On August 9, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic socialist candidate for New York's 14th Congressional District, declined a challenge to debate conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. After comparing this challenge to catcalling on Twitter, it is clear that Ocasio-Cortez is scared of a debate against a difficult opponent. She also likely understands that her Democratic socialist platform would be exposed for its ideological flaws and harmful consequences.
Those who see the new progressive movement as inspiring highlight its agenda based on greater economic equality, while others fear that its reforms will dramatically and detrimentally expand the role of government. However, the one thing we know for sure is that Democratic socialism is expensive—and Americans should reject this pricy platform.
Candidates like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders propose expensive policies like a federal jobs guarantee, single-payer health care, and "free" public college. Unsurprisingly, this will require astronomical increases in government spending that will add to the out-of-control federal debt that has already exceeded $21 trillion.
Brian Riedl, a policy researcher at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, estimates that Sanders' and Ocasio-Cortez's proposals would generate $42.5 trillion in additional federal expenditures over the next decade. The long-term fiscal outlook under this agenda is even more frightening––Riedl found that these proposals will cost $218 trillion over 30 years.
In order to broaden the appeal of his work, Riedl used exclusively liberal think tanks and non-partisan sources for his analysis including the Tax Policy Center, the Urban Institute, and the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities. These numbers are coming from the left, so some of them, including the cost for the jobs guarantee, are even considered to be low, modest estimates.
So how does all of this get paid for? Democratic socialists like to run down a list of new taxes they support, supposedly aimed at the wealthy and large corporations. Some proposals include carbon taxes, a higher corporate tax rate, health care premium taxes, and increased payroll taxes. Ocasio-Cortez also proposes a "Buffet tax" that requires high earning individuals to pay a minimum of 15 percent of their income. Riedel's Vox article calculated that, under very generous fiscal and economic assumptions, Democratic socialist proposals would cut $8.5 trillion of spending in areas such as defense and state spending on health care, leaving the federal government on the hook for the remaining $34 trillion.
This would require a near doubling of federal tax revenues. To put that in perspective, the federal government would need to tax all corporate profits, as well as household income and pass-through business income (income from a business that is taxed at the individual owner's level as opposed to the corporate level) above the thresholds of $90,000 ($150,000 for married couples) at a 100 percent rate to make up this revenue gap.
Simply put, taxpayers cannot afford these unsustainable and disadvantageous reforms. Large-scale entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are already rapidly rolling off a fiscal cliff, with their trust funds on pace to be depleted by 2026 and 2034 respectively. Further expanding federal entitlement programs would clearly be much costlier than more plausible reforms like tax cuts, and no cut in defense spending will be sufficient to make up for Democratic socialism's obscene cost burden.
It's troubling to witness socialist and redistributionist policies gaining popularity in America, especially when history and current events both show the threat they pose to a stable and prosperous democracy.
Though utilizing more government intervention than Democratic socialism, the Soviet Union and Venezuela's centrally planned economic systems both eventually led to humanitarian crises that caused a shortage of fundamental goods and services, mass starvation, severe restriction of basic liberties like freedom of speech and worship, and massive death tolls. It is estimated today that the Soviet Union's communist regime under Joseph Stalin murdered as many as 20 to 60 million people. In Venezuela, hundreds are dying from malnutrition and violence imposed by the government to dismantle protests.
Even more moderate proposals such as Canada's latest failure with universal basic income (UBI)––unconditional, periodic government cash payments––show the problems with government expansion. After only 15 months, Ontario ended its C$150 million UBI program that was supposed to last three years, after they realized that it was expensive and financially unsustainable. Finland's UBI experiment will also end in failure after this year as its government concluded that the program would not be an efficient reform of the welfare system.
It's clear that redistributionist policies will not save our country from fiscal destruction. To save American taxpayers from extreme economic burdens, Democratic socialism's recent insurgency into our political system must be rejected.