Every year, the US government spends about $3.8 trillion on taxes. Over three quarters of this comes from Social Security, Medicare, and the Military combined.
Many politicians suggest plans for ways to reallocate our limited tax dollars. But how much does it cost? What is the price tag for universal health care, or rebuilding our infrastructure, or ending world poverty?
Enter the Policy Supermarket. Browse your favorite plans, check the “price tags,” and pack whichever policies into your grocery bag that you see fit.
Grocery Item 1: Single Payer Health Care
Price: $600 billion (per year)
Decision Data places the cost of Bernie Sanders’ taxpayer-funded health care plan at an additional $562 billion in taxes, while Politifact places it at about $675 billion. These numbers are relatively low because publicizing health care saves a whopping $600 billion a year by removing a layer of health insurance bureaucracy.
Grocery Item 2: Rebuild Our Infrastructure
Price: $201 billion (per year)
According to an ASCE report, completely fixing our infrastructure would cost an additional $1.6 trillion, or $201 billion per year for eight years. However, such a project would increase our long-term GDP by $3.1 trillion.
Grocery Item 3: Free College
Price: $75 billion (per year)
Plans for making public college cost free range from $62.6 billion (according to the Atlantic) to $95 billion (according to the Fast Company.) Bernie Sanders places his estimate in between these two, at $75 billion. That’s just over 10% of our Military budget.
Grocery Item 4: Ending Extreme Poverty Worldwide
Price: $175 billion (per year)
The best estimate out there for ending extreme poverty worldwide comes from Jeffrey Sachs, who puts the price tag at $175 billion for the world to pay. Of course, this won’t make everyone thrive, but hunger, disease, and lack of shelter would be greatly improved.
Grocery Item 5: 100% Solar Energy Worldwide
Price: $830 billion (per year)
Assuming we replace all gas-guzzling cars with electric ones, the world will consume about 83 trillion kwh of energy per year. Currently, photovoltaic manufacturer First Solar is pumping out solar energy at 3.87 cents per kwh. Multiplied out, this would cost the world a whopping $3.21 trillion every year. However, due to Swanson’s Law, the price of solar is dropping by 14% per year, so over 20 years this would come out to an average of $830 billion per year, as outlined in one of my previous articles. Either way, the U.S. would only pay a percentage of the total fee, and most of this could be paid back simply with energy bills.
Grocery Item 6: House the Homeless
Price: $5.7 billion (per year)
There are 564,708 Americans on the streets every night, and it would cost approximately $10,051 to house each of them for a year. Multiplied together, this comes out to $5.7 billion per year (although improving low-income housing conditions would cost substantially more). Either way, it’s over three times cheaper for the government to house the homeless than to leave them on the streets.
Grocery Item 7: Feed the Hungry
Price: $320.4 billion (per year)
To feed the 49 million Americans that are food insecure, we’d have to pay a maximum of $320.4 billion per year according to the USDA. This is much higher than the homeless item as it tries to perfect the situation as opposed to just making it marginally better.
So now, when you hear about plans like taxpayer-funded education or health care, or providing solar energy for the world, or fixing our crumbling infrastructure, you can have a good idea of how much it would cost our government every year.
Keep in mind that the prices above vary – solar energy isn’t even close to being that cheap yet, and ending extreme poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity are all a matter of how far you’re willing to go; you can raise/reduce these values as you see fit.
Also, remember that we have “coupons” to help fund these initiatives, such as cracking down on corporate tax haven loopholes, which would give the government an extra $100 billion per year.
In conclusion, whatever your opinions are, we now know the options of the Public Policy Supermarket. Whatever you choose, choose wisely.