Peace is hell

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered some tough-love testimony about rising healthcare costs and our shrinking Treasury. His message: Healthcare spending must be cut if we ever hope to reduce the federal debt to sustainable levels.

Our nation already spends a ton of dough taking care of sick people. And the trend line is hardly encouraging. Some analysts predict that the healthcare industry will represent a fifth of our economy by 2020.

"These structural fiscal imbalances did not emerge overnight,” Bernanke testified. "To a significant extent, they are the result of an aging population and, especially, fast-rising healthcare costs.” Can't argue there.

Already, our national debt exceeds $15 trillion, according to The federal government needs to save $4 trillion to $6 trillion over the next 10 years in order to place itself on a sustainable fiscal path, Bernanke said.

This would be very sobering news indeed — if an easy answer weren't right at our fingertips. All we have to do is start a war ... and fight it with retirees.

Talk about your win-win! Each battlefield death is one less person potentially wasting away in a nursing home on the public's dime. But beyond killing two birds with the proverbial one stone (eliminating rising health costs and lots of old sick people), this option is chock full of additional sweeteners.

Let's face it, if you're a president facing an uncertain election run, there's nothing like a war to get people rallying around the Commander in Chief.

And a lot of the aging boomers already have experience fighting in places such as Vietnam, Korea, Europe and other parts of Asia. For many of them, it could be a sort of reunion tour.

This is a nation where we are not ashamed to publicly claim how much we support our troops (except of course, when we quietly gut defense spending by 50%, but why quibble about the small stuff?). If the war goes long enough, and enough old people die, and we can still afford it, we could maybe throw the survivors a nice parade afterwards.

We have thousands of experienced, patriotic seniors sitting around with practically nothing to do. And unlike a moon colony, this opportunity could be a true investment in America's future.

Bernanke and many Washington insiders had the misfortune of having post-graduate educations cheat them of a chance to serve in the military during wartime. So to Ben and your band of deferment brothers, try to think of this as the ultimate make-good you could take part in. It would be a lot more patriotic than sticking a flag in your lapel.

Besides, isn't it time we stopped wasting war on the young?


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.