Representative Ilhan Omar took a break from bashing Israel over the weekend to offer this observation about federal budgeting:
If we can afford to give the Pentagon $2B every day, we can afford Medicare for All.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) May 16, 2021
It turns out that her presentation of budget math is no more honest than her conspiracy theories about Jewish influence.
Omar’s budget tweet is in line with a popular genre of argument on the left which perpetuates the myth that if only we weren’t wasting money on weapons, we could afford to deliver free health care to everybody — and just about everything else. Her squadmate, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tried something similar a few weeks ago.
As shown in the chart below, we already are expected to spend $19.9 trillion on existing health-care programs over the next decade (2022–31), according to the Congressional Budget Office, which is more than twice the $8.5 trillion we are expected to spend on defense. Yet Medicare for All, according to the liberal Urban Institute, would cost $34 trillion over a decade on top of that existing spending. That would mean that to achieve Omar’s vision, spending would be about $54 trillion over the next decade. (It would likely be more than this, as the Medicare for All estimate was made in 2019 and prices rise over time).
Put another way, even if we were to abolish the Pentagon and zero out defense spending, it wouldn’t even cover one-sixth of the cost of sustaining a Medicare for All system.