A wrong turn calls for a U-turn

Down through history it was expected that men of wealth and influence would live longer than the common rabble.

Thus it would surprise no one that former presidents of the United States often achieved great age even while toil and poor living conditions took the average American while still much younger. Even so, when John Adams, the former second president, turned 90 in October of 1825, he joined an even more exclusive club.

It wasn't until 1964 that another former president, Herbert Hoover, reached that age. The next nonagenarian former president was Ronald Reagan, who set the age record in 2004 by living to 93 but held it for only two years. Now it's held by the late Gerald Ford.

In just a few weeks, George H.W. Bush will join this growing fraternity, as will Jimmy Carter in October. Their milestones will be of some interest to the nation, but these days people living into their 90s are not at all hard to find. My own grandmother lived to be 93, and her two eldest sons also reached their 90s.

What accounts for this longevity not only among the wealthy and influential but also among the middle and working classes, is a combination of ever-improving living conditions, better nutrition, and phenomenal health care.

At least, that was true until the health care system was upended by legislation enacted in 2010. That, combined with a poor outlook for the middle and working classes under the present administration's economic policies, bodes poorly for the future.

I don't worry that Bush or Carter – or Clinton or Obama – may not live to be 100, but I do worry that our hamstrung economy and increasingly regimented health care system, where every medical decision is now second-guessed not merely by insurance companies but also by unelected D.C. bureaucrats, will erode the gains in longevity and standard of living in the coming decades.

Something needs to be done to put this country back on the upward track we remember. While there are still those among us who do.

Kevin McGehee


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