Issues & Insights

The Middle Class Will Pay Bigly For All The Dems’ ‘Free Stuff’

I&I Editorial

This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders upped the ante on free stuff the legion of Democratic presidential candidates are promising voters. In what he called a “revolutionary proposal,” Sanders says that if elected he would forgive “all student debt” — that’s $1.6 trillion worth — and end “the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation to a lifetime of debt for the ‘crime’ of getting a college education.”

It would be hard to devise a plan that would shower more benefits on the wealthy than this one. 

Just 12% of college debt is owed by those in the bottom quarter of income earners, according to the Urban Institute. “In other words, education debt is disproportionately concentrated among the well off,” the report notes.

Sanders’ plan would relieve doctors, MBAs, and computer scientists of their student debt. These are people who are or soon will be making six-figure salaries. Keep in mind, too, that students who borrow money for college are investing in their own futures, since a college degree is a ticket to higher incomes.

Even the left-leaning had to admit that “from a pure fairness perspective, this would be a pretty questionable use of federal tax dollars.”

But the same could be said of the panoply of free stuff today’s Democrats are promising voters — a list that includes free child care, free preschool, free college, free health care, free “universal basic income.”

The price tag of any one of these proposals is gargantuan. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s own debt-forgiveness-free-college plan would run $1.25 trillion over a decade. Her free child care plan another $70 billion a year. Sen. Kamala Harris is pushing a housing tax credit for families making up to $125,000 that will cost $760 billion over a decade. Medicare for all would run more than $32 trillion.

And like Sander’s debt forgiveness plan, much of the benefits of these freebies will go to families who don’t need them.

These Democrats claim that they can pay for all this — and more — simply by taxing the rich.

But the reality is that, in exchange for these new freebies that benefit the relatively well off, it’s the lower-income families who will end up carrying much of the burden of their costs.

Don’t believe it? Just look at countries that have already gone (just part way) down the socialist road Democrats are proposing. The tax burden they impose on the middle class is enormous compared with the U.S.

Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that the average taxes for people who earn less than the national average are significantly higher in European nations than the U.S.

In all but three EU countries that are members of the OECD, the marginal tax rate is 40% on incomes above $37,000. In alleged socialist paradises Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, the top tax rate — of more than 50% — kicks in for families earning less than twice the national average. The data also show that as the countries’ overall tax burden goes up, so does the amount paid by lower-income families.

And this is to say nothing of Europe’s often steep VAT tax on consumption, which hits lower-income families harder than the rich.

Working class families would pay in other ways for the Democrats’ “free stuff” agenda. Even if they could manage to target only the rich, massive tax hikes they propose would send the economy tumbling. And guess who gets hit hardest when that happens?

So, what we have here is a party that wants to dramatically expand government benefits in ways that will benefit upper-income families. And in order to finance it, they will have to raise taxes on working-class families.

We’ll take “trickle down” economics any day over this. We suspect most hard-working Americans would, too, once they realized how expensive free stuff can be.

— Written by John Merline

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • The unintended consequences of all this free stuff needs to be fed back to the voters as “how much of a slave to the government do you want?”

  • The carbon “tax” does two things: Takes your money and gives it to the power. It wont change a thing about global environment (which of course is the fear tactic for taking more of your money).
    The second thing a carbon “tax” does by taking ‘just a few more’ percent of the taxpayers money, is it reduces the power of the middle class which has driven this country from the beginning.
    Those in power do not want the middle class to have power, therefore it must be removed. One more tax, that will inevitably grow and grow under the “carbon tax” umbrella, chips away that much more from the middle class voice.
    Its all classic history. Take the power from the working middle class, reducing society to the rich, and the poor, then watch what happens.
    “There is nothing new under the sun”, as we watch history repeat itself. No power stays in power once the masses are suppressed beyond a certain point. Yet here we have people voting for those who intend to destroy our very way of life: USA capitalism, nationalism. You Prog/Commie/Socialist Libs out there – who you gonna blame when you watch your own world crumble?

  • Nothing is free, we the tax payers will lose more of our income if these socialist policies continue to flood America and our incomes. We can not afford to keep paying for the free loaders that are trying to destroy this once great nation. You can tax the rich all you want but they will be getting it all back due to the loopholes they get back. It’s sad how the government only cares about free leaders and the rich. The middle income will still get screwed.

  • Bernie’s scheme to tax “Wall Street” to pay for tuition forgiveness will actually be a new tax on the Middle Class. He plans to tax the sale of stocks and bonds (and other transactions). According to the New York Times (2/6/2018) about one half of American households own stocks. These are the people who will pay the tax when they buy or sell on an exchange. The sale or purchase of stocks and bonds that are held in 401K’s (becoming the principal means or saving for retirement) will be taxed. Company retirement plans that include stocks and bonds will pay the tax.

    Bernie says Wall Street will pay, but it’s not true. It will be the average American Joe and Jane that will pay.

  • Let’s see now, Mary goes to college for four years and her tuition is paid for and she thinks how wonderful it is that she got a “free” college education. It isn’t free because someone has to pay for it. Who? Well, the hard working tax payers via higher taxes, that’s who. So Mary graduates and goes out into the world with her “free” college degree and gets a job, and boy is she astounded at the taxes removed from her pay check. When she complains of why the high taxes, she is told it is to pay for John’s “free” tuition who is now in his first year of college. When John graduates and gets a job the same situation repeats. Just like there is no “free” lunch, there is no “free” tuition. How can people be so stupid as to believe idiots like the old 1960’s hippie pot-smoking communist throwback Bernie Sanders and lying “I am an American Indian” Elizabeth Liawatha Warren? Stupidity abounds on the left.

  • I am pretty sure what Sanders leaves unsaid is the truly massive tax increases so the doctors, lawyers, etc will not be high income. It’s a trick. The middle class will suffer even worse.

  • The middle class will pay dearly until they run out of money. Then they will lose their incomes, savings, property and find themselves in competition with the rest of homelss wanering the American streets today. That is the logical result of the illogical demands of the left’s socialism/communism.

  • The tab for Boinie’s plan should be put on the Snowflakes who will vote for him.

  • Socialism is like a mouse trap! It works because the mouse has no idea, why the cheese is free!

    • I think it was Ludwig von Mises who said that socialism is the philosophy of suicide (Maybe it was in Human Action).

  • They should set up booths ala carnival style and compete with each other as to who can give out the most free stuff!

  • All the arguments against these democrat promises are correct……..BUT these pie-in-the-sky freebies are for ATTRACTING the “ill informed” voters…..and nothing else. These promises would never get through Congress!

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