A couple of months ago there was an article on another site arguing that one of the reasons some Democrats were against Bernie Sanders was that they were “afraid to sell the case for higher taxes.” More particularly, meaning that they aren’t willing to make the case for the tax increases necessary to pay for all the programs he was proposing. Leaving aside the rather nebulous nature of his healthcare plan, and the unlikelihood of his college plan being accepted, my response was “Do you really expect me to tell people in my area that their tax bill will double?” That would be a tough sell in any event, even if I was really enthusiastic about the programs.
The problem is that I already live in a highly taxed state. Besides our federal taxes, we also pay state taxes. Income tax, sales tax, property taxes, and miscellaneous other taxes add to our bill. We wouldn’t be just increasing federal taxes under his programs, in order to pay for them, state taxes would also increase. There’s no way around that, it’s basic math. I’d also have to explain that they’d lose Medicare, employer health insurance, or Medicaid in exchange for that undefined “single payer.”
But they’d save money, right? Not necessarily. Let me use myself as an example. I’m older, lower middle class, no kids, and I don’t pay for the health insurance from my employer. In many ways, except for my marital status, I’m in the “median demographic” for my area. Which is why I wanted to take a closer look, and Vox has a nice tax calculator, which will tell you what your taxes would do under each candidate’s plan. I checked my own income, and put in some information for some of the local people I know who are seasonally employed and get Medicaid under the ACA. What were the results? We’d pay from $800 to more than $2000 extra in taxes, and that doesn’t include any increases in state taxes. Using figures from our state university system, our state budget would have to increase by over $700 million a year at a minimum to pay for the “free tuition” program.
What that means for me personally would be that my “buffer” would disappear. That’s the money that isn’t covering food, rent, clothing, and transportation. I normally put that into savings, to cover unexpected expenses, donations to charities and political campaigns, and other various things. Add those extra taxes? That money would be gone, and I’d be making enough to pay my living expenses, with not a lot of margin for error. I know that seems selfish, and the response might be “Sucks to be you, but everyone else benefits,” right? Remember those other people I mentioned? For them it would be a disaster. It’d knock them down from “working poor” to “poor,” or from “poor” to “extreme poverty.” They already have no margin of error, and those extra tax bills would put them into dire straits. Remember, they’re already getting “free healthcare,” or if they are going through the exchange, their subsidy covers most of their insurance premium.
I can look around the country and see a lot of people in that same boat. It’s easy to say “tax the rich more,” and I’m not against that. Yes, if you’re in that hypothetical “average family” that gets trotted out, you might break even or save some money with taxes instead of what you’re currently spending on healthcare. But the problem is that everyone is going to get taxed more, including the people who can least afford to pay them.
I’m not necessarily against higher taxes, and yes, I can sell people on it if I can point to exactly what they will get, and explain how it benefits them. The problem I have with Bernie Sanders’ programs and tax plans? I can’t do that. I can’t point to specifics as to how it will benefit them, and in reality, it’s more likely to hurt many of them than help them. Fear has nothing to do with it. I can’t buy it, and if I can’t do that, don’t expect me to try to sell it.