A Modest Health Care Proposal

In 1729, Dr. Jonathan Swift offered a modest proposal to, as the full title of his satiric (he wasn’t actually, as far as we know, advocating infanticide) put it, prevent “The Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.”

The year 2010 seems to call for a remake, an American Modest Proposal 2.0, something that is as clear-eyed and unsentimental about society’s problems as Swift’s original was.  And so we present “A Modest Health care Proposal: For Preventing Aging Demographics, Aka The Baby Boomers, from Being a Burden to Their Descendents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Hungry People of the World.” So here goes:

It is a melancholy sight that greets those who walk through Irvine, or travel through this country, when they see the emergency rooms, the hospitals and clinics crowded with baby boomers, clutching vials of Viagra and Prozac, importuning every passing person for money to pay for the various pharmaceutical elixirs that have kept this generation of 60-is-the-new-30-ers “young.”

These boomers, having reaped the prosperity of read-my-lips-no-more-taxes, of tech bubbles and cheap credit, are now faced with reality: the most expensive and least efficient health care system in the world, one that threatens to bankrupt the country even as it fails to cover millions.

Faced with the possibility of such a grim future, the boomers voted for a president who promised to fix this problem.  If Obama could, as many seemed to believe toward the beginning, walk on water, surely he could negotiate a moribund political climate, even pacify Harry and Louise, to reform health care, an accomplishment that has eluded American presidents for 100 years.

After a year of tea parties and death panels, Democrats passed a health care bill. The reaction to the bill has been mixed and highly polarized. “The Economist’s” Christopher Lockwood gave the lukewarm review “it was marginally worth having.” Others weren’t as cautious. Conservatives called the bill a government takeover of health care meant to expand entitlements and build a permanent Democratic majority (never mind that the government already provides 50 percent of health care). Others claim it will mean that old people will be euthanized (not true, see average age of representatives (57.2) and senators (63.1). The other side doesn’t think the bill does enough. Where is single payer health care, damn it? Where’s the cost control?

Which brings us back to a Modest Proposal 2.0. A big part of the health care crisis, not all of it admittedly, but certainly a good chunk of it, has to do with aging and retiring baby boomers. As these boomers retire at the rate of 100,000 per day to golf courses in the Sunbelt, they strain the health care resources to the breaking point. So what to do?

Why, baby boomer pot roast, of course! Abundant in supply and ample in size, the approximately 78 million baby boomers should provide for at least a few years of good eating.  Admittedly, boomers are not likely to be as tender and succulent as the Irish milk-fed babies Swift proposed eating. However, babies, thanks to advancements in birth control (thank you NuvaRing®) are scarce these days – baby boomers are not. As long as the home chef takes care to use recipes that have been adapted for tough cuts like skirt steak and pork shoulder, everything should be fine. If all else fails, marinate, marinate, marinate.

If Americans turn out to be squeamish about the possibility of eating old Mrs. Simpson from down the street, never fear, the Boomers shall not have died in vain. Instead, boomers can be processed (jobs! economic stimulus!) and sent abroad as part of America’s foreign food aid package. Two birds with one stone: solving the health care crisis, at least until the next batch of old people comes along, and putting a good dent in world hunger. Can Obamacare claim to do as much? We didn’t think so.

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