Monday, March 18, 2019

Can the U.S. Afford Medicare for All? Federal Budget & Debt Already Soaring

Almost all of the major Democrat candidates for the party's presidential nomination support expanding Medicare to cover all U.S. residents. Medicare is already the second largest program in the federal budget.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects it costs $583 billion in FY 2018, representing 14 percent of total federal spending. Adding to this burden, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimated that this "Medicare for All" would cost taxpayers approximately $3.3 trillion per year, or 75% of total federal spending of $4.4 trillion in 2019.

Even without this program expansion, excessive federal spending has ballooned this year's October to January federal deficit by 77% over the deficit for the same period last year.

Central to the soaring deficit problem is the growth in programs such as food stamps (SNAP), Medicare, and Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated these three programs will skyrocket by two and one-half times the expansion in the overall U.S. economy to almost $1.4 trillion in 2020. And this is without expanding Medicare coverage to younger Americans.

Interest on the accumulated debt for these three programs alone will amount to almost $50 billion in 2020. Interest payment on the U.S. debt was $843 billion in 2018, or approximately $5,600, for each worker in the nation.

As bad as the Medicare expansion policy is on the debt and deficit, the proposed method of paying for it is even worse. New York Congressional Rep (D) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed that spending growth on social programs can be paid for by printing more money and/or raising income taxes.

Of course, there really are only three ways to pay for the Medicare expansion: 1) Printing more money and spurring excessive or hyper-inflation, 2) Issuing more debt and ballooning interest rates, and 3) Raising the tax burden on workers. All three outcomes would slow investment and economic growth.

The oddity of Medicare for All is that the biggest supporters are young citizens, the same individuals that will have to pay for the rocketing debt burden with either excessive inflation, higher interest rates, higher taxes, or a combination of all three.
Ernie Goss

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