Publisher’s Letter: Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?


Mur-for-Pub-LetterDear Reader:

Earlier this month, I once again had the opportunity to attend the annual conference presented by the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC) in Chicago. The folks at NIC put on a first class event, as always.

But one of the most striking aspects of the conference was the contrast between the luncheon keynote speaker this year compared with 2008.

Last year, the keynote speaker was real estate consultant Peter D. Linneman, a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. Dr. Linneman took the senior living industry to task for its lack of transparency. In his strongly worded – almost confrontational – presentation, he told the audience that its industry was “20 years behind the times.” He exhorted them to address the situation.

Maybe they deserved it, but I walked away from that presentation feeling like the whole senior living sector had just been scolded.

This year, the keynote speaker was another learned man, but one who is equally – if not more – famous for his television and film career, his New York Times column and his best-selling books: Ben Stein.

Of course, Mr. Stein became well-known while playing the role of an economics teacher in the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” While taking the class role call in the movie, Stein uttered his famous line, “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”

Even though Mr. Stein cracked plenty of jokes during his NIC presentation, he primarily wore his economist’s hat. He shared his opinions on everything from the cause of the financial crisis (the decision by the President and Congress to allow Lehman Brothers to fail, creating a crisis of confidence) to what he thinks of increasing government regulation of financial markets (“very scary.”)

Specifically with regard to healthcare reform, Mr. Stein said he doesn’t understand President Obama’s assertion that we can help pay for reform with $500 billion in cuts to Medicare.

“How are you going to get $500 billion out of a program that’s roughly $400 billion a year without affecting the quality of care?” he asked. “How can you do that?”

Mr. Stein, who was also a presidential speechwriter early in his career, said that for a politician to say that we can save $500 billion by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse from an entitlement program is “nonsense” and “a joke.” Anyone who has government experience, he contended, knows that will never work.

However, unlike last year, when I left the presentation feeling like the audience had been reprimanded by a strict teacher, I left Mr. Stein’s talk with a smile on my face and a feeling of optimism. Because, although he says he has serious concerns about the quality of education in the United States, Mr. Stein said that Americans have the spirit and determination to solve our problems, whether they be healthcare or anything else.

I couldn’t agree more.

Murray W. Wolf, Publisher

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