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Hullabaloo


Thursday, June 02, 2016

 

Is it pitchforks yet?

by Tom Sullivan

The economics of despair: The economy writ large may be improving, but the rewards are not getting to many people. Via the Boston Globe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday:

WASHINGTON — The death rate in the United States rose last year for the first time in a decade, preliminary federal data show, a rare increase that was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses, suicide and Alzheimer’s disease. The death rate from heart disease, long in decline, edged up slightly.

Death rates — measured as the number of deaths per 100,000 people — have been declining for years, an effect of improvements in health, disease management and medical technology.
Mortality rates are declining in many European countries, and it is rare to see a decline across the whole population rather than specific groups, the Globe continues:
[T]he finding seemed to fit the broader pattern of rising mortality among working-class whites, a trend that has drawn significant attention recently. Last year, a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton documented rising death rates among middle-age white Americans, particularly those with no more than a high school education. Other research has found rising rates among younger whites.

“This is probably heavily influenced by whites,” said Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal. “It does sort of fit together.”
This result coincides with earlier reports of a spike in suicides among white, middle-aged Americans, "double the combined suicides total for all blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives," according to the BBC:
"This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health," Robert D Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, told the New York Times.
Examining the relationship between poverty and life expectancy for the BBC, Laudy Aron, a senior fellow researching health and mortality at the Urban Institute explained:
"Raj Chetty and colleagues came out with a very big study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April looking at the association between income and life expectancy in the US between 2001 and 2014.

"They showed rich women outlive poor women by ten years. They also showed that these gaps between the rich and poor in terms of survival have been growing over time. So over the period that they looked at, the richest Americans gained about three years of life expectancy, while the poorest had no increase.

"The importance of place in terms of life expectancy and survival is one of the most interesting features of this study. It really shows that even at the same level of low income, you're better off in a more affluent, better-resourced community.

"That really points to the value of the other kinds of resources and opportunities that are available to you in these communities, in terms of the quality of the schools, the financial base, the tax base on which so many of our shared resources depend.
Syracuse University's Jennifer Karas Montez told the BBC, "between 1990 and 2010, life expectancy of low-educated white women declined by 1.2 years. That 1.2 years is about 13 years of progress washed away, so what seems to be minor changes in life expectancy signal really big problems going on underneath the surface." Vanderbilt economist Melinda Buntin tells Marketplace:
"It's what Case and Deaton are calling the economics of despair, the health effects of despair, which is caused by economic dislocation and other forces that are really coming to bear on less-advantaged parts of society."
Two years ago, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer warned "My Fellow Zillionaires":
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
Well, campers, there is at least one candidate for president this fall running on the police state ticket, and another whose supporters are poised to bring pitchforks to a national convention. Is anybody finally listening? Well, maybe one guy. At Crooks and Liars, Karoli Kuns writes:
In a barn-burner of a speech, President Obama previewed his campaign for the eventual Democratic nominee today in Elkhart, Indiana.

The theme of the speech was the economy, and how it's not as terrible as the naysayers (cough- HairDrumpf - cough) say it is. And in usual Obama rhetorical style, he mixed mythbusting with sharp criticism of Republicans, Fox News, hate radio, and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But for progressives, the newsmaking item came late in the speech, when he discussed five policy ideas for helping the economy even more and making Americans more secure.

Channeling Bernie Sanders, Obama said, "We can't afford to weaken Social Security, we should be strengthening Social Security. And not only do we need to strengthen its long term health, it's time we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits so today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they have earned."

How far we've come from the days of the Grand Bargain, where chained CPI was on the table.

But then Obama segued into promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Don't unload your pitchfork futures quite yet.