“I think there’s a really good chance Sarah Palin could become president, and I think that’s a really scary thing… I think the pick was made for political purposes… Do the actuary tables and there’s a one out of three chance, if not more, that McCain doesn’t survive his first term and it’ll be President Palin… It’s like a really bad Disney movie. The hockey mom, you know, ‘oh, I’m just a hockey mom’… and she’s facing down President Putin… It’s totally absurd… it’s a really terrifying possibility.”
The one-in-three number comes from this Politico article that actually contradicts itself. The first part of the piece:
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Since John McCain announced Friday that first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be his running mate, Democrats have been quick to point out that the 44-year-old governor could soon be just “a heartbeat away from the presidency.” The veiled reference to McCain’s advanced age is hard to miss.
It’s a macabre point to raise on the night when Palin will speak to the convention here — but a look at the actuarial tables insurance companies use to evaluate customers shows that it’s not an irrelevant one. According to these statistics, there is a roughly 1 in 3 chance that a 72-year-old man will not reach the age of 80, which is how old McCain would be at the end of a second presidential term. And that doesn’t factor in individual medical history, such as McCain’s battles with potentially lethal skin cancer.
Really? Actually, no, as the article points out later:
Actuaries are quick to point out that mortality statistics describe broad population trends. They insist the models can’t necessarily be applied to individual people.
“Actuarial models are good for estimating the average future lifetime of, say, 100,000 50-year-olds, or how many out of 100,000 50-year-olds will survive to 60, but are lousy at estimating about one particular 50-year-old,” explained Jim Daniel, a professor of actuarial studies at the University of Texas.
The odds, then, that McCain will reach the age of 76 or 80 may be considerably higher than in the population at large.
Jack Luff, an actuary with the Society of Actuaries, also notes that the NAIC statistics are slightly weighted toward a higher probability of death.
“The [Commissioners Standard Ordinary] table is directed at life insurance and does have a margin in it with respect to extra deaths for financial reporting purposes,” said Luff.
The same calculations made by utilizing an annuity table, which is used for the purposes of disbursing pensions and tends to predict slightly greater longevity, suggest that a man McCain’s age has a marginally reduced one in ten chance of not reaching age 76.
Annuity tables have the same problems as actuarial tables, but Politico doesn’t mention that. Either way, this is a great example of how McCain’s age is being spun by Obama’s celebrity circle.