A recent AP/GfK poll has been getting a lot of attention for allegedly showing that Americans think the federal budget can be balanced without cutting Medicare spending. The poll’s sample, however, includes 35 percent Democrats and only 18 percent Republicans (and 46 percent Democrats and 29 percent Republicans when including leaners). That’s hardly a representative sampling of Americans.
Moreover, the poll shows a 10-point gap between how convinced its respondents are that Medicare spending needs to be cut (44 percent yes, 54 percent no), and how convinced they are that Social Security needs to be cut (39 percent yes, 59 percent no). It’s actually somewhat encouraging to see that even a poll including nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans highlights an awareness that Medicare is a much bigger driver of our deficits than Social Security is.
Anyone, of course, who thinks that the federal budget can be balanced without reforming our federal health care programs—and repealing Obamacare—is greatly mistaken. According to the White House’s own figures, the federal government will take in $2.2 trillion this year and spend $3.8 trillion—a $1.6 trillion shortfall. For every $4 dollars the government takes in this year, it will spend $7.
Moreover—again, according to the White House’s own figures—mandatory spending alone (“autopilot” spending, such as for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) will exceed all federal revenues this year. In other words, if we didn’t spend a dime this year on national parks, homeland security, interstate highways, or even national defense, we’d still be running a deficit.
And if that weren't scary enough, there’s this fact to face up to: The baby boomers are starting to retire.