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People want more government spending – As long as someone else pays

‘Medicare for All’ is increasingly popular in the United States, isn’t it? Well, not so fast. As Peter Suderman wrote for Reason last week,

A new poll shows that a clear majority of Americans support Medicare for All—until they are told what it is and how it would work.

The survey was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which regularly asks Americans about health policy issues as part of its Health Tracking Poll series. It finds that 56 percent of the country supports a “national health plan, sometimes called Medicare for All” and an even larger percentage—71 percent—supports the idea when told that it would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans.” When told that such a plan would eliminate health insurance premiums, 67 percent say they’re in favor.

But the more revealing part of the survey, I think, comes from the questions focused on the costs of single payer, all of which caused support for Medicare for All to drop below 40 percent. Told that it would eliminate private health insurance and require people to pay more in taxes, for example, support fell to 37 percent. Told that it would cause some medical treatments and tests to be delayed, support dropped even further, to 26 percent.

Medicare for All will be expensive. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan, which would eliminate all existing private health insurance plans in a four-year period, is estimated to cost “about $32 trillion over a decade, according to estimates from think tanks across the political spectrum“. But there are politicians out there, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with her 70% top rate of income tax and Sen. Elizabeth Warren with her ‘Wealth Tax’, who tell you not to worry. ‘The rich’ will pay for all this, and much, much more besides.

But there is no evidence that ‘the rich’ will oblige. The Tax Foundation estimates that applying a new 70% tax rate on ordinary income over $10 million would raise about $291 billion between 2019 and 2028 – in other words, about 1% of the estimated costs of Sen. Sanders ‘Medicare for All’. Indeed, it would cover just 29% of the $985 billion federal deficit anticipated for the single fiscal year October 2018 to September 2019. And that is their high revenue estimate.

And, of course, all of this is before we locate the $47 billion needed to pay for tuition free public college or however much is required to fund Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ proposed ‘Green New Deal‘.

The rich are not going to pay for all this. Instead, middle class Americans will be left with the tab. To paraphrase P. J. O’Rourke, the good news is that, according to Sen. Warren and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to Sen. Warren and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, you’re rich.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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