Home Basic income What Else Could We Do With $1.5 Trillion Dollars?

What Else Could We Do With $1.5 Trillion Dollars?


Both houses of the GOP controlled Congress have now passed another massive tax break for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. As they did in the 80’s under Reagan (who also wanted to #MAGA) and under Bush in 2001 and 2004, the GOP is promising that this tax package will spur economic growth and lead to more jobs and higher wages for all. It won’t.

I could tell you that over the last forty years income and wealth for 99% of Americans has remained essentially flat in real terms while the top 1% of Americans have seen massive spikes in both (thanks to those tax cuts). I could tell you that corporate profits as a share of GDP has never been higher than it is today. I could tell you that American corporations used to pay 25% of our federal tax revenue and today (before this cut) pay less than 10%. If you’re a lefty you probably already know this and if you’re a righty you probably will call this #FakeNews or dismiss these data points as meaningless to the question of how we grow the economy.

Except it isn’t meaningless. No serious economist thinks this tax plan will lead to any substantive long term added growth and all of them believe it will add to our debt. That means at some point in time we’re going to have to raise taxes on everyone and/or cut spending on the programs and investments that are the fundamental key to providing ladders of economic opportunity in a nation already falling behind the industrialized world on upward mobility.

In spite of all of that we’re being told the key to our economic problems is to lower corporate tax rates. This time, they say, lowering taxes for the wealthy will lead to more jobs and better wages for the rest of us even though those same corporations are saying it won’t. They promise these cuts will trickle down to the rest of us but refuse to actually make that promise in writing.

Rather than belabor the point of how ludicrous this argument is, or go over in detail why supply side economic theory can’t solve a problem that is fundamentally about consumer constraints due to income disparities (demand), I thought it would be more interesting to outline what else we could do with $1.5 trillion besides give it to the wealthy and the corporations.

Most of these are serious ideas that if implemented would have a far greater impact on American lives. And, as a progressive who cares about being accurate, transparent, and honest, I’ve sourced everything at the end of the article so you can check math and correct any errors.

1. With $1.5T we could pay off all student debt. Every. Last. Dollar.

2. With $1.5T we could pay for free college tuition for everyone for the next 18 years.

3. With $1.5T we could publicly fund the next 150+ federal elections taking money out of politics for 300+ years.

4. With $1.5T we could give every one of the 45M Americans living below the poverty line $5,000 extra per year for the next 7 years.

5. With $1.5T we could give 4–5M unemployed Americans a $15/hr job for a decade.

6. With $1.5T we could end homelessness, build a national high speed rail system, and provide 12 weeks paid family leave for a decade.

7. With $1.5T we could pay the cost of every American’s cancer treatment for a decade.

8. With $1.5T we could give every single American public school teacher an extra $4,600 per year for 100 years.

9. With $1.5T we could give the bottom 90% of American households $13,400 each.

10. With $1.5T we could pay off every American family’s credit card debt and cover all college costs for everyone for a decade.

11. With $1.5T America could provide the world with clean water and sanitation for a decade. For. Every. Last. Human. On. Earth.

12. With $1.5T we could pay for universal pre-K for 50+ years.

13. With $1.5T we could give every minimum wage worker in America a raise to $15/hr and pay for it for 35 years.

14. With $1.5T we could create/pay for 1M clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced for 20 years.

15. With $1.5T we could create/pay for 750k jobs in high poverty communities for 20 years.

16. With $1.5T we could provide healthcare for 11M low income children for 20 years.

17. With $1.5T we could provide solar energy to every one of the 125M households in America for three years.

18. With $1.5T we could create 11 million jobs over the next decade rebuilding America’s infrastructure, end homelessness, and give $4,400 to each of the 45 million Americans living in poverty.

19. With $1.5T we could provide universal broadband access, which would open up the economy for ten of millions of Americans, and take a $1.2T first class vacation to a fancy island (and probably buy it).

A major reason why so many on the left and right are so angry is the frustration of decades of seeing the gains of our economy go to so few. Either only a small handful of Americans are smart, talented, and hardworking or there is a major structural problem here (note — it’s the latter). It’s not a coincidence, either, that this trend line lines up perfectly with the first major tax cut passed by the GOP under Reagan.

We already know the outcomes of this plan because we’ve seen it before. There’s something ironic, though, about the fact that Trump voters are going to get crushed by this tax plan. A plan which solves none of the problems they have complained about and is the exact opposite of what he promised to do for them. And there’s something depressing about the fact that we will all have to share in that cost.

There are so many better ways to spend $1.5 Trillion.


  1. Total size of student debt.
  2. Most estimates of free college tuition are around $70 to $80B per year.
  3. Cost of 2016 federal election.
  4. 45 million Americans living below the poverty line.
  5. Adapted from the great work great work by Rep. Ro Khanna.
  6. Adapted from the great work great work by Rep. Ro Khanna.
  7. The cost of cancer treatments.
  8. 3.2 million full time teachers in America.
  9. About 125M households in America.
  10. Total credit card debt in America + info from point #2.
  11. Cost per the World Bank.
  12. Universal Pre-K estimated to cost $26B per year.
  13. About 2.2M workers earn $7.25/hour now. Moving to $15/hour would earn them roughly $16,000 more per year.
  14. Adapted from National Priorities Project.
  15. Adapted from National Priorities Project.
  16. Adapted from National Priorities Project.
  17. Adapted from National Priorities Project.
  18. Benefits of a $1T infrastructure bill.
  19. The serious part of this one was adapted from the great work great work by Rep. Ro Khanna.
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