Who’s Going to Pay The 20 Trillion Dollar Bill?

With so much attention focused on conflict abroad and security at home, it’s not surprising that most news outlets missed an extraordinary speech by a federal official about an urgent domestic topic-the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The cost of these programs, according to the official, are expected to exceed revenues by $20 trillion over the coming decades.

That’s a frightening forecast. If it’s allowed to come to pass, national bankruptcy awaits.

Peter Fisher, Under Secretary for Domestic Finance for the Department of the Treasury, delivered these numbers during a recent speech in Columbus, Ohio. “Think of the federal government as a gigantic insurance company … which only does its accounting on a cash basis-only counting premiums and payouts as they go in and out the door,” he said. “This

particular insurance company, it turns out, has made promises to its policy holders that have a current value $20 trillion or so (give or take a few trillion) in excess of the current value of the revenues that it expects to receive.” That, he says, is “an accident waiting to happen.”

By the way, the entire U.S. national debt is $6 trillion-less than a third of this staggering number.

Mr. Fisher says that the government should neither raise taxes nor borrow money to close this catastrophic gap. Instead, adjust the tax code to encourage individual savings and investments, adjust health-care policy to reward those “who can demonstrate a measurable improvement in health,” and better control federal spending in all areas, not just entitlement programs.

Mr. Fisher’s solutions may or may not be the right approach. What’s important is that politicians and citizens pay attention to his warning. With a graying population, we soon will find ourselves with a social-welfare system that we can’t afford. How are we going to pay Social Security benefits and Medicare reimbursements for retired baby boomers with a shrunken work force? It’s too late for debate and discussion. Maybe someone in Washington should figure out what should be done.

Harvard and Columbia Promote Anti-Semitic Poet

It’s disappointing when a school like Harvard University takes a step toward endorsing anti-Semitic hate speech. But that’s just what’s happening up in Cambridge, where bigotry and hatred have gained a foothold under a false cloak of freedom of speech.

Last week, Harvard’s English Department renewed an invitation to poet Tom Paulin to deliver its annual Morris Gray Lecture, one week after the department had wisely decided to cancel Mr. Paulin’s lecture because of public statements he recently made calling for the murder of Jewish people. Harvard had rescinded its initial invitation to Mr. Paulin when the university learned that, earlier this year, he had told Al-Ahram Weekly , a Cairo-based newspaper, that “Brooklyn-born” Jewish settlers on the West Bank “should be shot dead.” He went on to say, “I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them.” He added, “I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all.”

Apprised of these statements, Harvard’s English Department disinvited Mr. Paulin, having no wish to offer a prestigious platform to a man who was calling for the murder of innocent people, and who was doing so at a time when scores of people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are being killed each week. Harvard’s president, Lawrence Summers, who recently gave a speech warning that anti-Semitism was “finding support in progressive intellectual communities,” issued a statement supporting the decision to revoke Mr. Paulin’s invitation.

But it seems that Mr. Summers’ concerns about anti-Semitism on college campuses were all too prescient. A group of Harvard students and professors, unable to distinguish between someone expressing his or her views and someone calling for people “to be shot dead,” cried “censorship” and demanded that the English department re-invite Mr. Paulin. A Harvard psychology professor named Patrick Cavanagh wrote to the Harvard Crimson in defense of Mr. Paulin and calling Mr. Summers “Ayatollah Summers.” Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz-never one to miss a chance to get some publicity-also leapt to the anti-Semitic poet’s defense, as did Harvard Law professors Lawrence Tribe and Charles Fried. In an absurd case of twisted logic, the law professors signed a letter to the Crimson in which they tried to argue that disinviting Mr. Paulin would set a “truly dangerous” precedent. Rather than stand up to these juvenile attempts at intimidation, the English Department re-invited Mr. Paulin to deliver the lecture. Emboldened by their cheap victory, professors Cavanagh, Dershowitz, Tribe and Fried are likely planning to invite Louis Farrakhan to deliver Harvard’s commencement address.

By the way, Mr. Paulin has not confined his anti-Semitism to one newspaper interview. In 2001, he published a poem in which he referred to the Israeli army as “the Zionist SS” and declared that “we … dumb goys” would no longer fall for the “lying phrase” and “weasel” language of Zionists.

Harvard is not the only Ivy League school in Mr. Paulin’s orbit: He is currently a visiting professor at Columbia University. Columbia should fire Mr. Paulin immediately, on the principle that having an anti-Semite on the payroll does a disservice to Columbia professors, students and alumni who don’t subscribe to the view that calling for the murder of Jews is something an Ivy League professor should be doing in his off hours.

America’s colleges and universities are allowing anti-Semitism to flourish under the guise of academic freedom. It’s time to recognize this disease and to fight it. Are there no responsible scholars left in the Ivy League?

Help Others, Live Longer

As the holidays approach, many New Yorkers will find themselves telling their children that it’s better to give than to receive. It turns out that this truism has some new scientific research to back it up- namely, if you help others, you will live longer. Researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research studied over 400 married couples over age 65 and found that those who reported either giving emotional support to their spouse, or tangible assistance to a friend or neighbor, were half as likely to die in the next five years as those who did neither.

Perhaps the most compelling result of the study was that those who were on the receiving end of the emotional or physical support did not show an increase in life span. Those who lent a hand benefited more than those they were helping. “What is beneficial about being in a close relationship is rooted in the contribution we make, not in the support we receive from these individuals,” Dr. Stephanie L. Brown, a psychologist and lead author of the study, told The New York Times .

So it turns out that not only does helping your spouse and friends feel good, it also allows you to outlive them. Sounds like a perfect Rx for New Yorkers.