In his op-ed piece in the Washington Post on January 16, Harold Meyerson comes up with some amazing figures. Among the 17 most developed countries, the United States comes in dead last in life expectancy. However, once Americans reach age 65 and have access to Medicare, i.e., medical care that is similar to what is available in the other 16 countries, they start to catch up and eventually surpass the French, Germans, Britons and Canadians. I leave it to you to contemplate the significance of these figures, and you can read all about it in Meyerson’s piece: ”America flunks its checkup:”
I remember an article by Ezra Klein about a month ago in which he made the case to my satisfaction that the eligibility age for Medicare should not be raised higher than 65 because the people who needed it most were poor or nearly so and worn out from a life of physical labor. They had had boring jobs and certainly deserved a few years to enjoy their grand children without having to go to a job every day, which they hated and for which they no longer had the full physical capacity. He contrasted this with the social engineers in Congress, in think tanks and in law firms and corporate boardrooms, who have had a lifetime of interesting and challenging work and are still in good physical shape because much of their physical activity was voluntary, either for pleasures like tennis and squash or to maintain good health through workouts.
What is the lesson here? Or, better, what is the most cynical conclusion one could draw from all this? Answer: America has the best of all systems. The rich and well to do and well educated can live long, productive and pleasant lives long into their 80s and 90s, because they can provide themselves with excellent care until Medicare kicks in when they are 65. Meanwhile, if we can obstruct Obamacare, blue collar folks can do without until they are 65, by which time we can hope they will be in such poor shape that they will die soon and no longer be a drag on the economy or the social support structure.