A recently uncovered speech delivered by Senator Sherrod Brown shows the Ohio Democrat claiming government deserves the credit for the stunning increase in life expectancy over the last century–and the rich fought against this progress.
“A baby born in those days [a century ago] had a life expectancy of about 47 years,” Brown said on on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. “Today, because of public health initiatives, worker safety laws, Medicare, Social Security, protections for children and minorities and the disabled, as a result we live decades longer.”
As is often the case with Brown, he offers a semblance of truth with questionable analysis. According to the Center for Disease Control, the life expectancy for a child born at the turn of the century in the United States was 49 years. A century later, a newborn child could expect to live nearly 77 years. Indeed, life expectancy increased by nearly three decades this last century.
One should support and appreciate the role public health initiatives play in advancing public health. However, Brown morphs this support into a peculiar believe that these initiatives run contrary to the desires of other classes of people. As the Senator clearly states, “Every bit of progress in the struggle for economic and social justice often rooted in our Judeo-Christian beliefs, every bit of progress prevailed over the opposition of society’s most privileged and most powerful.”
This statement is quite astounding. Were society’s “most privileged and most powerful” attempting to stop the mass production of penicillin the 1940’s? And what about Eli Lily’s development of insulin last century Did the government invent the artificial heart, the pacemaker, or oral contraceptives to the chagrin of the privileged? Sherrod Brown apparently fails to realize that medical advancements become accessible en masse to the public because the profit motive stimulates efficient production of medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
This lack of basic economics comprehension by Senator Brown explains why he voted for the medical device tax buried within Obamacare–a tax expected to impact an industry which directly employs more than 420,000 Americans. The very industries and inventors under attack by this tax in the senator’s quest for “economic justice” are the enterprises which advance medical care for the everyday people Sherrod Brown claims to help.
Senator Brown’s misguided belief that “progress” only occurs when we “prevail over the opposition of society’s most privileged and most powerful” is directly threatening to stifle an industry in prolonging life expectancy and reducing disabilities. His rhetoric might win his re-election, but it is not likely to win anyone an extra day of life.