Published September 16, 2020
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has squarely focused his campaign on President Trump. That’s probably wise, since his own agenda is so frighteningly expensive.
Two recently released independent analyses document just how much Biden proposes to expand the federal government if elected. The Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, a former budget staffer with congressional and presidential campaign experience, used third-party cost estimates of Biden’s proposals to show they total more than $11 trillion over 10 years. Removing the $3 trillion cost of the House Democrats’ Heroes Act, the covid-19 relief measure that Biden has endorsed, still leaves promises to increase federal spending by more than $8 trillion over the next decade. Analysts from the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a project associated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, similarly estimate Biden’s promises would increase federal spending by a lower — but still massive — $5.4 trillion over the next decade.
Either figure means the federal government’s share of the economy would dramatically expand. Penn Wharton’s figure means that Biden’s plans would make federal spending roughly 24 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, the highest figure outside of the post-recession budgets in 2009 and 2020 in more than 50 years. Riedl’s figures show it could exceed 25 percent by then. State and local governments spend around 15 percent of GDP, after accounting for transfers from the federal government. Assuming that does not change, either figure places total government spending with the Biden agenda at roughly 40 percent of GDP. That would be roughly equivalent to government spending levels in Canada and Britain and well above that in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.