"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. It hardly matters whether one loves or hates Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his "Path to Prosperity."
If America does nothing, the CBO calculates that Medicare will run dry on September 30, 2020. If that fiscal year's last day sounds distant, it isn't. That milestone is five fewer months into the future than 9/11 was in the past.
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. Zip. Zilch.
Washington Democrats are in malignant denial about all this.
"We have a plan. It's called Medicare," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told The Washington Post.
"Keep your hands off my Medicare!" Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.J., demanded at an April 15 Capitol Hill press conference. "Keep your hands off my Medicare!"
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada handles this matter with stunning sloth.
'There's no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion," Reid said in May 19's Los Angeles Times. "It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage."
Why start now?
The then-Democratic Congress passed no budget in 2010. The Democratic Senate last adopted one on April 29, 2009, 25 months ago.
While the Senate defeated Ryan's proposal last month, it secured 40 votes, all Republican, versus 57 naysayers. Meanwhile, senators that day crushed 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. The Democratic Senate simply refuses to fulfill its most basic constitutional obligation.
Rather than lead, Democrats frighten seniors with ghost stories so that they will spook Republicans into retreat.
Reid decries a "Republican plan to kill Medicare." Florida Representative and Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says of Ryan's measure, "This plan literally would be a death trap for seniors."
The pro-Democrat Agenda Project last month produced the most despicable political advertisement since LBJ suggested that Barry Goldwater would launch a nuclear war. In its commercial, a Ryanesque Republican hurls a wheelchair-bound old lady off a cliff, no doubt fatally.
Democrats previously claimed that Republicans dreamed of feeding Granny dog food to economize money for Wall Street's champagne budget. Such calumny has become inadequate. 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 non-seniors, as of 2014. Yet Ryan is the villain!
Medicare's future resembles a major hurricane racing toward America's shores. Paul Ryan is outside, trying to shield the windows with plywood. Instead of helping, or even suggesting a better solution, the Democrats are inside, blending margaritas, grilling steaks, and debating whether to watch "The Godfather," "Apocalypse Now," or "Titanic" on the HDTV.
"That hurricane is miles away," Harry Reid laughs. "Let's make it a triple feature. Now, who votes for popcorn?"
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. Email him at deroy.Murdock@gmail.com
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