Monday, October 26, 2009

The Enemy Is Us - Again!

Have we gone nuts? If this nation faces a long-term economic problem it is health care costs for the elderly followed shortly behind by the fact that the Social Security system is going to run out of money.

So, what is our government doing about this impending crisis? Investing in ways for us to live longer! Give me a break!

The best example, and it has been going on for years, is the government's war against smoking tobacco. The anti tobacco zealots tell us that smoking will shorten our lives by years. A recent study by some British researchers put it at 10 years.

What do you think would happen to the question of the solvency of the Social Security system if the actuarial assumptions for life span were shortened by 10 years? I don't have a figure for you but I'll give you a guess that the system would be so rolling in dough that they'd be talking about increasing Social Security benefits, not the need to reduce them.

Smokers are super patriots! Not only are they attempting to shorten their life expectancy, they are paying all sorts of extra taxes to do it.

When Congress enacted Social Security back in 1935, the average life expectancy was 61.7 years and you had to be 65 years old to collect. In other words, when they enacted Social Security they didn't really anticipate having to pay benefits to many people. The average life expectancy at the time for African-Americans was only 53.1 years, but that's another story. The only people who had a shot were white females and their life expectancy was 65.0 years. The latest word is that life expectancy is 78.1 years and rising.

Fatsoes beware! When they first went after smokers it was just a matter of setting aside a little space for those who didn't smoke. Who could object to that? Then came a reversal where they set aside a little space for those who did smoke. Well, that wasn't quite the same thing but we didn't have the good sense to see the writing on the wall. Then came things like no smoking in public buildings, period! Now there are proposals floating around that would ban smoking on public beaches and parkland.

Why? The only possible excuse for this madness is that they want us to live longer.

So, here's a warning to those who are trying to save the country from insolvency by eating themselves to death. (Research shows that being obese shortens your life just as much as smoking.) When there is a proposal to set aside a little space in restaurants for those who are not obese, fight it with everything you've got. If you don't, the next step will be to set aside a little space for the fatties and it will go downhill from there.

I, fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, am somewhat detached from the madness. Earlier this year, about a month before my 65th birthday, after five days in the hospital for something that had absolutely nothing to do with smoking, in a moment of weakness when my wife said, "You haven't had a cigarette for five days. This would be a good time to quit," I promised her that I would. It must have been something in the water. No, the problem was that while I was in the hospital they kept me on a rather strong patch. I was getting so much good stuff I had little or no desire to light up. That was almost eight months ago and rarely a waking hour goes by that I don't crave a cigarette. I suppose that I should add that I'm 5'7" and weigh about 140 pounds. How I'm going to help Uncle Sam out by kicking off a few years early is beyond me.

Pogo was right. We have met the enemy and he is us.

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