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Sanders leaves CBS anchor dumbfounded when he says he’s winging it; ‘nobody knows’ what plan costs

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders admitted he doesn’t know how much his progressive policies will end up costing American taxpayers.

The Independent Vermont senator was confronted on his policy agenda in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell which aired Friday.

(Video: CBS News)

O’Donnell began by introducing Sanders as a “self-proclaimed Socialist,” prompting a quick rejoinder from the 2020 hopeful.

“Democratic, put in there please!” he corrected.

“Your agenda has promised free healthcare for everybody, free college tuition, and to pay off people’s college loans,” O’Donnell said. “The price tag for that is estimated to be $60 trillion dollars over 10 years, correct?”

“Well look, we have political opponents who come up…” Sanders started to answer before an incredulous O’Donnell interrupted.

“You don’t know how much your plan costs?” she asked.

“You don’t know, nobody knows, this is impossible,” Sanders said dismissively.

“You’re going to propose a plan to the American people and you’re not going to tell them how much it costs?” O’Donnell pressed.

“Of course I will,” Sanders replied. “You know exactly what healthcare costs will be, one minute, in the next 10 years if we do nothing. It will be a lot more expensive than a Medicare for All single-payer system.”

A recent CNN analysis found that Sanders’ campaign agenda could potentially cost $60 trillion, and more, over a decade in order to implement programs like the $30-$40 trillion Medicare for All plan and the proposed cancellation of all student loan debt.

CNN analyst Ron Brownstein noted that Sanders’ agenda “represents an expansion of government’s cost and size unprecedented since World War II.”

According to the report:

Exact cost projections on all of Sanders’ proposals aren’t available, in part because he hasn’t fully fleshed out some of the ideas he’s embraced (such as universal pre-K and child care). But a wide variety of estimates put the likely cost of the single-payer health care plan he has endorsed around $30 trillion or more over the next decade. Depending on the estimates used, including projections from his own campaign, the other elements of the Sanders agenda — ranging from his “Green New Deal” to the cancellation of all student debt to a guaranteed federal jobs program that has received almost no scrutiny — could cost about as much, or even more than, the single-payer plan. That would potentially bring his 10-year total for new spending to around $60 trillion, or more.


Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic group, Third Way, thinks Sanders has been “allowed to skate” on his proposals but that could change if he is the party’s nominee.

“The Republicans will spend a billion dollars picking apart every one of his plans,” he said.

Former Republican budget official Brian Riedl noted that Sanders’ proposed tax increases would hardly help as they are estimated to only raise $23 trillion.

Larry Summers, a former Obama and Clinton official compared Sanders’ policy price tag to that of other 2020 contenders, finding that former Vice President Joe Biden is “proposing spending increases probably equivalent to roughly 1.5% of the economy, Pete Buttigieg roughly 2% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren an amount equal to about 12%.”

“Sanders laps all of them, as well as the New Deal precedent: Even a very conservative $50 trillion 10-year cost for Sanders’ plan would translate into a roughly 20 percentage point increase in federal spending relative to the economy, according to the calculations by Summers, who also once served as chief economist at the World Bank,” the CNN report said.

Frieda Powers


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