There is a lot to unpack when it comes to the Democratic presidential candidates’ many proposals to transform America, but the real question isn’t whether they will work.

They won’t.

It’s about how these Democrats expect to grow the economy to pay for their plans because simply “taxing the rich” won’t cut it.

A brief look at their various policy proposals on everything from climate to college tuition is an eye-opening walk through a fiscal wonderland where absurdity has replaced reality.

David Winston mug

David Winston

Climate and college tuition are both legitimate issues. So is health care. But the Democrats’ solutions are both fiscally irresponsible and, in large part, impractical.

Start with the candidates’ various “Medicare for All” proposals.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders actually admitted to The Washington Post that his plan would cost between $30 trillion and $40 trillion over 10 years. That means roughly doubling the federal budget by adding between $3 trillion and $4 trillion a year to an already deficit-ridden budget.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren co-sponsored Sanders’ original Medicare for All legislation but has yet to release her own plan.

According to former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, his health-care plan, which builds on Obamacare, would cost the country $750 billion over 10 years, a pittance compared to the Sanders/Warren bill.

And then there’s the price tag for climate change.

Sanders’ climate plan comes in at an astonishing $16.3 trillion. His proposal, among other things, aims to reach “100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050 at the latest.”

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In other words, Sanders intends to rid the country of cars and power plants that run on fossil fuels in roughly 10 years.

Biden’s federal/state climate plan, introduced earlier this summer, calls for a $1.7 trillion federal contribution to his overall proposal of $5 trillion over 10 years, while Warren’s climate plan, to date, is a $2 trillion proposal she’s calling the Green Apollo Program that would focus on green research, manufacturing and exporting green technology.

These staggering promises are just the tip of the Democrats’ fiscal iceberg and don’t include everything from forgiving the country’s $1.5 trillion in college student loan debt and funding free public college tuition to Andrew Yang’s proposal for universal basic income.

Putting all this in the context of the nation’s current fiscal situation, the Democratic presidential candidates’ pandering to a base obsessed with so-called financial justice is rapidly turning their primary campaign into the theater of the absurd rather than delivering a credible vision of how they would govern based on some semblance of fiscal reality.

Even a cursory look at the federal government’s current and future financial picture ought to caution these candidates against overpromising when voters beyond their base are growing increasingly frustrated with leaders who don’t deliver.

Total federal revenues for fiscal 2018 were $3.3 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office announced in June. The agency also predicted that outlays for fiscal 2019 will be $4.4 trillion with revenues of $3.5 trillion, roughly the cost of one year of Sanders’ Medicare for All.

So, when it comes to Green New Deals or Medicare for All plans, we’re looking at doubling or tripling the federal budget to fund what amounts to a crazy quilt of policy proposals that would not only would bankrupt a country already drowning in debt but drive a stake through the heart of an economy delivering one of the lowest unemployment rates in recent memory, and one that is growing when much of the world is beginning to stagnate economically.

But so far, the Democratic presidential field has ignored the country’s dire debt and deficit situation. When asked how they will pay for all the largesse they’re promising voters, they mostly respond with calls for increasing taxes on the rich, whatever that means, or on Wall Street or big business or consumers or Big Oil or cows and cars. Even the recently departed.

But there’s a basic flaw in the Democrats’ math. Recent studies have already shown that, even at extraordinarily high tax rates, the “rich” aren’t rich enough to fund what this group of presidential progressives are promising voters.

Policies and plans of both parties must be based on some kind of fiscal and societal reality

Instead, the Democratic presidential contenders continue to offer policy solutions, whether it’s the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, that this country can ill afford, unless we grow the economy at light speed. None of these men and women who want to lead this country have told us just how they intend to create an economy big enough to pay for their many promises.

They owe voters an answer.

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David Winston is president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He wrote this for CQ-Roll Call.


(23) comments


Sounds like the Democrats have the answer, with 30 trillion required for their healthcare plan over ten years and another 8 trillion on the free tuition and relieving all college debt. I just heard yesterday the Democrats through in all medical debt forgiveness, I have not heard the cost but does it really makes a difference if we knew the cost or not.


Where did you get those numbers?


... and $3.5 x 10^15 for the Trump's Space Force.


The government could take EVERY asset of the top 1%, (who by the way pay like75% of taxes) and that would run the country for 6 weeks. Then, we’d lose 75% of our taxes. Stupid idea to punish the rich.


I am sure the top 1% appreciate your defense of their assets.


My, Climate! Somehow the internal logic of your 5:27pm post does not gibe very well. Could you show us the mathematics of how you arrived at these startling conclusions?


Climate? Did you retreat to the weeds to avoid answering my 3:44pm inquiry?


Tax and Spend, Borrow and Spend......they're all idiots. At least when we tax and spend, we're not at the mercy of any other countries.


This is the GOP mantra that will be sung from the rooftops if a Sanders/Warren type of Democrat gets the nomination. It might just be scary enough to saddle us with another four years of the foulest, most obnoxious, dishonest, ill-prepared human being ever to be in the White House. Of course, being that I have a lousy record of political prognostication throughout my life, I may be wrong. But I don't think I am wrong about this -- the days of giving the super wealthy and the giant corporations giant tax breaks is soon going to be over. We are witnessing an overall spiraling downward of the standard of living for most Americans. We live in a democracy in which the majority can do something about this, like our nation did a hundred years ago when it installed elected leaders who ended the trusts and monopolies and instituted income taxes to begin to level the playing field by providing essential services to all citizens. And it will happen again. I am old and may not live to see it, but it is a day that is coming, and with it will be healthcare for all at a minimum, and accessible education for all, including college level.


If you have not read the book "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer you should get it. The situation is much worse than you think.


I have not read it, Physics, though I read much of the material as articles she wrote for the New Yorker prior to its publication. I have to believe that as long as we have a free democratic process in which journalism and journalists like Mayer can shine the light on criminal activity and treason such as this that we will, ultimately, prevail with a better, more honest government.


The selfishness of these right wing billionaires is just beyond belief. How much money do they need to fill the empty wasteland that is their character? The Kochs, Bradleys, Menard, Adelson, Scaif, the list is long and depressing, But they've always got ClimateDope and his fellow LaCrosse right wingers to defend them. I am sure they love it that they have convinced these gullible fools to fight their battles.


Govment spending is out of control and ridiculous. At some point, it was deemed acceptable to just spend with no way of paying. Like an irresponsible teenager with a huge credit card. The federal government mismanages every program it starts without exception. Why would they all of a sudden change? It's not their money they are spending and they are personally wealthy enough to not face any long term consequences. It's a corrupt, bipartisan mess.


Oh no! It is not a mess. Everything is going swell because the economy is ticking right along. There is no trouble in Trump Paradise, and I heard it from you!


Amen, Jo.


You have said the economy is doing just fine and also wanted reasons for why it isn't. I think you just gave them...

random annoying bozo

most people seem only to care about spending when their party isn't in power....under bush, reps didn't seem to mind excess spending, and dems did....under obama that was reversed, reps cared about excess spending, but dems didn't...now it has reversed again under Trump, dems care, reps don't....and going into the 2020 election, it seems to be switching again......go figure.


You should pay a little closer attention, bozo. Democrats go into deficit spending to stimulate a down economy, like Obama did when George W. and the GOP ruined our economy, then they start paying down the debt when the economy is healthy, like Clinton did, and like Trump should be doing right now.


Whoa, whoa! Is this guy really criticizing Democratic proposed financial policy? Instead of actual Republican policy? If nothing else, the GOP has shown us the way, and the way says we should not be afraid of a little debt. Raising taxes on the rich won't cover proposed policy? Then certainly cutting taxes won't pay for a damm thing, as we are surely finding out. I feel I must point out that this column is scary snake oil, voodoo hype for the lost Republicans who will spend your grandchildren's last dime. If we could end our military issues, and get over building an unneeded wall in the middle of a dangerous desert, and tax corporations and individuals appropriately, there may be a chicken in every pot. And that is better than the GOP's rental chicken-on-a-stick!


Beautiful, Jo. Thanks.


well said jobaba. this guy is an old hack that goes back to Newt Gingrich, that in itself disqualifies him and a reputable or honest writer. And is the founder of the Winston group, a right wing adviser type company used by republicans. He is also part of the Heritage foundation. So I don't put him high on the people I would trust giving out advice. He likes to spew numbers out on Democrats but is eerily quiet when it comes to republicans track record when it comes to spending and deficits. Sound like a fox news story, one sided with a steep political slant trying to pass it off as fact. No mention of Clinton actually balancing a budget and tried to pay off the debt. Working for Newt doesn't allow such talk.


Right from the Koch Brother(s) playbook. This is dogma among Libertarians and Republicans.


DMoney? You have an answer for this?

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