“Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said more taxes would be necessary in order to pay for things like universal healthcare and tuition-free college. … ‘a lot of people in the country would be delighted to pay more in taxes if they had comprehensive healthcare as a human right,’ Sanders said. … Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, said there is a ‘tradeoff’ but he believes ‘most people will believe they will be better off … when they have healthcare as a human right and they have affordable housing, decent retirement security, and most Americans will understand that that is a good deal.’”
I’m very skeptical of this claim.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders might claim that I’m being unfair. After all, he’s claiming that people would be happy to pay additional taxes for additional spending, not additional taxes for the current level of spending.
That’s a fair point.
So, I’m willing to meet Crazy Bernie at the halfway point.
He says people would be happy to pay more taxes, and I think that’s wrong. How can we figure out which one of us is correct?
Simple. Let people choose. There are two ways to make this happen:
- Make socialism voluntary. If Crazy Bernie is correct about people wanting to pay more to get more, why not create a system where people can opt in or opt out? That shouldn’t be too difficult. Just create two tax systems, one for people who want to pay more to get more goodies, and another for people who don’t want that option. Heck, we could even create a third system for people (like me) who would like to opt out of existing redistribution and social insurance programs.
- Comprehensive federalism. Let’s basically repeal the Washington-centric welfare state and let states decide whether to impose such programs. If people like paying high taxes in exchange for big government, I’m sure politicians in New Jersey, California, and Illinois will be happy to oblige. But if Crazy Bernie is wrong, maybe people will vote with their feet and migrate to states that presumably would forego the opportunity to replicate the programs currently imposed from D.C.
Needless to say, I very much doubt whether Crazy Bernie or any of his supporters will go for either choice.
They know that voluntary socialism inevitably breaks down.
And folks on the left favor tax and spending harmonization precisely because they know that federalism and decentralization will lead to a smaller welfare state.
Crazy Bernie is bluffing. He knows people don’t favor higher taxes. This cartoon explains everything.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy and is Chairman of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Mitchell is a strong advocate of a flat tax and international tax competition.