do great work for a very reasonable price, and their investments in their communities pay off well. Just as not everyone is suited for a liberal arts or STEM degree, not everyone is suited for a trade. That doesn’t mean we should be discouraging people from giving the trades a second glance, does it?

      I think what many of us want is for those who want to go to college to have that opportunity.

      Personally, I think we would do well to have young people work a few years before going to school if they are going to pursue higher education. This would give them time to understand the value of their time, the value of the money they are paying to be in school and a little more maturity (in theory) and self-discipline.

      But today, in the hiring market, not having a degree hurts an applicant.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Your mention of support for taking a few years off before college is a good one. I would go even further. A smart country should support re-education at any point in life. This should include financial support for students but could do much more. Retirement plans, mortgages, etc. should all be structured to allow one to switch careers and/or get more education.

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        “But today, in the hiring market, not having a degree hurts an applicant.”

        This is exactly true. I used to be the creative director of a large company and managed a department of 65 people. Whenever I posted a job, we’d get around 40-50 applications. One of the first ways to weed 50 down to a manageable level was to weigh their education. A college graduate would almost always be chosen above a HS graduate.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think the idea is so much to send everyone to college, BJ, as it is that kids, especially working-class kids, who go to college shouldn’t be buried under a mountain of debt for doing so. And the plans I’ve seen (such as the one Bernie put forward in 2016) would encourage most to enroll in two-year trade or technical schools.

      Certainly, you don’t think rich kids are more deserving of post-secondary education?

      Was a time — in the late 19th century — when the hidebound rich were bitching about taxpayers having to foot the bill for other people’s kids’ high-school education, too.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        But that’s not the proposal BJ is rejecting. Free university for everyone is not the same as subsidies for poor students who could not otherwise go.

        • BJ
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

          Exactly, and that’s what I would point out to all the people who responded to my comment. When we hear talk of this idea, it’s usually just “free college for anyone and everyone who wants it.” We need a system that will funnel people into specific types of education to do specific jobs that they are likely capable of doing, and we don’t need a system that, on the whole, sends millions more people to college in the most general sense. It needs to be a system where the end benefit isn’t “X person now has a college degree,” but a system where the end benefit is “X person now has a degree/certification in a job where they are likely to have a stable income and job security, rather than competing with millions more people every year who get degrees in vague areas of study that won’t help them get a job (beyond the value of a college degree as signalling).”

          I do think we need to reduce/eliminate the debt that comes with college in this country. It’s appalling. But I think we might end up going about it in a very reckless way that will do more harm than good if we aren’t very careful.

          • Posted August 8, 2018 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

            Quarter million dollar subsidies for the kids of professors, doctors, software engineers. Oh, and we’ll pay for the trash collector’s kid to learn to use a belt-sander. Fair is fair!

            • Posted October 6, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

              In my country, colleges are subsidized and fees are bearable for typical families (there are waives and other supports for orphans and kids from families in difficult situations). Applicants for colleges are sieved by entrance exams. It is true that those who pass and become entitled to subsidies are disproportionately kids of professors, doctors and like, rather than trash collectors’ kids. It is also true that when a fast line to a college has been provided to trash collectors’ kids, they fail later. I have witnessed such experiments, and they have resulted in waste of time and funds for everyone, including the kids. Why shouldn’t we pay for kids learning to use a belt-sander? (I have sent my own son to a trade secondary school.)

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 8, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            “We need a system that will funnel people into specific types of education to do specific jobs that they are likely capable of doing …”

            Wow, sounds exactly like the caste system in Huxley’s Brave New World. 🙂

            Shall we classify them as Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, keep them pacified on soma?

            • BJ
              Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

              This is incredibly reductive. I don’t have an exceedingly simple plan for how we can stop people from going into debt when they go to college, for the same reason that I don’t have such a plan for healthcare: it’s not that simple because our systems have been established for so long. The private interests behind all the attendant industries are far too entrenched to cure this overnight with some sweeping legislation. I’m trying to talk about a general way to handle things, and you’re pretending that I’ve proposed an ironclad plan whereby everyone must stay in their lane and do as they’re told.

              Like I said: we need a system that funnels people toward certain types of education that will be beneficial for them. Nobody will be forced to go to a trade school; I never said anyone will be forced to do anything. I never proposed that we force people to go to certain kinds of schools. All I have proposed is that we try to direct people to the types of education that will help them get better, more stable jobs, rather than sending them to college and having them end up like most people who go to college now: near broke with little to no job security. We cannot pretend that most people are capable of doing what you do, Ken. Most people who go to college will not become lawyers, or doctors, or scientists, etc. And you cannot create good policy that will help the people you want to help if you leave out factors because you find it distasteful to acknowledge them.

              Moreover, I think the fact that you see going into trades as somehow less noble or agreeable than, say, getting a college degree and working in sales in a corporate office, says more about the way society has set up college degrees as signalling something they ultimately do not. The vast majority of people who are getting college degrees right now will not end up with jobs that will pay more and have more security than if they went into a trade. So why are we pretending that, if they went into a trade instead, that would somehow lower them in some sort of caste system? That’s a problem that should also be solved. We should not be thinking that plumbers, electricians, roofers, mechanics, etc. are somehow of a lower class than corporate office workers or middle managers.

              But the real point is that everything society and government does is a scheme of incentives. If you set up proper incentive structures, it results in the most benefit for the most people. You know this. You know we need to acknowledge all facts if we’re to implement the best system. How is it a bad thing to set up a system to encourage people who otherwise wouldn’t go to college to go to trade schools instead? And if nobody is being forced, and if helping them get those educations rather than college will be more useful to them (and, by extension, society as a whole), what is bad about any of this?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 12:49 am | Permalink

                I’m with you on that. I can hardly believe the way some commenters have managed to misinterpret your point.

                ‘Pushing’ people into attempting college degrees that they have no aptitude for and little interest in is surely a recipe for expensive failure. And it will either result in a spate of ‘failed’ degrees or a proliferation of useless courses (‘xxx studies’) or genuine courses being watered down to the point where a pass in them is near meaningless.

                Incidentally, I rate a competent mechanic considerably higher in my status ladder than the average manager 😉


              • Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

                I don’t think commenters have missed BJ’s point at all. Not everyone should get a college degree. Most would agree. Certainly no one should be forced to go to college. And there are valuable things one’s life that don’t involve college. The objection is that such observations are arguments against some sort of government funding of college tuition.

                When politicians talk about a “college for all” plan, they aren’t talking about forcing everyone to go to college, just making it available to everyone as an option regardless of financial circumstance.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

                I appreciate your response, BJ. And, while I disagree with you on some of this, with the Huxley stuff, I was mostly just bustin’ balls a bit. 🙂

              • BJ
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

                Fair enough, you know I like it when you bust my balls 🙂 I just didn’t know you were doing it.

                By the way, I finally saw Three Billboards. Gotta say I was a bit disappointed. Enjoyable enough, but had a ton of problems in its dialogue and characterization that In Bruges — or, to a lesser extent, Seven Psychopaths — didn’t have. I did like the message, though (even if I question whether most people actually understood it).

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                I really liked Three Billboards when I saw it in the theater, up there with In Bruges, but I need to see it again. (My son was over and watching it when I got home the other night, and I watched a couple scenes with him, but I need to sit down and study it some.)

                I liked Seven Psychopaths a lot, but would rank it a notch below the other two; I thought it wandered away from McDonagh a bit in the third reel. I’m due to watch it again, too.

              • BJ
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

                I just watched Seven Psychopaths again the other night, having seen it last a few months after it came out. I had the same impression you did when I first watched it and, while I appreciated it more the with my second viewing, I still felt the same way you did about the third act. The third act became a bit meandering.

                I know you’ve seen his brother’s Calvary on my brilliant recommendation that totally changed your life, but have you managed to watch The Guard yet?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

                I’ll watch The Guard this weekend. Thx.

            • Posted October 6, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

              As a proud mother of a boy in a trade secondary school, I disagree. Every young person should find his proper education based on his ability, inclinations and labor market situation. Ideally, income should not play a part, though in reality it always plays some part.
              I do not regard my son and his classmates as “beta”, nor unskilled workers as “epsilons”, though I admit I don’t want my children to become unskilled workers. I never tell them, “If you don’t study hard, you’ll become garbage collectors”, because I want them to value every labor, including that of garbage collectors.

          • Posted August 8, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

            When I hear a politician propose “free college for all who want it”, I don’t take that as the whole proposal. Certainly there will be details to iron out and the result it might not be 100% free, might not include everyone, etc. Same as when Obama told everyone “You can keep your doctor.” Anyone who took that literally was just ignorant and unreasoning. If he had said, “Most of you will be able to keep your doctor.”, he would have been accurate but then have to explain what that means in detail and it would probably have derailed ACA. I don’t even consider his statement a lie, just an oversimplification.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted August 9, 2018 at 12:22 am | Permalink

            BJ on colleges:

            “We need a system that will funnel people into specific types of education to do specific jobs that they are likely capable of doing”

            Bollocks to that! There is more to learning, further learning & life long learning than gaining a proficiency in a marketable skill! I’m somewhat horrified at your bean counter outlook on education.

            I hope it’s just an error in focus on your part – long live the useless degree! [not allowed to have “studies” in the name though]

            • BJ
              Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

              So, it’s only the degrees you find useless that can be discussed in this manner. Interesting.

              Sweeping government policies — especially ones that will change an enormous part of society and cost hundreds of billions of dollars — should be considered in terms of utility. You can’t just say, “all education is good!” If that’s the case, everyone should be forced to go to college, just as they are forced to go to elementary and high school. If what you say is strictly true, then why don’t you support such a conclusion? Why should it not be extended to graduate school? In order for your argument to make any sense, you need to be able to give concrete answers to these questions, and those answers will need to involve some accounting of utility. And note that “utility” does not mean “solely monetary considerations,” as that is far from the only things I’ve discussed.

              Certain types of education are more valuable than others to certain types of people. Most people are not going to get much, if any, value out of spending four years getting a degree in sociology. They will leave college, get a job somewhere that has nothing to do with sociology, forget most of what they were taught in those four years anyway, and the entire endeavor will have almost no positive impact (and, in fact, will have negative impact) for them or for society as a whole. In fact, you agree with this! But only when it comes to the degrees you believe are less useful.

              • Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

                How does “all education is good” lead directly to “everyone should be forced to go to college” as you say here? It seems wholly unfair to turn a bland, positive statement into its extreme just so that you can swat it down.

              • BJ
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                It’s a logical conclusion. I’m arguing that not all education is equal, and arguing it from the perspective of monetary and social utility. Michael’s response is, “but all education is good! How could you say that?” If all education is good, the logical conclusion is that we need to give more education to everyone, and Michael thinks that education beyond what is already compulsory should be indiscriminate (at least, as far a my general argument goes. He ultimately lets his own argument down by making the same point I’ve been making — that not all education is equal — but restricting it to the types of degrees he thinks aren’t as useful).

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t write that “all education is good” & your reformulation of my short post as that is rather pathetic on your part.

                To repeat myself “There is more to learning, further learning & life long learning than gaining a proficiency in a marketable skill! I’m somewhat horrified at your bean counter outlook on education. I hope it’s just an error in focus on your part – long live the useless degree! [not allowed to have “studies” in the name though]”

                You also claim I ONLY approve of useless degrees – you are a shyster BJ or you can’t read correctly

                I’m hyperbolically pointing out your concentration on education as a vocational path – it’s a dull, bad world that sees education as solely a preparation for work. Have you been to university? What did you study?

              • BJ
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

                Are you kidding, Michael? You accuse me of willfully misinterpreting your post and then say I accused you of supporting only worthless degrees? I accused you of agreeing with me: saying there are certain degrees that are indeed worthless, but that they’re only the degree you think are worthless. I’m willing to chalk up your mistake here to an honest misinterpretation, but you don’t seem capable of the same restraint or charity when it comes to disagreements, so I will end this conversation here

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

                Good. I’d forgotten how frustratingly obtuse you can be & your willingness to misrepresent positions. I will not forget again how fruitless these interactions with you usually are.

              • BJ
                Posted August 11, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

                And Michael once again refuses to address the point, instead opting for condescension and quips. One person here is actually discussing what is being said (me), while the other resorts to snipping and name-calling as soon as he has no response (Michael). Like I said, I tried to be charitable, and I offered the charity again, and you again became reduced to mere pretensions of actual argumentation.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted August 11, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

                Leave me out of it – you said you were done so please be done. I’ve explained that your interpretation of my words is unacceptable & Paul Topping points out the ‘error’:

                How does “all education is good” lead directly to “everyone should be forced to go to college” as you say here? It seems wholly unfair to turn a bland, positive statement into its extreme just so that you can swat it down

                This kind of straw manning of other positions is something you do – it’s tiresome & pointless, because nobody is fooled. I’ve been there with you before & it’s not worth the effort to do a “you wrote & I wrote” back & forth. You ain’t worth the trouble.

        • Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          Well, maybe there has to be protection against abuse. Perhaps everyone will have to pay a nominal fee and it won’t exactly be free. There may have to be other requirements such as maintaining a certain minimum grade-point average or certain majors.

          It is also good to have other options, such as trade schools. Nothing at all wrong with those. Perhaps even a community service option.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:04 am | Permalink

      I just want to point out that about half of college graduates stop believing in a biblical god, so college really does seem to on average increase your chances of atheism.

      So we have to ask ourselves two questions. Is atheism valuable? And how much are we willing to pay to increase the number of atheists in the country through college education, even if college education doesn’t lead to a much better job?

      • BJ
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        Interesting! But you would need much more study on this issue, as (1) the majority of this effect might be that people who go to college now are more likely to become atheists after they leave home in general, and various other effects that need to be controlled for, and (2) we’d have to somehow measure what benefits atheism alone provides. I wouldn’t want to predicate justification for a policy as sweeping as this on the fact that it will increase atheism. Still, this is a very interesting thought.

  30. littleboybrew
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Fact; USA spends over 17% of GDP on healthcare. France, Germany, Canada, England spend 9 to 12%. We have enough money to do the job, but I admit I don’t know the best way to go about it. I do believe in order to control costs we must get some type of open market system. If I need to buy a car I can visit 10 dealers and get ten different quotes. If I need surgery I am told to report to hospital X, I get no info as to cost or quality. Then I see the bill and there is a $5 charge for a Q-tip. What we do today makes no sense,

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:25 pm | Permalink


      It’s astonishing to me Rs, so-called supporters of “free markets”, don’t want to burn our current system to the ground.

      In what kind of market do you first use a product then find out, months later, what the cost was? This is how every significant medical procedure plays out.

      I have a new policy of not even discussing health care with a Republican unless they have a proposal to solve this issue. It’s like a marker of bad faith to support the status quo as though the status quo were actually some kind of reasonably functioning market.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

        It really bothers me that supporters of capitalism and free markets aren’t constantly fighting to improve the transparency of those markets and do whatever is possible to improve consumers’ ability to make wise purchases in healthcare and everything else. This seems crucial to the health of capitalism but it is not talked about much by politicians or the man in the street.

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm | Permalink


          The GOP is too much beholden to rentiers and already established business interests. They tend to support existing money, wherever it happens to be, and actually free markets are often a threat to existing money.

  31. Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    This may be a bit prosaic and setting aside genetic makeup and blunders, like living next to a uranium dump, what about personal responsibility for what and how much is stuffed in ones face, exercise as a way of reducing health spending… long term and build on it.
    Minimize the demand for health services while educating the science of good health, more urban parks, walking incentives (favouring pedestrian over vehicle) in other words, demands for individual health.
    Like driving on the right (or left) side of the road, why do we do it? because we know what’s good for us, how come we don’t feel the same about our own bodies.
    This is not a US problem alone, the spending on ways to kill efficiently
    and deterrents to, seems well out of sync with helping populations live healthy lives.
    Happy and healthy, what good is that?

  32. Jonathan Dore
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see the assumptions behind those figures, especially the key cost of healthcare. The bottom line is that the US currently spends 18% of its GDP on healthcare, against an average of 11% for comparably developed countries (see the graph of expenditure since 1970 at I don’t know what proportion of GDP $32 trillion over a decade represents, but if it’s less than 18% then it represents a saving for the country as a whole, and the only question is who pays it, i.e. how the money is routed. A general shift away from employers paying money to the insurance industry and towards individuals paying income tax to the government would seem to be the general pattern. Cutting the insurance industry out of the healthcare system altogether is the key reason why every other advanced country only has to spend two-thirds of what the US spends on healthcare.

    If, on the other hand, $32 trillion over a decade represents a total that maintains or increases that 18%, then I suspect the calculation’s assumptions are flawed, since that level of expenditure clearly isn’t necessary to maintain a single-payer healthcare system.

    • gluonspring
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      3.2/18.57 = 17.2%


      The Vox article couldn’t be more dishonest if it were written by a Republican.

      • gluonspring
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        (I know… that’s the joke)

  33. tomh
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I’m thrilled that Ocasio-Cortez won, even more so since she will definitely be in the House next term, considering the district she is from. Of course no one expects her whole list of policies to come to pass, but just talking about these items is a first step. Currently there are 123 House members who have signed on as co-sponsors to a Medicare for All bill, H.R. 676. I’m over 70, but I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.

    How is it funded? This is from the bill and sounds reasonable to me:

    The program is funded: (1) from existing sources of government revenues for health care, (2) by increasing personal income taxes on the top 5% of income earners, (3) by instituting a progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment income, (4) by instituting a tax on unearned income, and (5) by instituting a tax on stock and bond transactions. Amounts that would have been appropriated for federal public health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), are transferred and appropriated to carry out this bill.

  34. Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    The elephant in the room there is the cost of Medicare for all. We need much more than that to bring costs per capita down before insuring everyone. The elephant’s child in the room is the fact Government can’t negotiate prices.

  35. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Civilized countries manage to fund almost all this. Maybe endlessly cutting taxes to the ultra-rich and allowing tax breaks so they don’t even pay the pittance that they still owe after all those cuts aren’t such great ideas. True, $15 an hour jobs guaranteed for everyone is going to be a non-starter, but a Guaranteed Annual Income, not only is feasible, but will save money when you factor in all the savings in administrative costs for the hodge-podge of ineffective social safety nets that currently exist for maybe half of the people who need help, the cost of policing and emergency medical care for the hundreds of thousands of people who fall through the cracks of today’s inadequate safety nets, and the multiplier effect of turning desperate potential criminals into consumers.

    Sadly, Alexandria and the Bernie Bunch’s kowtowing to the Islamists who have attached themselves to the left (and who are really CONservatives in progressive clothing) will make it that much more difficult to counter alt-right propaganda when it is telling the truth about Islamism and its influence in the left.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink


  36. David Jones
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes in Modern Money Theory (MMT). MMT’s core idea is that a government that issues its own currency can never default on its debt: you can’t owe money to yourself. The government doesn’t have to tax in order to spend. It creates money when it funds its own programs. According to MMT, taxation is just to get people to adopt the currency (because everyone has to pay taxes and so everyone needs at least some of the government’s money) and to remove money from the money supply (to control inflation). It’s basically ‘quantitative easing’ used to fund social programs. Many MMT advocates want to fund all these programs and LOWER taxes.

    The ‘job guarantee’ is another part of MMT: the government will become an ‘employer of the last resort’ and so eliminate unemployment and raise wages.

  37. Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Once we have a concrete proposal to solve the health care problem, I would like to see a detailed analysis that assesses all the eliminated costs and peripheral benefits of an improved healthcare system. I suspect there are a huge number that are not considered in back-of-the-envelope calculations that mostly only consider increased costs. What about the benefit of a healthier population? What about the homeless who, because they can get real healthcare, are able to become productive members of society? And on and on.

  38. christiantellefsen
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    As someone who lives in a social democrat country (Norway), which has all these benefits, I just do not understand why any of this would be “impossible”. It is not impossible, the fact that most countries in West Europe has all these benefits shows that it is, in fact, very much possible. You just have not done it, and you are the exception.

    USA has a lot of resources, tech, well educated people. There is no reason why you cannot do this if you put your will to it.

    It does, however, take a lot of time to build this. You need to gradually increase taxes on both citizens and corporations, remove the tax loopholes, and gradually reduce the waste to make more money available for useful things (like your the military, huge prison system, overuse of the courts, etc.).

    Probably you will need political reform as well to make any of it feasible, de facto two party systems that are totally dependent on money from corporations are not good for stability over time.

  39. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    I think the Vox article is mistaken on several Points. Also some Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s points are valid. Nobody says we have to agree to the full package.
    “Free healthcare for all”. That is a good principle, although it should be ‘affordable’ healthcare for all. I can easily pay for a doctor’s visit, but not for, say, a hip replacement or full cancer chemo.
    Vox’s estimate of it being so much more expensive is neither here nor there, many developed countries have affordable healthcare for all at a fraction of the cost of the US system.
    “Social security expansion”. Again, this is not a bad idea in a country with one of the least expansive (‘a’ nor ‘e’) social security systems in the developed world. Comared to other measures 188 billion appears a trifle.
    “Paid maternity/family leave” I think that the US is about the only country -not just developed countries- that ‘cannot afford’ that, and I think it should be 5-6 months. They also do not take the extensive health benefits of breast feeding into account, cutting medical costs.
    “Free College for all” Not a sensitive measure. Affordable, and not for all, but for deserving students, especially in STEM. And extra help for those students from a poor background. The present way students are stuck with a deep debt is unconscionable.
    I completely fail to see how maintaining “infrastructure” is a social-democrat, or even a partisan, issue. Healthy economy needs healthy infrastructure. A no-brainer.

    • Posted October 6, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      In developed countries, breastfeeding has no significant health benefits. Its only proven benefit is reducing the chance of acute gastrointestinal infection in the 1st year.

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        A decent baby should be able to handle that, right? They’re used to burping.

        • Posted October 6, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

          They burp regardless of the way they are fed.
          The problem is that many mothers (including me) do not produce enough breastmilk. By the time I had my first child, I was brainwashed by Dr. Spock and other lactivists that breastfeeding is very important and that you should not supplement because the baby will suck less energetically and you will produce even less breastmilk. So I starved my newborn. Mothers should not be indoctrinated into such mistakes.

  40. Lauren
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    The book The War on Normal People by Andrew Yen gives a way to pay for health care and a universal basic income for all through a new VAT tax. He lays out the numbers quite well. Raising payroll taxes would not get the job done and would create even more problems for low-wage earners.

    I highly recommend this book.

  41. Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    The problem with this sort of analysis is that it tends to only look at absolute cost, without looking at benefit.

    Everybody has jumped on the medicare example so how about that expensive infrastructure bill?

    New infrastructure (Senate Democrats): $1 trillion over the next decade

    That is over 10 years right? So %100 billion a year.

    Traffic congestion costs the US over $300 billion a year.

    And that’s just one part of infrastructure spending.

  42. YF
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    But as she rightly points out in her CNN interview with Cuomo, we seem to have no problem finding the money to pay for tax cuts for billionaires or to finance endless wars and military machines.

  43. Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    A hilarious topical tweet …

  44. peepuk
    Posted August 10, 2018 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    What comparable studies show:

    Currently the US has by far the most expensive health care system in the world, but certainly not the best and are outperformed by these (socialistic) health care systems both on quality and cost.

    Reforming healthcare in the US seems to me an obvious choice, it’s cheaper and better.

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