Government Spending

Stossel: Free Stuff 2020

Presidential candidates promise expensive new programs. We added up the cost.


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Never before have so many politicians promised to spend so much.

Among some candidates, the 2020 presidential campaign has turned into a contest to see who can offer the most "free stuff."

So far no one has tracked their promises, so the Stossel team did.

Stossel compares the top five Democratic candidates, based on the betting odds. He looks at Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Bernie Sanders' (D–Vt.) expensive promises, issue by issue: education, health care, climate, welfare, and… well, let's make it a contest! There's a grab-bag round too.

Some examples of what the Democrats would spend if they become president:

Sanders wants to "eliminate student debt" and "make public colleges and universities tuition-free." Sounds nice, but he seldom mentions the $220 billion price tag.

Mayor Buttigieg promises to spend $31.5 billion to give teachers a pay raise. Kamala Harris likes that one too.

Senator Harris also wants the government to pay your rent if it's more than 30% of your income. The cost? $94 billion a year.

The Democratic candidate promises keep on coming: Medicare for All, $3 trillion.

Increase Food Stamps, $10.8 billion.

Expand National Service, $2 billion.

A federal job guarantee, $158 billion.

But the Republican incumbent is a big spender too, says Stossel. Since Donald Trump became President, spending has risen about $500 billion.

But the Democrats want to spend much more. Stossel's tally includes more than 50 spending proposals.

Watch to see who wins the title of "Biggest Spender."

Stossel says, no matter who wins, taxpayers are the losers.

Since we completed this video Friday, Senator Harris proposed her own "Medicare for All" plan. She says it will be cheaper than Senator Sanders' version, but as of now there is no independent calculated cost. She also proposed a new plan to spend $75 billion on minority-owned businesses and historically black colleges.

The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.