Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Magic Flying Puppies

Part of the appeal of Bernie Sanders may be the promises to spend a lot of other peoples’ money. Whether or not that’s even possible or practical, the promises themselves don’t even add up. The thing is, even left/progressive/Democratic economists already recognize this:

… “The numbers don’t remotely add up,” said Austan Goolsbee, formerly chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, now at the University of Chicago.

Alluding to one progressive analyst’s criticism of the Sanders agenda as “puppies and rainbows,” Mr. Goolsbee said that after his and others’ further study, “they’ve evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.”

In fairness, the article does point out that some Republican’s plans don’t add up either.

And in Sanders’ defense, much the biggest part of his proposal is complete conversion of the U.S. healthcare system to a single-payer system. In such a system, government spending would go up drastically because it would be replacing private insurance outflows, and government revenues would go up drastically because the inflows to those private insurers would be diverted to the government. This is really just a huge change in who is writing the checks, rather than in increase in spending. Having said that, Vermont tried a similar plan, and had to dismantle it because it was unworkable.*

Read “Left-Leaning Economists Questions Sanders’s Plans”, which appeared in the February 16 issue of The New York Times. The link above is required reading too.

* Many progressives look to the experience of other countries with single payer systems, and think they can be successful here. The difference is that — for all the complaints about how much we spend on healthcare in the U.S. — almost all of it goes for both more quantity and better quality. Expectations that money can be saved from changes to U.S. healthcare are usually overstated because they’re overly optimistic that the quantity and quality are not that high to begin with, and that there’s a lot of waste and inefficiency. Experience with reforms that haven’t delivered past savings tells us there simply isn’t that much waste and inefficiency to begin with. We’d be better off if we started believing that.

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