Political Ponies and Mathematical Unicorns: Your $5000 Bernie Tax Won't Get You Much

A new analysis of Bernie Sanders' tax plan by the Tax Policy Center shows that Sanders plans to add $15.3 trillion to the federal coffers. But Bernie Sanders' spending plan - according to his own website - would cost $18 trillion, and according to some analyses, $29 trillion (assuming all other expenses are as Sanders estimates but that he severely underestimates the cost of his health care plan).

The fact that he plans on adding between $3 trillion and $14 trillion to the national debt, though, is only the backstory. The real story is how much it would cost the middle class - income earners in the middle of the economic ladder would pay $5,000 extra per year in federal taxes - and what people will get for it: essentially nothing. It should be noted that this is separate from Sanders' excise taxes on carbon and other pollutants, and other tax increases.

Sanders has often said that when it comes to health care at least, his increased taxes would be more than offset by reduced medical expenses for the average person, but right here on TPV, we have already proven just the opposite to be the case. In reality, the average family of four in America will end up paying more in Bernie's Medicare for All taxes than they currently do in medical expenses when premiums and out of pocket expenses are accounted for.

So what's left? Free college! While Bernie certainly wants to make public colleges and universities free to attend for those who qualify, consider this: the average public university senior graduates with roughly $28,000 in debt. This means the average income earner would pay that much just less than six years in Bernie's taxes.

The average college debt - including private institutions - is $35,000. Bernie Sanders, however, doesn't plan on doing anything to help students who go to private colleges and universities, including a great number of historically black colleges and universities.

This might look bad in vacuum, but it looks even worse when one considers that Hillary Clinton's college plan not only allows hard working students to go to college for free, it also includes a massive $25 billion investment in HBCUs and other institutions service disadvantaged populations, while middle income families and individuals do not have to carry a $5,000 a year burden forever.

And that $5,000 can grow quite a bit if it becomes necessary for Bernie to fill the budget gap according to his own estimates of at least $3 trillion.

Bernie and his followers will say that, well, yes, you may be paying $5 grand extra on your taxes or more, but the rich, and the super rich, and corporations, will pay way, way more. And that's true. It will also become relevant as soon as someone can explain how higher taxes on richer people by itself has a numbing effect on very significant pain on the middle class.

But let's talk about that for a little bit. Bernie Sanders would raise the top effective federal tax rate to 65% (62% for capital gains income), and cut the top income earners' take-home pay by nearly half. That's okay; they can take it. But the fact that even at this high a rate, Sanders' plan is a budget buster should tell us something: his plans are not just political ponies but also mathematical unicorns.

And that's exactly the problem with Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders has problem leveling with the American people because he knows as well as anyone that people are not going to like a $5,000 tax bill with not much to show for it. He knows as well as anyone that while his adoring crowd gets excited about 'single payer', support for it collapses once its implications - and the requirement that for it to be established the current system needs to be torn down - are explained to voters.

Bernie Sanders isn't just offering a vision counter to political realities; he's offering one counter to mathematical ones.

Like what you read? Chip in, keep us going.

Maine Caucus and #DemDebate Open Thread

A Bernie Friendly Map Delivers a Good Night for Hillary