You did it! You're the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. And to do it in a traditionally Democratic district only adds to your impressive feat.
But here's the thing: Now what? You tweeted in your campaign about bringing new jobs to the region. You noted the challenges facing small businesses in Facebook posts. You talk about bringing new ideas and a fresh vision to the House.
We recognize that it's more common to talk about Millennials instead of to them, particularly when it comes to the topic of aging, but you've truly earned your place at the table. Now that you're here with fresh perspective from your generation, here's an idea for your first term: The future success of the young hinges on the lives of the old. Not to put too fine a point on it, but America's 21st century will turn in large measure on what might be called an "aging strategy." Nor is that what most might think -- no it's not about Medicare or Social Security, though those are details in the strategy.
You may have caught what Standard & Poor's wrote in 2010: "No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances, and policymaking as the irreversible rate at which the world's population is aging."
S&P is exactly right, but too often policymakers and other thought leaders are getting it wrong: Population aging isn't about the old; it's about a profound structural demographic shift of society where there will shortly be more old than young. It is about the seminal megatrend of our time.
This dramatic transformation is about how we engage as we age and how society expects and plans for that. If we continue to encourage the Baby Boomers to withdraw from social and economic life, and if we perpetuate the antiquated models of aging that arose in the 20th century -- at a time when life expectancy was far younger than today -- then we will be giving a broken economic system to our children. The "national economic health" that S&P speaks of is exactly about the generations ahead.
For you, your generation, and those to come, this is your seminal social and economic issue. Do not let it be understood otherwise.
You have been called the future of the GOP. If you want to catapult your party and give it a foundation for upcoming success, and if you want to bolster the U.S. economy and reestablish its global leadership, take on population aging. Show that smart, strategic, and forward-thinking policies and programs can turn this the aging of society into the greatest driver of growth and wealth for all of us, including your generation and your children's.
Here are two specifics:
Recalibrate Social Security and Retirement
Life expectancy in the U.S. is creeping towards 90 years, meaning many will be eligible for benefits for two or even three decades. Because the Boomers had far fewer children than their parents, there are fewer working-aged persons to pay into the pot from which these age-related entitlements are taken. New demographics have totally shuffled the economic foundation for these century-old programs. But we're continuing as if they can still work
Furthermore, amazing leaps in medicine are enabling the "old" to stay healthy, vibrant, and productive far later into life. Yet we perpetuate the arbitrary and meaningless notion of a "retirement age." A date that was chosen by Bismarck in the 1880s, reaffirmed by our President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Bevin in the forties. How is this at all relevant in our 21st century?
Keeping those who can and want to work well past today's retirement age is a win-win for all. As we learned when women entered the economy last century, we can grow the American economy if more participate. This is not a zero sum game.
Solve Alzheimer's Disease
I know it's hard to think about Alzheimer's and other age-related diseases when the shock-jockeys on TV keep talking about Ebola taking over the world. But there are few greater threats to the prosperity of future generations than Alzheimer's.
As we live longer, Alzheimer's will become far more common, as it affects nearly one in two people over 85. Many estimates have the number of cases doubling by 2030 and then doubling again by mid-century.
Now, we have no effective treatment or prevention methods. And because someone can live with Alzheimer's for 15 or 20 years, the financial and emotional costs on the family can be devastating.
RAND Institute estimates that average annual costs on the family are $56,000. ADI estimates that global costs of Alzheimer's are $604 billion, or 1% of global GDP. Just imagine what'll happen when the number of incidences quadruples.
You want to make a better American and a better world? Solve Alzheimer's. Give it the funding and the attention it needs. Less costly diseases are getting far more funding, and Alzheimer's remains a closet disease. Stigma prevails; diagnoses are low; and we are not pursuing solutions as we should.
We need leadership on Alzheimer's. The podium is waiting for a young visionary to step up.
If you want to fulfill your campaign promise -- and you sincerely seem to want to -- fix aging for the young. Population aging is about America's future
Good domestic policy can be a cornerstone of great foreign policy. Population aging is a global phenomenon and getting it right is a path to American leadership in the 21st century.
Good Luck in Congress!