I've got news to bear. Many will regard it as bad news. But really, all it is, is news.
That hours-old newborn is going to die. It's a sure thing; I'd bet on it. Sometime within the next 150 years that kid is toast; because of ever diminishing available land for cemeteries, literally, toast.
While I was living in a 55+ mobile home community in the south Tampa Bay for three and one-half years I was acquainted with an old woman, in her late-80s. I received word a few days ago that at 94 she's now in hospice. While I knew her, her days were spent in the small, dark and gloomy old trailer she never left, sitting six-inches away from her television set, staring at repeats of golf tournaments on the golf channel.
My current next door neighbor here in Palm Springs will soon be 90. Because she is somewhat hard of hearing, her son was speaking loudly. He was trying to persuade the old woman to stop smoking . . . for her health. Stepping outside for a cigarette is one of the very few reasons she leaves her trailer.
Perhaps 20 years ago, while I was living in San JosÃ©, the sister of an acquaintance was dying of cancer. I had decided to pay a visit to Alexian Brothers Hospital, where she had been confined for a few weeks. As I got off the elevator, the howls of her agonized screams filled the corridor. The room was cramped with the woman's husband, her grandmother, and sister, and the attending oncologist. As I was standing just outside the door I saw the husband, awash in sobs, pleading with the attending physician to do "whatever it took." Money was no object. (Of course it wasn't, insurance was covering the tab.) It may have been another two weeks before the woman died.
My own mother, following my dad's death, had moved into a very lovely independent living condo in Dearborn. The Detroit Lions' training facility was less than a half-mile across the parking lot and field. The community offered daily transportation to a nearby shopping mall. One day, with a bag containing the box of new shoes she'd just purchased, as she was stepping onto the bus, to return to her condo, my mom dropped dead. On the spot. She'd shopped "til she dropped."
Was I the least sad? Hell no! Despite the grief I'd given her, as the oldest of the three children she'd had and raised, she'd had an amazingly great life. You die! Face it: we all die. Now, had she been cooped for years in a darkened trailer, fated to spend interminable days staring at a television, or in some protracted agony . . . That would have been sad. And, from my perspective, an insidiously stupid and delusional waste of money: devoting scant social resources trying to keep anyone alive, when what he or she is doing is not living, it's in the throes of dying, frequently terribly and ignominiously.
Understand, I am not endorsing "Death panels." Well, maybe I am; sort of. Dying is what we do. All of us. And diverting the billions upon hundreds of billions to the quest of keeping us alive (Alive? That's not living!) an additional few weeks or months, when those same monies could be devoted to our youth; the future of all the promises we'd made, from the moment we, as adults, began that heterosexual horizontal boogey in the sheets, is as morally corrupt as anything my mind can conjure.
Three decades or so ago I was visiting my 65-plus year old parents in the Detroit area. My father, then retired from Ford, where he had been a designer-engineer, while destroying good steaks (My mother liked hers shoe-leather well done.) in the backyard barbecue made a comment that surprised me. "Ya know, Ed, the greediest, meanest folks are seniors. They have a sense of entitlement that's out of all proportion. And they don't want to give up a cent of it for anyone."
The entire preceding came to mind this morning as I was reading "A growth lesson from China" in the Washington Post, by conservative columnist George Will. (click here=nl_opinions )
The column had been provoked by Obama's submission a few days ago of his proposed $3.8 trillion federal budget, and the extraordinary strains that our Medicare expenditures are placing on us presently, and that, unless significantly reined in, will make of the United States a second-place economic entity, behind China. Pulled into focus by Will were data that had been elevated to the discussion by Nobel laureate, economist Robert Fogel.
"The financial per capita [health care] burden at age 85 and older is nearly six times as high as the burden at ages 50-54." And "the financial burden of health care for ages 85 and older is over 75 percent higher per capita than at ages 75-79." Fogel observed that 100 years ago, older Americans suffered more severe chronic diseases that had commenced a full 10 years earlier in the life cycle than what we see currently.
Will then noted what we all know as a fact of life: There is a direct, positive correlation between the severity of ailments and the costs of halting the downward progression. To support that obvious truth, he again drew upon Fogel. However, "five years before the year of death, annual health cost is virtually the same as all annual Medicare costs per capita, by the second year before death the cost has risen by about 60 percent, and in the year of death the annual cost exceeds the average by more than four times." And that "expenditures on persons during their last two years of life account for 40 percent of all Medicare expenditures." (Emphasis mine.)
Another factoid cited by Will, from Fogel, was that, at the turn of the 20th century, children under five accounted for one-third of all deaths, whereas now, due to dramatic medical advances, that astounding figure is lower than 2 percent! Also, at the turn of that century, the deaths of those past 65 comprised 18 percent of all mortality, currently it's 75 percent.
"There will be blood" was a movie title. The lifeblood that's seeping steadily from the American economic corpus because of our established Medicare priorities is stealing from our children and handing the future to China.
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