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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Refusing The Call; Will selfish Seniors hand over the USA's future to China?

Refusing The Call; Will selfish Seniors hand over the USA's future to China?

For OpEdNews: Ed Tubbs - Writer

Title changed from author's original by editor

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 José, 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.

Here's what's in Will's column: By 2040 China's GDP will be $123 trillion, and its 40 percent share of global GDP will be three times that of the US's 14 percent! The overwhelming explanation for that dramatic difference lies solely in the disparity between the investments in education made by The Peoples Republic and the investment we're making, made even more meagerly on the excuse that, because of the recession, we cannot afford to do better.

This past Tuesday, February 2, C-SPAN's Washington Journal viewer call-in program featured Stephen Moore, one of Wall Street Journal's editorial board members. (click here) Concerning education, Mr. Moore said the following: "Education is not a federal obligation . . . we should do away with the Department of Education." Somewhat tangential, but nonetheless also rather related, he concluded that, "the best thing the federal government should do is cut taxes."


Early in the last decade, my brother-in-law made "the call." My dad was in Henry Ford Hospital, in Dearborn, and . . .. Immediately following I made arrangements to fly the next day from San José to Detroit Metro. From Metro, where my brother-in-law met me with a car, we drove straight to the hospital. I found my dad prostrate in bed and absolutely incoherent. Tubes were leading into and out of every natural orifice, with other tubes and monitoring wires inserted into and leading from others that were not natural.

Three days earlier, he'd undergone surgery that his doctor assured my mom, my sister and her husband, "Had a 50-50" chance of restoring him to what he was before he'd collapsed. For a number of months prior he'd had every classic COPD symptom every medical text listed. He was also 89. That surgery not producing the results the physician and my family had hoped for, and not being competent to issue the necessary authorization (or voice objection) necessary for a succeeding surgery, my mother gave her approval to the physician, who once again assured the family of that 50-50 chance. That second, highly invasive surgical procedure left the fellow as unimproved as the first.

A third surgery had been scheduled for the morning after I'd arrived, once more on that 50-50 bet, and once more sans any suggestion of approval from my dad.

(Here I need to make a parenthetical insertion that years earlier I'd persuaded my parents to complete an "Advance Healthcare Directive," otherwise known as a "Living Will," the purposes of which are to make known to all what an individual's wishes are, should he or she be in a medical circumstance where they cannot make those decisions themselves. My dad, as I strongly suspected the dignified and honorable man would, wanted no extraordinary efforts made to extend his life. The weak link was my mother's and my sister's inability to observe his wishes, in contrast with their own; to save his life at all costs.)

After just a few moments bedside with my dad, I asked my sister, "When are you going to pull the tubes?" Her terse reply was, "When the doctors say there is no hope." (In the fall of 1994, I'd spent a full month in Mountain View, California's El Camino Hospital. An abdominal injury I'd sustained while on a jungle patrol nine years earlier led to small bowel adhesions and the emergency need for lysis of adhesions surgery. Two of them. For the full month, I'd had N-G [Nasogastric] tubing run from each nostril, down the throat to my stomach, constantly pumping the bile that the stomach naturally produces. Nearly as agonizing as the surgeries, just understand they are miserable.) Regardless he couldn't say so, I knew what that 89-year old, very dignified and honorable man was suffering, and I could guess he'd not want any part of a third operation. Poetically speaking, later that afternoon my dad checked himself out of the tomfoolery. He died.


I'd rather not guess what the costs of those futile and irresponsible and wholly immoral medical efforts were . . . to you, to me, to the futures of our kids. The decisions to go to such lengths and to expend such outrageous sums represent our national priorities. For any of us who are wont to suggest we truly do care the least for others, for our progeny, we have an obligation to grasp the truth of the travail we're thereby inflicting on our children and on children yet unborn. You cannot spend the same dollar twice. When we spend huge sums trying to seize just one more breath, we're concomitantly denying to others their equal right to a chance to economically have their shot at a natural lifetime of breaths, and a quality of life that is at least the equal of ours.

And it's something I really do not understand about all who prefer to think of themselves as Christians. I've been to a few funerals. The minister, or pastor, or priest, never fails to assure the bereaved that the departed is now "in a better place." He or she has gone to their reward in heaven, that paradise promised by Jesus. It seems to me, a non-believer, that if Paradise was the promise the true believer truly believed was the destination, they'd not want to procrastinate a moment, hopping on the "Last Train to Clarksville."

Based on the treasure we're stealing from our youth during those final months and days, the evidence suggests very few believe as much as they say they do. Deuteronomy 30:19 commands us to "choose life." It doesn't say to throw every last buck into the sewer, trying to avoid what's going to be the conclusion anyway.

My personal prescription: Live everyday to its fullest. Treasure each moment. Then at least have the decency and the courage and grace to surrender gracefully to the inevitable, firm in the believe you have not stolen opportunities from our kids that are rightfully theirs. Today we're not doing as we should. We're hard set at robbing the train. And while we are, China is building the locomotives that will pull our train every which way but loose.

An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."

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