Smoking and Lung Cancer: the Backbone of America’s Retirement System

640px-Van_Gogh_-_Skull_with_a_burning_cigaretteBy Franklin Herbert Washington, MD, PhD, CPA, Science and Health Editor

In case you just woke up from long term cryogenic sleep and don’t know, tobacco companies get a bad rap in America these days. From multi-billion dollar payouts to users of their products, to the self-righteous scold brigades behind our nation’s multi-billion dollar anti-smoking propaganda industry, never has it been cooler to be anti-smoking. The thing is, why? Most media reports and health professionals tend to focus on the cancer-causing aspects of smoking like it’s a bad thing, all the while ignoring the many benefits smoking provides our society.

Sure, it sucks to have cancer, but for non-smokers lung cancer can be a boon. Every day we’re inundated with news stories about how the massive influx of retiring baby boomers is making Social Security less sustainable than ever. And it’s not even like Social Security covers all the expenses the elderly poor place upon the system in the first place.

All that could be worse if not for those unsung heroes the tobacco companies. Tobacco products have prematurely killed off millions upon millions of useless, working class Americans who did not save for retirement and would have otherwise spent decades out of the workforce in unproductivity. Rather than getting rewarded for this behavior by our government’s many socialist teats, they will instead get their just desserts: death.

The name “working class” is itself one of the biggest misnomers of the modern age, as they are probably the least industrious among us. Even when they do manage to hose themselves off and get some form of employment outside meth manufacturing and distribution, it is typically working pay day loan to pay day loan at some minimum wage burger flip that barely affords them a spot on the couch in their cousin’s double-wide after they blow most of their pay on beer, ammo and tickets to monster truck rallies.

With the decline of defined-benefit plans and benefits for the working class in general, many poors are struggling to fill the void using defined-contribution plans, which typically require a level of planning and self-control beyond the meager abilities of their Maury-soaked minds and McDonald’s-forged bodies.

This is not news, of course. Everyone knows poors do a terrible job saving for retirement. I mean, for God’s sake, our tax code gives the financially challenged, slack-jawed masses a $1,000 tax credit just for contributing to a retirement account. This is essentially Congress handing poors a sack with a dollar sign on it every year just for opening up a goddamn retirement account, and yet they can’t even accomplish that. Normal people like you and me would think all the povers would be firing up their El Caminos and F-150s to go see their financial planners at Check Into Cash, but we would be wrong. You have to remember this is also a group who likely has not filed a tax return in years, one for whom the notion of getting past ChexSystems and opening a simple savings account seems like a major life accomplishment, reminiscent of the time their father wore a tie.

All this leads to one inevitable conclusion: getting poors to provide for their own retirement is a hopeless cause. Worse, their frequent bouts of unemployment and long periods spent in part-time, minimum wage work mean whatever Social Security they do qualify for won’t even be enough to pay the rent on the mobile hovel they towed into a KOA campground 10 years ago.

This leaves us with two options. One, what I call “the ol’ fashioned way” is to cut all sorts of entitlement and succor in old age and simply let them starve to death or get taken in by the Church. This is, of course, the natural way, the moral way, the way God intended. It is also impossible in America today.

The second way is to let the government tax and spend its way to providing a basic standard of living for all legal residents over a certain age, regardless of their “ability” to pay. Thankfully, this too is politically infeasible, not to mention the unethical burden it places on those who actually earn their money.

So are we doomed?

Not completely. See, we can in fact accomplish the first way, just not explicitly through legislation. Instead, we must facilitate a sort of “voluntary extermination” of the poors through smoking, culling their swelling numbers to something more economically feasible.

Like I said before, this is the way of Nature, the most optimal free market capitalist system the world has ever known. When an ecosystem can no longer support the herd, what does Nature do? Does it provide extra plants for the herbivores? Increase the game animals for the predators? No, it kills, starting with the weakest and working its way up. This is good for the herd. It makes it stronger, both in the sense that those who remain are the most competitive, and in the sense that the herd itself requires fewer resources to survive.

The beauty of this plan is that we really don’t have to do anything but preserve smoker’s rights. Everyone knows poors smoke at a much higher rate than their social betters, so typically they will be the ones getting that cancer and dying young, often before they even reach an age to start draining what little money they put into Social Security from its trust fund or to put a burden on other social services for non-working poor. No doubt smoking has already saved billions for what few defined-benefit plans remain in the private sector, and no doubt in the future it will continue to mitigate the costs of the greatest defined-benefit demon of them all: Social Security.

Now wait. I already know what you’re going to say next. “But what about all the added healthcare costs smoking adds to the system?” Sure. I’ll give you that. It does add some extra money up front, but the long term costs are almost certainly lower. It’s kind of like paying off a loan with a big lump sum rather than slowing bleeding interest payments over the years. But in any case, most of the medical costs of lung cancer are overstated because they only account for the cost of care for treating the lung cancer patient without considering the savings resulting from their premature death.

Think about it. Everyone is going to die at some point, and smokers hardly have a monopoly on spending their last months or years getting expensive treatments. Think about not having to pay for the decades worth of doctor visits and prescriptions for the multitude of age-related ailments almost all seniors deal with. That alone could probably cancel out the lung cancer costs. But what if they also had a couple strokes before kicking it, and were hospitalized several times? What if they had some heart problems and needed a couple surgeries? For all we know, smokers actually save the medical system money even before we account for the money these people would have drained in food stamps, Social Security payments, welfare, senior discounts and so on.

So next time you tell your kids that smokers are jokers and get ready the check the yes box for a public smoking ban in your community, think of not just the societal costs of smoking, but also the many benefits lighting up provides. As the burgeoning ranks of our nation’s elderly continue to put a greater and greater strain on our nation’s economy and the wallets of productive citizens, something is going to have to be done. Like capital punishment does with our nation’s criminals, smoking can do with our leeching elderly, reducing the size of the people our government is forced to foot the bill for and providing more wealth, opportunity and happiness for the rest of us. So the next time some guy wearing a WWE Raw t-shirt blows smoke rings in your path as you walk past the bus station to the covered garage, don’t complain. Tell him, “Thank you for smoking.”


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