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It’s Not ‘Free Stuff’ — It’s Using Taxes to Fund What We Actually Need

The corporate media’s pundits and the corporate-owned political class love to dismiss Bernie Sanders’ platforms as “free stuff” that can’t realistically be provided at a nationwide scale, all while completely ignoring the vast multitude of corporate entitlements that cost trillions to maintain. It’s time to set the record straight.

Bernie’s proposals of a free, universal Medicare For All program, free public education through the 4-year college level, 12 weeks of paid family leave, and providing millions of new jobs through investments in infrastructure are lofty goals, but the money to fund them is there if we were to simply cut the most wasteful and fraudulent corporate welfare packages that help a small wealthy few Americans while burdening the rest.

First, let’s add up the total annual cost of Sanders’ costliest policy proposals, using estimates provided by the Sanders campaign:

  • Medicare for All:  $1.38 trillion
  • New WPA: $200 billion (5-year limit)
  • Free college: $75 billion
  • Paid family leave: $31 billion
  • Total annual cost: $1.49 trillion

That may seem like a lot on its own, but the funding can easily be raised by cutting the “free stuff” we currently lavish on the wealthy. Multiple entitlement programs that exclusively benefit multinational corporations (like tax breaks for hedge fund managers, rich kids’ inheritances, and CEO bonuses, handouts to the oil and pharmaceutical industries, costly weapons programs and unnecessary wars, subsidies for “too-big-to-fail” banks, handouts to corporate behemoths cemented in last year’s omnibus spending bill, and tax loopholes for multinational corporations can easily be sacrificed to benefit the other 99.9 percent of Americans. Here’s the annual cost breakdown of those programs:

As it stands right now, all of these aforementioned programs amount to $1.46 trillion every year in “free stuff” to those who need it the least. Eliminating these handouts would pay for 90 percent of Bernie’s policy platform. The remainder can be made up through nominal increases in the payroll tax (Sanders proposed a 0.2 percent increase to find paid family leave) and a slight increase in income taxes to fund Sanders’ sweeping healthcare program.

While Sanders’ Rebuild America program would cost over $1 trillion per year, the Vermont senator has proposed cracking down on the practice of corporations stashing US profits in overseas, tax-free bank accounts. Multiple schemes at play, like the deferral loophole and the transfer-pricing loophole, deprive the U.S. Treasury of anywhere between $100 billion and $150 billion in tax revenue every year, or, to use their language, “free stuff” for multinational corporations. Using data from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the National Priorities Project calculated that if left unchecked, these corporate tax loopholes could easily double their current cost:


To provide free college education to all Americans, Sanders is estimating an annual cost of $75 billion. The Atlantic estimated $62.6 billion in 2014, and Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Collective estimated it would only cost $15 billion. Whatever the cost, eliminating the annual $83 billion subsidy we give to the five biggest Wall Street banks would easily fund free college (Sanders has proposed a financial transactions tax to pay for free college, which is also feasible). As Sen. Sanders points out, the biggest too-big-to-fail banks are bigger today than they were prior to the Great Recession:


Source: Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog

The point is this: Americans are supposed to pay taxes to have a functioning society that provides for the needs of all people, not just to grant lavish handouts to those with the means to pay political patronage. Bernie Sanders isn’t calling for the seizure of the means of production — he’s simply calling for smarter investment of our tax dollars.

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