Feds: Medicare trust fund to run out of cash in 2026, three years sooner than expected

I’m not going to tell you that you should care. No one else does. Why should you?

I will tell you that odds are very good that a Democrat will be in the White House in 2026, whether in his or her first term or second. It’s rare for a party to secure three terms in a row in the White House, after all, as Hillary Clinton would remind you. The left’s probably going to end up holding the hot potato on entitlements, which if nothing else will produce another renaissance in pretend fiscal conservatism on the right. The GOP will fake-care about big government again just as soon as doing so can be used as a cudgel against a liberal president. Is that soil fertile enough to grow meaningful entitlement reform in it? We’ll find out — soon.

The bad news is that, given the trend among Democrats, their next president is more likely to take a Bernie Sanders view of fiscal solutions than a Bill Clinton one. Medicare should be going bust right around the time that President Warren or Harris is pushing hard for “Medicare for all.” No worries: We’ll pay for it with the money tree growing in Bernie’s backyard.

According to the report, less money will be flowing into the hospital-care trust fund in part because the tax law passed earlier this year will cause the government to collect less in income taxes. In addition, lower wages last year will translate into lower payroll taxes.

As revenue slips, hospital expenses will increase, the report says. A senior government official who briefed reporters on it said that part of that increase is because the tax law will, starting next year, end enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance. As a result, hospitals are predicted to have more uninsured patients, in turn requiring the Medicare program to pay more for such uncompensated care…

The annual reckoning of the stability of the nation’s two largest entitlement programs amplifies earlier warnings that both are unsustainable over time and urges Congress to revise the programs to ward off the shortfalls soon to “minimize adverse impacts” on the tens of millions of elderly and other vulnerable people who rely on the government help.

That’s what happens when you cut taxes without cutting spending, as our current “conservative” leaders did in desperate pursuit of a talking point for the midterms. I don’t see any problem with Medicare funding, though, that can’t be solved with crushingly high taxes on the middle class and wide-open borders to balloon the country’s tax base. Painful entitlement reform or painful socialism: That’ll be a fun debate for the next decade when we’re done with celebrity presidencies and endless bread-and-circuses.

Which way will right-wing nationalists go? Don’t be so sure you know the answer:

Bannon was in Rome to learn from and provide support to the unusual coalition of populists and nationalists who together won half the vote in Italy’s recent elections and have formed a government. Bannon sees that sort of coalition — mixing left and right, old and young — as his goal for the United States. “Europe is about a year ahead of the United States. . . . You see populist-nationalist movements with reform [here]. . . . You could begin to see the elements of Bernie Sanders coupled with the Trump movement that really becomes a dominant political force in American politics.”

European-style “conservatism” would definitely be more Bernie Sanders than Ronald Reagan. We may be on our way already, notes Charlie Sykes. A report in Bloomberg last week claimed that Trump has ordered the Energy Department to figure out how to reduce power-plant closures and that one strategy being considered is to “compel grid operators to buy electricity from at-risk plants.” I remember federal mandates about purchasing certain products being sort of a big deal during the Obama era, even a herald of the end of liberty as we know it as vile statists took to gaming the system for their political cronies. I’m glad we’re past that now. The Bannon era will be a moment of unusual civic virtue.

If you’re worried about Medicare not being there for you when you’re 65, don’t be. The Times notes that “tax collections would be sufficient to pay about three-fourths of promised benefits for a half-century.” You’ll only lose a quarter of the services you were hoping for. The government’s rationing people will be the best people.