UMass economist’s support of Bernie Sanders’economic plan receives national attention

By Eric Brazell


Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

University of Massachusetts economics professor Gerald Friedman’s analysis of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ economic plan is drawing significant national attention.

Friedman released a report last month praising Sanders’ plan, saying it would achieve “broad-based and sustained prosperity” in several areas. The report quickly garnered interest, and was denounced in an open letter last week written by four members of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Sanders is set to visit UMass Monday for a 7 p.m. rally.

Friedman’s research draws parallels between Sanders’ economic plan and the New Deal implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt. Sanders’ plan, like the New Deal, aims to expand spending on social programs and enforce policies supporting income equality.

Sanders’ proposed increase in government spending will raise rates of economic growth, leading to higher rates of employment and higher productivity, according to Friedman’s research. Friedman said the faster economic growth will offset the increased spending, reducing the country’s $19 trillion deficit.

Through his research, he found that Sanders’ plans for taxes on higher incomes and increased earnings for lower income workers, combined with faster economic growth and regulatory changes, will create an economic policy that will close the gap between rich and poor. The average income will rise by more than $22,000, the unemployment rate will fall to 3.8 percent and poverty rate will fall to under six percent, he found.

Friedman said these increases in spending and taxes will be “far” more effective at stimulating economic growth than Republican hopefuls’ plans of reducing taxes.

Friedman also supports Sanders’ plan for a single payer healthcare system, progressive taxes, free public university tuition, higher wages, stronger unions, increased social security and funding for infrastructure.

“I favor Bernie’s programs. I agree with Bernie on almost everything. I’ve never been able to say that about another candidate,” Friedman told the Daily Collegian. He conducted the research project, titled “What would Sanders do? Estimating the economic impact of Sanders’ economic plan” without the involvement of Sanders’ campaign.

Combined with the normal political obstacles, Friedman said Sanders’ plan will also face economic obstacles. According to the economist, rising economic growth will be slowed if the Federal Reserve moves to abort economic expansion by raising interest rates.

Unpredictable changes in human behavior could also weaken Sanders’ plan for economic redistribution.

“Rising wages may lead to reductions in employment and declining business investment,” Friedman said.

Friedman said his inspiration for the research came after a Wall Street Journal article reported his previous prediction on the cost of Sanders’ plan for a single-payer healthcare program. Friedman predicted the cost of Sanders’ healthcare program to be $13.8 trillion over 10 years, but he said the number he gave to the WSJ was “one-sided,” as it does not account for the money the government would save.

He explained that the government would pay only $10.7 trillion, not $13.8 trillion. The $3.1 trillion saved comes from the elimination of private healthcare subsidies from Obamacare.

Friedman said he fully supports “Medicare for All,” the name of Sanders’ proposed health plan, and believes it will improve the American healthcare system substantially.

Friedman’s report hasn’t come without criticism.

Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, called many of Friedman’s claims “wishful thinking” in an article by the New York Times.

The four economists from the CEA, Alan Krueger, Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer and Laura D’Andrea Tyson all signed the open letter criticizing Bernie Sanders’ economic plan and the Friedman supportive analysis. They called Friedman’s claims extreme, saying they “cannot be supported by the economic evidence.”

Friedman responded in an interview with Politico, asserting the CEA most likely didn’t even read his report.

“I don’t think they read the report. If they did, I don’t think they would have said no credible economic research.

He added that despite agreeing with Sanders’ plan, he’s supporting Hillary Clinton this semester.

Eric Brazell can be reached at [email protected]