The Washington Post ran a classic "really big numbers" piece on how much Democratic presidential candidates want to spend on the various initiatives they are proposing. These stories are known as "really big numbers" pieces because they provide basically zero context as they throw really big numbers at readers that they know almost none of them would understand.

The piece starts off by telling us that Bernie Sanders wants to spend $50 trillion over the next decade. It tells us that Warren would spend over $30 trillion and that Biden comes in at $4.1 trillion. While these proposals, especially the one for Medicare for All supported by Sanders and Warren, are complicated, the Post could at least show this spending as a share of projected GDP.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that GDP will be close to $280 trillion in the decade after the next president takes office in 2021. This means that Sanders projected spending comes to roughly 18.0 percent of projected GDP, while Warren's would be a bit less than 11.0 percent. Biden's proposals would be less than 1.5 percent of GDP. We are currently spending close to 22.0 percent of GDP.

However, this is only the beginning of the picture. The Sanders and Warren's proposals would both radically reduce what the country pays for prescription drugs and medical equipment. Most of our payments for these items now are an implicit tax that the government imposes by granting patent monopolies. The Washington Post literally never talks about this implicit tax. (One can speculate about the reason for this neglect, but it is worth noting that the paper gets lots of advertising revenue from the prescription drug industry.)

There are other random uses of really big numbers in the piece. For example, it tells us that Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending bill this month. That $1.4 trillion (6.6 percent of GDP) was mostly renewing existing spending for fiscal year 2020. The piece tells about Trump's boast that he secured more than $2.5 trillion in military spending, without letting readers know whether the claim refers to an increase or how many years it covers. (Of course, with Trump, that may be hard to know.)

In throwing out its really big numbers the piece also refers to a proposal by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang to give $100 in “Democracy Dollars” to each voter to support the candidate, party, or cause of their choice. If 200 million voters used this voucher it would $20 billion a year. That would come to less than 0.1 percent of GDP, but it is still a really big number.

Anyhow, this piece could be a classic in the really big numbers genre. The point is obviously to scare readers with really big numbers rather than to provide information.