Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Grand Compromise, Part Two: Raise the Retirement Age, Cure Alzheimer's.

As noted here yesterday, Rep. John Boehner said what many, maybe most, officials in Washington DC think: the retirement age for Social Security should go up.    But of course, here in Powertown, stating the obvious can get you in trouble.

And so Boehner's office dredged up a long list of nearly identical comments on Social Security from top Democrats, and passed them on to Hotline.   In the words of Hotline reporter Reid Wilson, summing up the state of play: 

Boehner's comments, made in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, have given Dems an easy target for today. But once upon a time, Dems thought raising the retirement age wasn't such a bad idea.  

And then Wilson cites a string of top Democrats and their quotes: 

Those senior Dems include VP Joe Biden, who told the AP in '07 he was open to discussions about raising the cap.
House Maj. Whip James Clyburn's official website says raising the age can keep Social Security solvent. "With minor changes to the program such as raising the salary cap and raising the retirement age by one month every year, the program could become solvent for the next 75 years," Clyburn's website says.

Just last week, House Maj. Leader Steny Hoyer told an audience at an event for Third Way, the centrist think tank, "we could and should consider a higher retirement age."

OK, so candor about entitlement policy seems to be bipartisan.  Good.  That's to the credit of both parties, even if both have been known to seek tactical political advantage on entitlement issues from time to time.    
But if both parties agree on the problem, then they might eventually agree on a solution.  As noted here yesterday, if the solution includes raising the retirement age, then the solution also ought to include doing something about Alzheimer's Disease (AD).  That's not only compassionate, it's also practical.   
As we wrote:
So here's a suggestion: Make a big offer to the American people: Couple the raising of the retirement age with a Manhattan Project-like quest for an AD cure.  
History tells us that we could either cure AD or put a big dent in it, IF we made a concentrated effort.   That is, bring the best experts together, sweep away the litigation and regulation that blocks progress, explore new financing mechanisms, such as "health bonds," and generally mobilize the country in the search for a cure, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did in the fight against polio, back in the 30s, when he established the March of Dimes.   It's worth recalling that the fight for a polio vaccine was initiated by a Democratic president, Roosevelt, then continued by another Democratic president, Harry S. Truman, and then completed by a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.   Which is to say, the fight against polio was a bipartisan success; great leaders of both parties joined together for the common good of the country. 
The logic here is as strong today as it was yesterday.

Correction and update: The Economist, cited in this space as the source for the assertion that cuts have been made in Alzheimer's spending, now says that it made a mistake--federal spending on AD did not fall, it has merely plateaued.   SMS regrets the error.


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  2. The real question is who will be running the show in something like this.If the government is involved at all it will be nothing but grandstanding and trying to get the credit for whatever successes may come. When it comes to funding they will be inclined to force people to fund the effort rather than having it matter whether I chose to contribute or not, so my contribution or lack of it would be meaningless. Or they will demand that the resources be squandered by hiring union labor in the office, directing research funds to favored congressional districts, or mucking with clinical trials by insisting on participation or lack of it by this or that favored or disfavored group. That's for a reason that won't change...bureaucrats are uninterested in medicine. If they were they would have become doctors or researchers. What they are interested in is power and fame, neither of which will be of any help in curing anybody.

    The bottom line is that they are never going to have the slightest interest in curing any disease, so if you or someone else wanted to start something like this (which I think would be a grand idea) you would have to decide up front to either post a "No politicians welcome" sign out front or let the weevils in the door and let them run the show. If they are going to be involved then I'm not interested in wasting my time and money. I am sure that I am not alone in this.

  3. “The common good of the country” is not on the ‘Hill Peoples’ radar. They don’t give a damn about us. It’s all about $$ & Power! That is why this Nov. 2 is going to cut out some of the carcinoma.

    I agree with Brian’s removed quote to keep the Pols out. After FDR started the charge on Polio, it took 25 years and that was without government grand standing. Having been crippled myself, I had too many friends with this disease.
    Look at Jerry Lewis’ efforts re MDA. If he were Catholic I would put him up for sainthood ‘at the appropriate time’ Jerry’ ;-)

    One of the best deterrents re the coming on of AD is to keep active. This will slow down the disease. But with the Baby Boomers coming up behind me, it isn’t enough. We need a national effort and another Jerry Lewis and Dr. Salk to lead the charge.