- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sen. Kamala D. Harris rolled out a $315 billion plan this week to beef up teacher pay, saying she would increase estate taxes and otherwise tap the wealthy to pay for it.

She might want to check first with Sen. Bernard Sanders, a fellow presidential candidate, who is eyeing that money as a possible way to pay for his “Medicare for All” health care plans.

As the candidates compete to spend taxpayers’ money, watchdogs said it’ll be important for voters to judge how realistic are the offsetting spending cuts or, more frequently, tax increases.

“An offset can only be used once and that is why it is important for candidates to put out comprehensive budget proposals, so then you can see it all, and then you can see that the magic offset can’t be used for three different things,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition.

With the Democratic field delving into policy, the candidates are outbidding each other with more government assistance programs, ringing up big price tags along the way.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a $70 billion-a-year plan for child care, while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is backing a $33 billion-a-year family leave policy.

Mr. Sanders, in addition to his universal health care plan, also backed expanding Social Security benefits at a price of tens of billions of dollars per year.

And then there’s the Green New Deal that all of the Democratic field senators signed onto, which. according to one conservative group’s estimate. would sap $93 trillion from taxpayers and the economy over the next decade.

Even former President Barack Obama has apparently taken notice. The Washington Post reported this week that he gently chided Democrats on Capitol Hill to keep an eye on “the nitty-gritty about how those big, bold ideas will work and how you pay for them.”

Some of the presidential candidates do have suggestions.

Mr. Sanders would fund his Social Security plans with a payroll tax hike on households making more than $250,000. He’s also got his plan to raise the estate tax on the ultra-wealthy.

Ms. Warren, meanwhile, would pay for her child care plans with her ultra-millionaires tax, which would impose an annual 2 percent tax on households with net worths higher than $50 million — rising to 3 percent for those with $1 billion in worth.

She says it would raise $2.75 trillion over a decade.

Reversing the GOP’s 2017 tax cut bill is also a given for many in the Democratic field.

Mr. Bixby said he hopes the candidates come to grips with the hard reality that whoever is sworn into office in January 2021 will already be “facing trillion-dollar-plus deficits for as far as the eye can see,” meaning any new proposals will be digging deeper.

The biggest dent could come from the Green New Deal, which envisions an overhaul of the U.S. economy and the government’s social safety net.

The American Action Forum says the 16-page outline, which didn’t receive a single vote of support during floor action in the Senate this week, is too vague to come up with a firm cost. But it gave a range of from $51 trillion to $93 trillion over a decade, when costs to taxpayers and harm to the economy are combined.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of the presidential candidates, told Fox News this year that it was a “lie” to assume that “being green means you have to hurt the economy.”

Ms. Harris this week brushed off concerns about how she plans to pay for her plan to give the average teacher a $13,500 raise.

“If we are a society that cares about children we have to acknowledge that one of the greatest expressions of love that we can give a child is to invest in their education,” the California senator said Tuesday on MSNBC.

The proposal dedicated a single sentence to how she plans to come up with the money to cover the increase.

“It will be paid for by strengthening the estate tax and cracking down on loopholes that let the very wealthiest, with estates worth multiple millions or billions of dollars, avoid paying their fair share,” the proposal said.

“That is standard stuff,” said Kyle Pomerleau, chief economist at the Tax Foundation. “You are in a presidential campaign, you are going to emphasize the good stuff and downplay the cost associated with the policies programs.”

He said eventually they’ll have to start talking particulars.

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