Commentary

Posik: Campaign Promises Are Empty Promises

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During campaign season, every presidential hopeful makes promises to the electorate hoping to appeal to their interest and earn their votes in the coming election. What the electorate often neglects to acknowledge, however, is that many of the proposals these politicians promise to champion would require the approval of congress should they be elected. These policy proposals would also need to go through several stages of revisions to gain enough bi-partisan support to be signed into law. No candidate on either side could be ushered in as our next president and magically make all of their policy initiatives from campaign season become federal law. In fact, more often than not, campaign season promises are empty promises. But, sometimes I feel this is forgotten, and many Americans fall for policy proposals that are simply too good to be true.

I raise this point because it seems as if almost every day, I see new policy proposals by democratic presidential candidates that are touted as “free” or “affordable,” words that garner immediate attention and support. But, if you look at the contents of these proposals, they actually cost billions of dollars and would be nearly impossible to impose, both in practice and in oversight.

This isn’t news to anyone who had health insurance prior to the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Americans are now acquainted with just how “affordable” that promise from Barack Obama turned out to be. Not only have many Americans seen higher premiums and deductibles in their health insurance plans, they weren’t allowed to keep their plan as promised by Obama dozens of times, both on the campaign trail in 2008 and while in office.

Recently democratic nominee Hillary Clinton revealed her “College Affordability Plan” which just so happens to have a $350 billion price tag attached to it – an oxymoron itself. Over the course of ten years, the plan would be paid for by limiting tax expenditures and reducing the number of itemized deductions available to high income earners. This would limit the deduction for charitable giving, which could have adverse effects on American non-profits. While this plan and its misnomer title may attract voters to Clinton’s campaign, the proposal is widely unpopular among Republicans and realistically stands no chance at being passed by congress. That fact will never come out of Clinton’s mouth, however.

Bernie Sanders offered his own plan in regards to college tuition costs in May, which surprisingly contains loftier goals than Clinton’s. Under Sanders’ plan, all tuition at public universities would be paid for by the government, 67% of the total cost paid for by the federal government, with the remaining 33% left for states to pay. But, for states to be eligible for federal grants with this plan, their public universities need to maintain or increase expenditures on students each year, maintain or increase operation expenditures each year, and guarantee that after five years, 75% of all instructors at these universities are tenured or on track to tenure. Public universities are supported financially by states through the collection of taxes. So, for states to receive federal grants under Sanders’ plan, they must continuously spend more money and expand their budgets. I can agree that investing in education is necessary both for our students and our country’s future, but is Sanders’ plan feasible in a state like Maine? I can promise you it’s not.

It has become too common that progressive candidates dream up these propositions and pretend to the American voter that they could reasonably be enacted. The truth of the matter is that these policies would cost American tax payers billions of dollars over the coming decades and could only run effectively with expanded government. The price tag of expanded government is never attached to these plans, though. Some of us like to believe that money doesn’t grow on trees, especially when we’re already nearly $20 trillion in debt.

Any politician can make a policy suggestion with a misnomer title, making the idea itself sellable to the American public. But, it only takes your average politically engaged citizen to see through this façade and determine the tangible benefits to these plans – of which there is few. There is no such thing as “free” in regards to new public policy. The money to pay for these new initiatives has to come from somewhere; and more often than not, it’s out of the pocket of the working class American.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at MHPC. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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