Bernie-nomics in a nutshell

Thomas Sowell wrote that Marx and Engels were “two bright and articulate young men without responsibility even for their own livelihoods—much less for the social consequences of their vision” and have consequently “had a special appeal for successive generations of the same kinds of people”.

With respect to septuagenarian socialist Bernie Sanders, the bit about lacking responsibility for his own livelihood certainly rings true – Sanders was all-but unemployed until middle-age, and has lived off the taxpayer dime ever since – but the rest often seems questionable.

A meme that appeared on my Facebook feed seems to sum up the Bernie Sanders approach to economics in a nutshell.

Image: Bernie Sanders Democrats

The “Bernie Sanders Democrats” claim that “Just 10% of what we spend annually on the military could finance free public tuition, as well as provide housing for every homeless person in the U.S.”

Now, this is a bold claim, and the Sandernistas on Facebook were lapping it up without question. But, call me cynical, it just didn’t smell right. And, yes, a five-minute web search and a bit of calculator work was all it took to expose the gaping hole in the argument.

The annual U.S. military budget is $580 billion (Wikipedia). 10% of that is $58 billion per year.

The cost of free public tuition is estimated by Sanders himself at $75 billion per year.

The cost of housing every homeless person in the U.S. has been estimated by one charity at at least $8 billion per. Given that the charity was spruiking it as a low-cost option, one has to assume that’s a low-ball figure.

So, the math is: $58 billion – $75 billion – $8 billion = a shortfall of at least $25 billion per year.

But the Sanders fans were undeterred by mere arithmetic. Oh, no.

Instead, they went on, making even more grandiose claims. One excitable fellow commented that, “If we cut the military in half, we could provide not only free tuition and house all of the homeless, we could also provide universal healthcare for all and pay off the national debt in 4 years (and still have a pretty awesome military). After 4 years, we would have a surplus and can cut taxes.”

Boy, that one got a lot of “likes”. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t add up any better.

The U.S. national debt currently stands at $20.5 trillion dollars.

Cutting the military budget in half yields just over a quarter of a trillion dollars a year. So, in four years, there would be just over a trillion dollars.

In other words, one-twentieth of the national debt. And that’s without spending a cent on free tuition, housing for the homeless, or universal healthcare.

This is the sort of magical thinking and cavalier disregard for basic arithmetic that at least partly explains why the likes of Bernie Sanders remain convinced that socialism will absolutely work, “next time”.

 


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