Richter: Your tax dollars at work

Richter: Your tax dollars at work


What a revoltin’ development this is! (as William Bendix used to say on TV’s “The Life of Riley”): I just happened to look down at the desk and there just happened to be a newspaper there and it was open to a story about life expectancy in the U.S. and there was a chart and I couldn’t help looking at it and – sure enough – my days are numbered. That is, you can look up your year of birth on the chart and then look over at the columns for male or female and white or black and see how much time somebody old enough to remember “The Life of Riley” has left, statistically speaking – and, well, it ain’t that much.

It took a little figuring, though, because when you go way back to when I was born, the chart lists only census years, so I had to do some extrapolating and I found that life expectancy has been getting longer and longer (in those days, it was increasing by about 0.16 years per year) so, after adding this and subtracting that – and allowing for the rotation of the Earth and Celsius vs. Fahrenheit and multiplying by the inverse of Avogadro’s Number and solving for x – I was able to determine that I can expect to live a grand total of 66.2 years.

Unfortunately, since I’m already 64.7 years old, that would seem to mean that the United States Census Bureau has scheduled my demise for sometime in late February 2015, leaving only about a year and a half before I’m expected to kick the bucket. At least now I know where all my tax dollars have been going.

Fortunately, I was able to find some fine print that may let me off the hook: Another Census Bureau chart strongly suggests that anyone who has managed to dodge enough bullets, runaway trains, meteorites and falling pianos to make it to my advanced age can actually expect to live something like 12.7 additional years, although Uncle Sam doesn’t offer a guarantee, just a service plan (Medicare). But that’s a little better, because it means I’ve been penciled in for 77.4 years – which may be an improvement on the biblical allocation of threescore and 10, but probably won’t seem quite so generous when my sell-by date approaches.

Oh well. Anyway, while I was snooping into statistics, I thought I’d do a little more web-scampering to see how things have changed in this country over a big, round, half-century period; that is, from 1960 to 2010, roughly. Here’s some stuff:

We have houses that are 47 percent bigger for families that are 14 percent smaller; almost half of homes now have 2.5 bathrooms or more, while only about 10 percent did in 1960; and twice as many homes have dishwashers today.

About half of us are married now, whereas in 1960 it was 72 percent; only 26 percent of people in their twenties are married now, vs. 68 percent back then; and almost three times as many kids now grow up in single-parent households as in 1960.

The average hourly wage, in real dollars, has increased by about half, as has the divorce rate; health-care spending has more than tripled, as a percentage of GDP; while the smoking rate is half what it was.

By the same GDP standard, government spending is more than six times what it was the year JFK was elected president.

We now have more than four times as many people behind bars, as a percentage of the population; maybe it’s no wonder we also have twice as many lawyers.

And on that note …

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