Purple America
The Unitary Article II Executive and the Earl of Strafford

Robert Reich's Blog: On Turning 60

Robert Reich is 60:

Robert Reich's Blog: On Turning 60: I'm sixty years old today. So is Cher. That's old as hell, but not as old as it used to be. In 1946, when I was born, life expectancy in the United States was 62.9 years. So I'm glad I'm sixty now and not then. Eligibility for Social Security began at 65 then, which made Social Security a rather unsatisfactory deal for the majority of the population who never became old enough to enjoy it.

I'm at the early edge of the baby boom bomb that started when Ed Reich and millions of other returning GI's impregnated their wives. By 1964, when the boom ended, 76 million boomer babies had been born. Now I and my other early-edge boomer colleagues are seven years away from collecting Social Security, five years away from getting Medicare. In actuarial terms, we'll live until we're about 80.

You don't have to be a math wizard to see the problem. The economy will probably grow fast enough to keep the Social Security trust fund adequate to the task, but Medicare will go bust unless the nation does something to reign in rising health-care costs. That something is actually three things: (1) reduce the huge administrative costs of health care, which include soaring advertising and marketing expenses designed to identify and sign up young and healthy people and avoid older and sicker people; (2) slow the growth of new spending on new medical and pharmaceutical technologies, which are also driving up costs; and (3) devise some system to limit medical spending on extremely sick elderly people who would, at most, have their lives prolonged for only a few months anyway...

I would disagree with (2). Perhaps we want to slow the growth of spending on new medical and pharmaceutical technologies, but we don't want to slow the development and application of new medical and pharmaceutical technologies.

I, for one, am confident that Bob will be with us, raising the banner of twenty-first-century liberalism, for decades yet. I'm newly back from the memorial service for my grandfather Earl H. DeLong, born in 1909, who made it to 96--and was pissed when people came to his 95th birthday party because he thought it expressed a lack of confidence that he would make it to 100.