It’s not as if Obama hasn’t talked a serious game on entitlements before. In an unusually candid press conference on July 11, the president appeared to scold congressional Democrats for their unwillingness to confront entitlement spending. “The vast majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill would prefer not to have to do anything on entitlements; would prefer, frankly, not to have to do anything on some of these debt and deficit problems,” he said. “And what I’ve tried to explain to them is, number one, if you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up. I mean, it’s not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing.”
Indeed, many Democrats like to argue that they have already gone a long way toward saving our entitlement problem by passing Obamacare, which includes about $500 billion in Medicare “savings.” But this claim is patently belied by the most recent Medicare trustees report, which predicts that the Medicare trust fund will run out of money in 2024, five years earlier than forecasted in last year’s report. Not only that, but the revised forecast is based on a number of “implausible expectation[s],” in the words of Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster, many of them enshrined in the new health-care law. Medicare “as we know it,” the trustees confirm, will end unless dramatic reforms are enacted to bring down costs.