How much will that cost?

In the Sunday Monitor, Sarah Liebowitz looked at the expense side of the Democratic campaign ledger and found some big numbers:

On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidates have been proposing big-ticket programs. At the same time, they're pushing to ease the tax burden on middle-income earners. While candidates have stressed the importance of fiscal discipline, it's unclear whether their proposed revenue sources would keep pace with their spending plans. . . .

Spending proposals range from the relatively small - Bill Richardson wants to spend $25 million annually on a national job bank, to find employment for those seeking work - to more expensive items, such as Edwards's plan to direct $2 billion annually to expand family medical leave programs.

It seems that every subject has a relevant spending plan. There are proposals to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, to create more housing for seniors and to eliminate the alternative minimum tax. Edwards would commit the government to paying for one year of public college for more than 2 million students, while Chris Dodd would spend $25 billion to modernize existing schools and build new ones.

The costliest programs, budget watchers say, are the Democrats' health care plans. Edwards puts the price tag for his plan at up to $120 billion annually, while Clinton puts hers at $110 billion. Both of those candidates would make insurance mandatory. Richardson, meanwhile, says that his program would cost up to $110 billion per year.

Obama would only mandate coverage of children; he estimates his plan would cost up to $65 billion annually. Dodd and Joe Biden don't specify the cost of their health care plans on their websites. Dennis Kucinich promotes a single-payer system; his website also doesn't specify a price tag.

Democratic candidates frequently cite several ways to pay for their proposals, notably discontinuing some President Bush-backed tax cuts. The cuts are due to expire in 2010, and Democrats say that they wouldn't renew breaks for higher-income earners.

But discontinuing the tax cuts won't suffice, budget watchers said.

"We have an unsustainable budget problem to begin with," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition. "If you want to add a big new spending program to that, as most of the Democrats do, with health care proposals, you really need to find some new revenue - and I would say beyond simply letting some of the tax cuts expire to pay for it - or find some really significant savings elsewhere in the budget."

"What I'd like to see more of is candidates promising that if I can't find the savings, I won't enact the program," Bixby added. "I'm not hearing that, and to me that's a pretty serious omission."


Here are some details that ran with the story in the print edition:

BIG-TICKET ITEMS: a sampling of proposals from Democratic candidates for president.

Hillary Clinton

  • Health care: $110 billion
  • Energy fund for investments in alternative energy: $50 billion, paid for in part by oil companies
  • Universal pre-kindergarten: $5 billion in the first year for states to establish the program; the federal commitment would increase to $10 billion over the next five years
  • Infrastructure: $10 billion "Emergency Repair Fund"
  • Public transit: Increase annual federal funding by $1.5 billion
  • Mortgages: Establish $1 billion fund to help at-risk borrowers avoid foreclosure
  • Retirement: Establish matching refundable tax credits


Barack Obama

  • Health care: $50 billion to $65 billion annually
  • Energy: Invest $150 billion over the next decade to develop climate-friendly energy sources and create new jobs
  • Housing: Create a fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosures
  • Jobs: $1 billion over five years to help low-income workers succeed


John Edwards

  • Health care: $90 billion to $120 billion
  • College: Would pay for one year of public college for more than 2 million students
  • Family leave: Spend $2 billion annually to expand family leave programs
  • Housing: Create 1 million new subsidized housing vouchers
  • Illness: Provide universal access to drugs for HIV/AIDS by investing $50 billion over five years


Joe Biden

  • Preschool: $5 billion in grants to states to expand preschool
  • Education: Would hire 100,000 additional teachers to reduce class size
  • Security: $10 billion a year for five years to add police, implement recommendations from the 9/11 Commission and heighten security
  • Savings: Invest $500 in a savings account for every child born after Dec. 31, 2008


Bill Richardson

  • Taxes: Eliminate the alternative minimum tax, returning between $63 billion and $80 billion to the middle class annually
  • Technology: Increase a tax credit to help companies invest in new technology; $30 billion over five years
  • Education: Build 250 "Science, Math and Innovation Academies" by 2012; cost $4 billion
  • Universal pre-kindergarten: $13.6 billion annually
  • Health care: $104 billion to $110 billion


Chris Dodd

  • Education: Would spend $25 billion to modernize schools and construct new ones
  • Senior housing: $1 billion in first term to create more senior housing

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Proof positive

This is proof positive that taxes will go through the roof with entitlement spending, no matter which Democrat is elected. I would think that voters would be smart enough to realize that the economy will tank!
Nice research and unbiased information. Kudos to Sarah and the Monitor for this information!
Bill Bunker, Barnstead