The old actor is the quintessential American elder -- fat, broken down, dependent upon a steady stream of expensive pharmaceuticals. He breathes as if in the early stages of emphysema. "I suffer from dia-betus," he wheezes toward the masses sitting in front of their televisions.

Then he suggests that those who share his affliction apply to receive thus-and-such device, which will allow them to live a better life. They don't have to pay a dime -- Medicare pays.

That is: the healthy pay. People who still make money pay, while the old and the ill suck them dry like geriatric vultures on a desiccated lake bed.

Each year, America drives billions of dollars into its largest nonperforming asset: the continued survival of the old and the sick. Mr. Brimley represents a behemoth cabal of the aged, breaking the bank in their endless quest for longevity. Having spent their lives in frantic consumption of steak, eggs, tobacco and Scotch -- their hearts clogged with swine grease, their lungs caked in tar, their livers spotted and yellow -- they hijack national policy to redirect all our resources toward the health care industry.

I try to take care of myself, knowing that if I'm lucky, I'll one day end up like the actor -- old. So I eat well. I exercise. I consume a desultory melange of New Age healing modalities and Indian calisthenics routines. I read Michael Pollan books. I pay more to live near fresh air, while the poor and wretched breath the smoke of a million vehicles offloaded upon them by the freight and auto and petroleum industries and their collaborationists.


Occasionally, I pay more for organic produce. I consider myself fortunate.

But most Americans don't even try. Most Americans are fat. They live in a pall of smog. They masticate at the hormone troughs of fast food, smoke cigarettes to supplement their Upland atmosphere, drink bad beer and Albertson's spirits and then drive too fast. Because of their behavior, millions of them end up suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes, cancer and debilitating inures. Furthermore, the sufferers of such maladies are often the indigent, the ones who cannot afford the expensive therapies and medicines that survival in such cases requires. For instance, the alcoholics and aggressive drivers, or those who partake in both poor habits simultaneously.

Under Obama's health care plan, some of our national resources will be diverted towards keeping such broken-down people alive. The new way to cheat the system will be to smoke and drink all day. Why not? The neighbors will pay for your lung transplant. Why exercise? The crusty old Republican with the Beemer three doors down will pay for your triple-bypass surgery.

Meanwhile, those left funding Medicare will kill themselves with stress, trying to make enough money to fund it. Eventually, we will find that there are far more sick people than there are healthy people, and the entire system will collapse. Very Christian, this limitless empathy, to be sure, but a distinctly poor national business plan.

The world of the Inuit was cold and unforgiving, just like ours. They invented the ice floe for a good reason. Write to Obama: Bring back the ice floe.

Nathaniel Page is a freelance writer living in Trinidad, Calif.