With the multiple crises of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Hurricane Ida, and continued COVID authoritarianism, it may seem understandable that the latest report from the Medicare and Social Security Trustees was largely ignored even by conservative and libertarian media. Sadly, these reports are also being ignored by most members of Congress, when it ought to keep them (and us) up at night.
According to the report, starting in 2026, the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund will only be able to pay 91% of its bills. This means Congress will either have to reduce payments to hospitals and physicians, raise the payroll tax that funds the hospital insurance program, or allow the hospital fund to draw revenues from the “general fund,” which would require raising other federal taxes or increasing debt.
The problem with cutting payments is not just that Medicare pays less than private insurance, it is that many small and rural hospitals receive the majority of their funding from Medicare. A cut would put these hospitals in financial jeopardy.
This is not an argument for continuing or increasing Medicare spending, instead it is an argument for unwinding the welfare state in a systematic way that ensures the government does not harm those reliant on the programs. Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul has suggested that the government use half of the savings form ending foreign intervention, corporate welfare, and shutting down unconstitutional bureaucracies like the Department of Education to shore up programs that help the truly needy during the transition to a free society.
The Social Security Trustees report also revealed Social Security will be unable to pay 100% of promised benefits by 2033, one year earlier than previously forecast. This will also require either raising payroll taxes, cutting benefits, or relying on money from the general fund.
Of course, Congress will likely rely on the Federal Reserve to cut benefits via inflation. This will erode the standard of living of all Americans and increase demand for government programs, thus increasing the debt.
One would think the trustee’s report would cause members of the House and Senate to start discussing how to reduce spending and unwind the welfare-warfare state.
Instead, the Democrats continue to work on their plans for a “human infrastructure” bill costing between $1 and $3. 5 trillion. Among the items that may be included in the bill is an expansion of Medicare benefits. The only real Democrat opposition to expanding Medicare is from those who want to spend more expanding Obamacare.
Republicans are opposed to the “human infrastructure” bill, but this does not mean they are serious about cutting spending. Few Republicans opposed the massive spending increase under President Trump, and many Republicans support the $1.5 trillion “traditional” infrastructure bill.
A sign of how difficult it is to cut spending is the fact that only 27 Senators voted for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s amendment (offered during the “vote-a-rama” that occurred before the Senate passed the budget outline of the human infrastructure bill) to cut just 5 pennies out of every dollar and balance the budget in five years.
You may remember that when Senator Paul first offered his penny plan amendment, he only cut one penny out of each dollar. Federal spending has grown so much since then it now takes 5 pennies to balance the budget in five years.
You can see the vote on the five-penny plan here.
You can see Senator Paul’s remarks on the budget here.
Campaign for Liberty will continue to push for spending cuts in all areas. Please support our efforts.