The baby boomers have really caused a bit of a mess in the U.S.
Forget the turmoil of the 1960s … this is a demographic issue. The sheer volume of baby boomers is causing a lot of massive economic problems. It is their generation that is accelerating pension drain, and social security (though that problem won’t see the worst for a while). It is the aging baby boomers that are straining the health care system, and if you haven’t been on a desert island, the words “economy” and “health care” have been things lately.
But what if this debate is really over nothing?
The main thrust of these problems are projections based on the average life expectancy of Americans over the next 30-40 years. The assumption being used by the actuarials is that life expectancy will continue to increase as it has for the last century, and that with more and more people living longer and longer, at least until the baby boomers are significantly gone, and the systems can replenish, we are all screwed (maybe not all equally financially screwed, but we will have to put up with caterwauling politicians and their supporters for a significant amount of the next century), and those systems likely won’t be intact enough by then to replenish (at least not without costing significant coin from tax payers to fix).
However, a study from Rice University and the University of Illinois at Chicago (yeah, I know, the school which constantly says “no, we aren’t the University of Chicago, and no, we aren’t the University of Illinois, and no, we aren’t the average of the two”*) provides some hope, if hope can be defined as massive amounts of cancer, and obesity related deaths.
These studies suggest that life expectancy in the United States may be peaking out and might be in for a fall off of sorts, and that this fall off could see a certain amount of economic gain if people die at a younger age and leave lots of money unclaimed in the pension and SS funds.
So, while it is nothing we should necessarily be sitting around crossing our fingers for, and I am not sure how much I believe this study which itself is making assumptions that significant treatments for several of these health problems aren’t relatively close, it is at least a small glimmer of hope that things may not be as bad as we are predicting them to be.
*A small joke at UIC’s expense … a friend who attended once noted that he got sick and tired of having to correct people about this. He would say “University of Illinos- Chicago”, and people thought he was at stately University of Chicago. Just say University of Illinois, and they thought he attended school in a cornfield.