The Centers for Disease Control released its “National Vital Statistics Report” this week, and BuzzCharts was especially interested in the latest figures for life expectancy. It turns out that Americans are living longer than they did at any time in the nation’s history. The average lifespan is just shy of 78 years, with women living slightly longer than 80 years. Males and females, blacks and whites — we’re all living longer than ever before.
So what’s all this noise coming out of D.C. and the left-wing media about how terrible our health-care system is? Why are we told of its unsustainability, its inherent greed and corruption, and its tolerance for tonsillectomy mills? Watching all this hand-wringing, one might think that Americans had the highest death rates ever recorded, rather than the lowest. But men who are ambitious for power find good news to be the least useful news of all. Hence, four-score life expectancies — the dream of previous generations — go unheralded.
Our chattering classes chatter on about derivative abstractions, such as the increase in the percentage of GDP that we allot to health care. The cable-television pundits remind us that we’re spending about 16 percent of our national output on health care, and conclude that this is some kind of national scandal. Why? What percentage should we be spending? Is 10 percent more acceptable? Is 5 percent?
Let’s be clear: Prosperous countries spend more on doctors and medicine than non-prosperous ones. The poor allocate almost everything they earn to food, rent, and clothes, and have little to spend on medicine and even less to squander on fun. When a nation gets wealthy, however, food, roofs, and pants become less of a cost issue, while more money is funneled to matters such as health.
Our great-grandparents spent much less than 16 percent of GDP on health care, and they barely made it into their 60s. Would any of you willingly give back 20 years in exchange for less health-care spending?
– Jerry Bowyer is an economist, CNBC contributor, and author of the upcoming Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide.