Issues & Insights


The Biden administration “Believes in Science.” But math – not so much. It seems to have a fuzzy concept of large sums of money as all being just “bazillions.” So here is a little arithmetic using nice round numbers that even the administration and congressional progressives can follow.

There are about 330 million people in the United States. So, if we say that the average family is 3.3 people (mom, dad, one or two kids), then we have about 100 million families. So, on average, each trillion dollars costs each family $10,000. And ultimately, it’s they who pay the lion’s share of taxes.

President Joe Biden recently signed into law an “infrastructure” bill that will cost about $1.2 trillion. That means that each family will pay, on average, $12,000. A person working full time for a year (about 1,800 hours) at the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) makes about $13,050. So good news! You get to keep $1,050 of that for food, rent, energy, and other “luxuries.”

But now the Democrats want a “human infrastructure” bill, which, as they first proposed, would have cost $3.5 trillion, which boosts per-family costs to $45,000. Sorry, Josephine the Plumber and Lewis the Librarian, no Caribbean cruise for you this year.

But there’s more! We still have to pay for Social Security, Medicare, national defense, welfare, unemployment, interest on the existing debt, and a few sundries such as electric vehicle subsidies and endowments for the arts and humanities. Those add up to about another $3.5 trillion. So, add another $35,000 to the above. Don’t go out and buy that Tesla just yet.

The confiscation of resources from ordinary Americans to satisfy the aspirations and whims – good, bad, or indifferent – of the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exerts an “income effect” that reflects the correlation between wealth and health. It is no coincidence that richer societies or segments of the population have lower mortality rates than poorer ones. This is demonstrable at the local level as well: California’s Marin County, just north of San Francisco, ranks No. 1 in both health and per capita income while the poorer parts of the state, such as the Central Valley, score poorly on measures of health.

Depriving communities of wealth via taxation or regulation, therefore, increases their health risks because wealthier individuals are able to purchase better health care, enjoy more nutritious diets, and lead generally less stressful lives. Thus, reducing wealth has adverse health effects – for example, an increased incidence of stress-related problems, including ulcers, hypertension, heart attacks, depression, and suicides. Gasoline is an example: To reduce air pollution, California’s regulations require that refiners produce custom blends for the state, so prices are higher there than in the rest of the continental United States. And shorter-term, the Biden administration’s actions have diminished the supply of oil, raising gas prices. This disproportionately affects the poor. 

Although it is difficult to quantify precisely the relationship between mortality and the deprivation of income, academic studies suggest as a conservative estimate that approximately every $5 million to $10 million of regulatory costs, for example, will induce one additional fatality through this indirect “income effect.” Therefore, each trillion dollars equates to, conservatively, 100,000 additional deaths. Because avoidable deaths are the real costs of regulators’ “erring on the side of safety” and superfluous, wasteful government programs, such government actions have been dubbed “statistical murder.”

People should be as free as possible to make private decisions determining their diets, how safe of a car to buy, whether to install solar panels, the type of neighborhood in which to live, whether to pay for child care, and counseling for drug and alcohol problems. The government’s usurping more and more of what should be discretionary spending crowds out expenditures people would make in their private lives that address issues that are most important to them.

This crowding-out phenomenon affects the poor more than the wealthy because lower-income consumers have less discretionary income to begin with. The bottom line is that the less wealthy become less safe.

To sum up, we already have nearly $30 trillion in debt before all the new spending described above. That comes out to $300,000 per family. That’s before paying your mortgage, car payments, and college loans. A trillion here, a trillion there, and “pretty soon you’re talking real money,” in the words of the late Illinois Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen.

Let’s hope nobody tells Joe what comes after a trillion.

Tom Hafer developed systems for neutralizing rockets and drones. He currently coaches teenage robotics teams. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute; he was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology. They were undergraduates together at MIT.

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  • As late as the 1800’s, the world was “decarbonized” as there were no coal or natural gas power plants, and what the Beverly Hillbillies situation comedies of the 1960’s theme song called “oil that is, black gold, Texas tea”, had not been discovered as something that could be manufactured into usable products.

    Before the 1900’s life was hard and dirty, and most people never traveled 100-200 miles from where they were born, and life expectancy was short. Today, crude oil is manufactured into all the products used in the medical industry, fertilizers, electronics and more than 6,000 other products that are the basis of lifestyles and economies.

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