"The Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is projected to become exhausted in 2020.” As plain as the sun, that sentence appears on page 4 of the Congressional Budget Office’s “March 2011 Medicare Baseline,” released March 18.
Those 12 words encapsulate the gargantuan problem that undergirds today’s national yelling match over Medicare. If America does nothing, the CBO calculates that Medicare will run dry on Sept. 30, 2020.
From $239.4 billion in FY 2011, Medicare’s primary Trust Fund drops to $20.5 billion in FY 2019. The next year, it reaches zero.
Washington Democrats are in denial about all this.
“We have a plan. It’s called Medicare,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told the Washington Post.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in the May 19 Los Angeles Times, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion. It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.”
The then-Democratic Congress passed no budget in 2010. The Democratic Senate last adopted one on April 29, 2009, 25 months ago. Thus, the Democratic Senate simply refuses to fulfill its most basic constitutional obligation.
While the Senate defeated Ryan’s proposal last month, it secured 40 votes — all Republican — versus 57 naysayers. Meanwhile, senators that day crushed President Barack Obama’s budget 0-97. Like Republicans, Democrats rejected it unanimously. Thus, Senate Democrats offer America nothing — neither Ryan’s austere budget nor Obama’s profligate blueprint.
Rather than lead, Democrats frighten seniors with ghost stories so that they will spook Republicans into retreat.
Those who demanded civility in February now accuse Republicans of plotting to murder seniors.
Rather than homicide, Ryan envisions leaving Medicare beneficiaries over age 55 untouched. Come 2022, he would subsidize new seniors —with the poor receiving more than the wealthy — to help them purchase coverage they like, from an array of qualified options, not just the single plan that Washington politicians concoct.
“Vote Republican, End Medicare” screams a new Democratic bumper sticker. Really? Do Pell Grants “End Financial Aid” by giving college students money for tuition at some 5,400 schools? Do food stamps “End Nutrition” by helping poor Americans buy the groceries they desire, rather than enduring the Daily Special at the Public Option Cafe?
Amazing: Ryan wants to subsidize broader choices and flexibility for Medicare recipients in 10 years, while Democrats already swiped $520 billion from Medicare to finance Obamacare for millions of nonseniors, as of 2014. Yet Ryan is the villain.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.