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Avoiding risky corrections

I learned something long ago as a pilot that I have repeated often to student pilots as a flight instructor. By making small, timely corrections, you will avoid making big, risky corrections.

Today our state and our nation face a changing reality, of a population made up of more older people and less younger ones than ever before in our history. And its a trend that will continue. In Vermont, with our 2nd oldest population and lowest birth rate of any state in the US, we will need to adapt to this change ahead of the rest of the country.

Thats why Gov. Jim Douglas established the Commission on Healthy Aging, which I chair. Its our task to understand the evolving needs of older Vermonters, and propose proactive ways to help improve their health and quality of life, while making the most of the resources available to us.

Part of the challenge is to make the math work. With our population of older retirees growing faster than our population of younger workers, we can see ahead to a time when it will be increasing challenging on young and working Americans to honor the committment made to retired Americans.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before a Senate committee earlier this year that in 2006, federal spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid together totaled about 40 percent of federal expenditures, or about 8.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By the year 2030, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that theyll account for 15% of GDP.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2030, the population of Americans aged 65 and older will nearly double to 71 million, jumping from 12% to 20% of total population.

Those make for formidable math problems. The sooner we act to correct our course, the smaller and safer those corrections will be.

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