The argument seemed straightforward enough: Medicare is broke. That it is insufficiently funded to pay its current bills is the least of its problems. Medicare’s unfunded future liabilities defy the brain’s capacity to assimilate. But let’s try. Last year alone, the program added a staggering $1.8 trillion to its tab. Though this crater of new debt passed by nearly unnoticed, it actually outstripped, by some $300 billion, the latest annual deficit. That $1.5 trillion shortfall, the third in a row to top a trillion dollars, is best remembered for provoking a white-knuckle controversy this summer over the federal debt-ceiling. That debacle, in turn, convinced appraisers that American bonds—the gold standard ever since we deep-sixed the gold standard—had ceased to merit their Triple-A rating.

Medicare’s total future liabilities are pegged by government bean-counters at just under $25 trillion. That...

 

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