Why the Critics of Bernienomics Are Just Plain Wrong

    Bernie Sanders. (Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Robert Reich
Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten…
Robert Reich

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.

Not a day goes by, it seems, without the mainstream media bashing
Bernie Sanders’s economic plan – quoting certain economists as saying his numbers don’t add
up. (The New York Times did it again just yesterday.) They’re wrong. You need to know the
truth, and spread it.

1. “Well, do the numbers add up?”

Yes, if you assume a 3.8 percent rate of unemployment and a 5.3 percent rate of growth.

2. “But aren’t these assumptions unrealistic?”

They’re not out of the range of what’s possible. After all, we achieved
close to 3.8 percent unemployment in the late 1990s, and we had a rate of 5.3 percent growth in
the early 1980s.

3. “What is it about Bernie’s economic plan that will generate this kind of economic performance?”

His proposal for a single-payer healthcare system.

4. “But yesterday’s New York Times reported that two of your colleagues
at Berkeley found an error in the calculations underlying these
estimates. They claim Professor Gerald Friedman mistakenly assumes that a
one-time boost in growth will continue onward. They say he confuses
levels of output with rates of change.”

My esteemed colleagues
see only a temporary effect from moving to a single-payer plan. But that
view isn’t shared by economists who find that a major policy
change like this can permanently improve economic performance. After all, World
War II got America out of the Great Depression – permanently.

5. “So you think Bernie’s plan will generate a permanent improvement in the nation’s economic performance?”

Yes. Given that healthcare expenditures constitute almost 18 percent of
the U.S. economy – and that ours is the most expensive healthcare
system in the world, based on private for-profit insurance companies and
pharmaceutical companies that spend fortunes on advertising, marketing,
administrative costs, high executive salaries, and payouts to
shareholders – it’s not far-fetched to assume that adoption of a
single-payer plan will permanently improve U.S. economic performance.

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