Grandpa Goes to Grenada

America is no place for the old. Then there's Mexico.

 You're not going to find me sucking on caribou eyeballs or slurping down raw walrus hearts any time soon. But when it comes to growing old gracefully, we all may have a few things to learn from the primitive Eskimo. From the snowy shores of Siberia to the Northern stretches of Nunavut, Eskimo people know what to do when they outlive their useful years. One professional pontificator at Drexel University discovered that backward societies the world over have practiced some form of "death hastening" for the decrepit. Rather than hog the whale meat while youngsters starve, generous geezers wander into the white wilderness, never to return. Others inform their families that the hour has come, and then ride the shoulders of society's productive members to a public suicide ceremony. That way the burden of being old only lasts a few minutes instead of decades.

Compare that unwritten contract between fathers and sons to the highway robbery on the road of life that is America's Socialist Security program. In case you've never stopped to ask what happens to the 6.2 percent of your salary that disappears into the jackboots of the "SS" administration, here's the way our system "works": Kennedy cultists in Washington plunder the pocketbooks of people who earn money, collect virtually no interest on it, and then give it away willy-nilly to people who never pulled down a paycheck or saved a penny in their lives. And the Democrat party thought Enron was a scam. Just thinking about this shameless con game may hasten my own death!

Someday soon the free-loving baby boomers are going to grow too expensive for their own good. Like lemmings or locusts, they've got an insatiable hunger for free prescription drugs and federally subsidized book groups. Maybe these unreformed hippies got the "munchies" from too much "medical" marijuana. Which is why we should offer them all the ganja they can smoke in a new string of publicly chartered and privately managed senior settlements throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, and the rest of the low-cost world.

Dorothea Lange

Now it won't be hard to bundle Grandma on the plane to sunny Panama for a few weeks. But familiarizing yourself with a little bit of demographic history may help explain why we all need her to stay there. Being the greatest and most efficient economic engine that the world has ever known, America could afford to leak some cash in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Back then, a small number of old-timers feasted on the all-you-can-eat buffet of government giveaways. But our grandparents were randy ones--they were fruitful and multiplied. And so between the years 2000 and 2030, Minnesota's senior population will explode from about 600,000 to near 1.2 million. Unfortunately, that growing horde of gray-hairs is also expecting to push their walkers up to the trough. Oh, and did I mention that the trough of Medicare and Social (In)Security commitments is going to need to be filled with $10.9 trillion dollars beyond what's currently funded (this, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office)?

Old people are addicted to handouts, and like anyone who's been coddled for a lifetime it's too late to break them of the habit. To be reasonable, our parents were promised that the government would be their babysitter one day. Unfortunately, where today there are 4.3 working adults for every Price Is Right watcher, there will be only 2.6 people without ear hair to push each full wheelchair by the year 2030. It was the wrong promise to make, but we're more bankrupt than Willie Nelson and his farm buddies if we're not good to our word.

Unpopular Democrats cling to the panic of the elderly--without these terrorism tactics, they'd never win another election. (Which is why Gore had to try that creative ballot counting in Florida.) Meanwhile, the Grand Old Party tries nobly to convince plastic addicts who are taking cash advances on October's paycheck that they should learn the difference between a 401K and Special K. Good luck with that.

The truth is that neither party has all the answers. And whether you want Howard Dean performing abortions in the West Wing or you want George Bush protecting your kids from Koran-carrying maniacs, you probably realize that our country has a problem on its hands when it comes to entitlement programs. Unless doing word scrambles and playing slot machines in Hinckley starts paying a salary, the quarter of a million Minnesotans who will be over age 85 in 2030 won't be able to pay anyone to change their adult diapers. We need to look beyond the war of words when it comes to this widely loathed experiment in American socialism. Specifically, we need to look south.

...And east and west, too. Instead of scouting for more dollars--and more taxes--to feed the maw of entitlement deficits, why not make the money we spend go farther? Like, to the Pacific coast of Mexico? To the rolling scarps of Slovakia? To the balmy, volcanic islands of Vanuatu? Why are we planning to commit our parents to state-subsidized gray ghettos when they could live like royalty in luxury, free-enterprise retirement communities all over the globe?

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