Controversial freshman congresswoman, Rep. Ilhan Omar, has made the shockingly dishonest claim that siphoning away just $20 billion from the defense budget would allow the federal government to provide health coverage for “every single uninsured American.” She made the ridiculous claim while speaking at a campaign event for Bernie Sanders.
The real number is not even close.
In a speech warming up the crowd for Sanders, Omar explained, “I believe, like Bernie, our foreign policy is domestic policy. We currently spend $700 billion in funding endless wars, and wasteful Pentagon spending, which is more than half of all discretionary spending. Do you know what we can do, if we invested some of that money here at home? Let’s just take $20 billion of that money. We could provide healthcare for every single uninsured American.”
Let’s put aside for a moment that the entire defense budget doesn’t simply go to waste actively fighting wars Sanders would want to end. And we’ll overlook the fact that defense is less than one-sixth of the overall budget, given that focusing on discretionary spending leaves out Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other entitlements. Let’s even put aside the fact that the health insurance plan Sanders is actually proposing would increase federal spending by $34 trillion over a decade — or an average annual cost of 170 times what Omar claimed.
To be as fair as possible to Omar, let’s say she wasn’t talking about the cost of the Sanders plan, but merely the annual cost of providing coverage to those who are currently uninsured. And let’s assume that when she said for “every single uninsured American,” she did not mean immigrants who are in the country illegally (a population Sanders has also said his plan would cover).
According to the Urban Institute ( a liberal think-tank), the cheapest option for covering the uninsured would still increase annual federal spending by $122.1 billion, or about six times what Omar claimed. This option would still leave uninsured 6.6 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Omar, like other members of her “squad” such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is trying to exploit liberal misconceptions about spending to make it seems that the United States is wasting a disproportionate amount of money on the military and that if we only shifted our priorities, just a small amount of that money could be used to address all sorts of domestic ills.