A Simple Suggestion
Recently, my political science class studied the problem of the national debt, and the statistics are truly alarming. Right now, if the US government had all its future revenues, but had to pay off all its future expenditure commitments, the shortfall would amount to $45 trillion, $45,000,000,000,000, an obscene amount of money. In fact, it's twelve times larger than our current debt, a little over four times the size of the country's current GDP.
How will we pay for this? We can either raise all income taxed by 69%, raise payroll taxes by 95%, cut Social Security and Medicare benefits by 56% or cut federal discretionary spending by 100%. Other possibilities include such rosy prospects as defaulting on debts or print so much money as to induce hyperinflation. This is a fiscal time bomb that is going to destroy our economy.
The government is maintaining a willful ignorance about this looming crisis, because most official calculations only count government bonds and other loans, which are dwarfed by the government's "implicit liabilities" - Medicare and social security payments that have been promised. These payments form the large majority of future debt. Unfortunately, the AARP is the most powerful lobby in the country, and viciously fight any attempts at cutting social security and Medicare programs to the point where it isn't politically viable to propose any cuts. The elderly are going to ruin us.
Simultaneously, we have oil prices apparently rising out of control. True, the prices are not as high as they were during the 70's crisis, nor during the early 90's. Though prices may stabilize over the next few months, we have appeared to reach at least new pricing plateau that will slowly increase over the coming years. Already, some economists claim that this increase in fuel prices is not only slowing our recovery - it may actually be driving us further into recession. The world is running out of oil, and we have yet to secure a viable alternate fuel source. The future is looking grim.
Now, I've been thinking a lot about these issues and what can be done. Retirees provide no real service to our economy - they just largely siphon off government money. On the other hand, the elderly have enormous political pull (the AARP has 35 million members), so this problem cannot be solved through traditional government routes. Yet have to solve our imminent welfare-state crisis, and there have been no convincing solutions put forth.
Likewise, we are overly dependent on foreign oil. As much rhetoric has been said about weaning the US off foreign oil, little has been done to seek out a replacement energy source. Both problems are coming to a head within the next few decades, and both will cripple this great nation. We must find a solution. Then I suddenly had an idea.
While the elderly are an enormous political force, physically they are extremely weak and easy to coerce. Perhaps we should stop looking at them as an unstoppable, economy-crushing force that will surely bankrupt the country and start looking at them as our greatest natural resource. By 2020, there will be over 100 million Americans over 50. Given the epidemic rates of obesity, the average American weighs something like 155 lbs. This represents 15,500,000,000 lbs. of biomass, 46,500,000,000,000,000 calories.* To put this in perspective, a gallon of gasoline contains a mere 31,000 calories. By 2020, we will have the equivalent of 1.5 trillion gallons of gasoline sitting in our own backyards and nursing homes!
It would be fairly simple to convert the nations coal power plants (many of which currently burn oil) to harness our aged natural resource. It would be best to start with our nation's oldest citizens and work our way down, as those people would be more likely to die on their own, and we shouldn't allow a drop of biomass to wither away.
It is my simple suggestion that we stop viewing the elderly as a drain on our economy and instead see them for what they really are - a massive, renewable energy source that can finally wrest the country from the grip of foreign oil linked to repressive regimes while simultaneously saving our government from future insolvency. Now, precisely because this energy source is so vital to our future economic stability, I willingly relinquish all control over it. I believe that such an important matter should be handled by the government instead of allowing any one individual to profit. In such a crucial matter as this, I find putting personal gain over the collective good to be sickening.
*Roughly, one lb. of human fat equals 3,000 calories. Assuming that muscles contain more, while other parts of the body contain less, 3,000 is about average. Now, the definition of a calorie is the amount of energy it would take to raise one gram of water 1 degree Celsius. However, the "calories" you actually see on food products are kilocalories, or 1,000 calories. So technically, 1 lb. of human is 3,000,000 calories.
“It is a strange paradox that today’s central banks are generally staffed by economists, who by and large profess a belief in a theory which says that their jobs are, at the best, unnecessary, and more likely wealth-destroying. Needless to say, this is not a point widely discussed among respectable economists. Nevertheless, it is an issue worth pondering.”
George Cooper, The Origin of Economic Crises