It was with great sadness that I noted the passing of Robert Myers at age 97. As a young actuary in 1934, he was asked by President Roosevelt to design a social security system for the U.S. that would provide retirement benefits for its senior citizens. It was Bob Myers who picked 65 as the appropriate retirement date for that period. Age 70, the retirement date set in Germany, seemed too high and age 60 was deemed to be too low. After its enactment he served as chief actuary from 1947 to 1970. In 1970 he quit the post in protest over the way politicians were forever expanding the program into unsound financial waters.
In the 1980s, when his prediction of severe problems began to come true, a blue ribbon committee (including Bob Beck of Prudential) was appointed to put the system back on a sound actuarial basis. Bob Myers was retained as an advisor to the committee. The recommended changes were adopted and the program had a more realistic future for the next 50 years or so. But politicians can’t resist tampering with the system and again the future is starting to look murky and more will need to be done to assure its future soundness.
NALU (now NAIFA) retained Bob as a consultant for many years to advise us on Social Security matters and to be sure testimony we provided to Congress over the years was relevant and accurate. He was a fine gentleman, genial and accommodating, and a good friend. He and his wife attended several NALU Christmas parties and enjoyed watching the young people have a good time.
It is too bad he will no longer be around to add his wisdom to current debates on our social programs, including health care. My guess is that he would be appalled at some of the goings on taking place today.
The person who coined the phrase, “There are lies, white lies and damn lies,” was making a distinction between the various degrees to which a lie can be taken. The character of a lie is also important, for it often comes disguised as the truth. As Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Half a truth is often a great lie.” Many others have noted the same thing and yet it continues to be a favorite political strategy.
As I write this, the long and painful ordeal of trying to reform our health care system is over–at least for the moment. It is, I believe, not to the credit of the administration that many of the more notorious of the forgoing degree of lies were spread around to achieve the narrow margin of victory in the Congress. The victory will likely be forever tainted by the chicanery and budget gimmicks that were used.
I was particularly offended by the rantings about the insurance industry, blaming it for most of the ills that beset our health care system. A damn lie occurs when the truth is known but is ignored. Ignorance of the truth can sometimes be excused, but deliberate distortions of the truth are deceptive and unbecoming to people in a leadership position.