Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Sanders Spending Plan...


...Is a list of things that ought to be done. That part of the Socialist in me is quite clear about that:

"...The massive additional debt represents the net bill for the Vermont senator's proposals to implement a single-payer health-care system, provide generous long-term care services, provide free public college tuition and paid family leave, and expand Social Security..."

And just as clear, the price tag of it all, in terms of what will be added to the national debt, may well have been overstated. The Sander's camp, in fact, had some plausible arguments to make that case:

"...The Sanders campaign had blasted an earlier report from the Tax Policy Center that looked at just the tax impact of Sanders' proposal, saying it failed to take into account the fact that many American households would see their take-home pay go up under the health-care proposal, and that at least 13 million jobs would be created by infrastructure repair efforts..."

and

"...But Sanders campaign policy director Warren Gunnels said the analysis "wildly overestimates the cost of Senator Sanders' health care plan" by falsely assuming state and local governments "will dump all of their health care obligations onto the federal government at a cost of $4.1 trillion over the next decade." Gunnels said Sanders would require those governments to maintain their current health-care spending levels.
Gunnels also said the study "significantly underestimates" savings from reduction in medical paperwork, administration and prescription drug prices that would result from the plan..."
One of the problems with this sort of thing, though is precisely the difficulty in anticipating either the full benefits, or the full costs, of making it happen. We live in an age of increasing market volatility after all, and so much of what goes into making predictions of benefits and costs rests on assumptions that the economy as a whole won't be significantly affected, for good or ill, by other major developments.

For myself, being a pessimist as far as things are likely to happen down the road, and what they'll do to the economy, the hope that other events won't weigh in negatively on the economy as a whole is at least one leap of faith too far beyond reasonable.  

That part of the Libertarian in me also recognizes, however, that it's hard to underestimate the ability of bureaucracies to fully anticipate the complexity of any new enterprise; which, when added to their usual inflexibility to handle new situations, even after they've been identified, can make for bad, if not perfect, storms of inefficient, or even counter productive, effort. You need only look at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to see how even the best of intentions can take time to find their feet and actually start moving forward.

All of this is no more than to say that there is likely to be another cost factor that will be difficult, to say the least, to properly factor in here. 

What is even more troubling for me in this, however, is that the list of measures to address social equity hardly even begins to address equally important issues of environmental equity; as in, for instance, a carbon tax that starts low, but rises very rapidly, on both production, and consumption of anything related to the CO2 burden in our atmosphere. Even if you could keep the revenue generated isolated to green technology development, and means tested rebates to the most vulnerable consumers, you still face a number of very difficult to anticipate benefits, and costs, to the economy as a whole. The net effect of which even a crystal ball couldn't show you with much certainty. And that's just to address air pollution.

You look at all of this uncertainty, and you maybe even throw in all the negatives that organized opposition will create, fighting the transfer of wealth at every step of the way (because there are actual counters that they can hide, hold on to , or move elsewhere), and you have to wonder why so few are willing to question the much more fundamental issue that's at the core of why what is needed is so difficult to even contemplate: The very fact that it has to be considered within the enveloping context of money and abstract costing at all.

No one seems to want to admit that maybe, just maybe, that the essential characteristics of that enveloping context are themselves the real problem. That the very fact of a cost based mentality, formed of the now questionable connection between human labor as a viable commodity, and the distribution of consumption via the abstract of money, obtained from that labor, ignores what is happening now that electrified experience retrieval makes an effort based economy possible. 

Or, more simply put, that we can use automation, applied with our best interests in mind, to organize ourselves to create, manage and maintain production without money being involved at all. Seeing in fact that, in that context, all it takes is the will of the people, clean energy, and the free flow of information to get done whatever we agree needs to be done.  

Until the intellectual, as well as political, powers that be recognize this much more fundamental problem, we will be continuously mired in the actions at cross purposes that is the hallmark of a cost based economy; a form of organization that emphasizes special interest because greed and profit are so often a zero sum game.