Capitalism is killing us

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Social counterrevolution and the decline in US life expectancy

A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) details the fall in life expectancy in the United States from 2015 to 2017, a streak unprecedented in modern times.

Virginia Commonwealth University professor Dr. Steven H. Woolf and Eastern Virginia Medical School student Heidi Schoomaker analyzed life expectancy data for the years 1959-2016 and cause-specific mortality rates for 1999-2017. The data shows that the decline in life expectancy is not a statistical anomaly, but the outcome of a decades-long assault on the working class.

The report exposes a country in the grips of a profound social crisis. The record stock prices touted by Trump are, in fact, a measure of the increased economic exploitation that has produced the fall in life expectancy among workers.

The shuttering of thousands of factories and mines, countless store closures and downsizings, along with the slashing of wages, pensions and health care benefits to meet the demands of Wall Street investors have literally killed hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States.
Life expectancy increased annually from 1959 until it stopped rising in 2010, plateauing at zero growth before beginning its descent after 2014, when it peaked at 78.9 years. By 2017, life expectancy had fallen to 78.6 years.

Not coincidentally, 2010 was also the year that Obamacare was signed into law an attack on health care sold as a progressive reform. The decline in life expectancy since then exposes Obamacare’s regressive character, only one of the reactionary legacies of the Obama administration.

Obamacare was part of a deliberate drive by the ruling class to lower the life expectancy of working people. As far as the strategists of American capitalism are concerned, the longer the lifespan of elderly and retired workers, who no longer produce profits for the corporations but require government-subsidized medical care to deal with health issues, the greater the sums that are diverted from the coffers of the rich and the military machine.

A 2013 paper by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) frankly presented the increasing longevity of ordinary Americans as an immense crisis for US imperialism. “The US does not face any foreign threat as serious as its failure to come to grips with… the rise in the cost of federal entitlement spending,” Cordesman wrote, saying the debt crisis was driven “almost exclusively by the rise in federal spending on major health care programs, Social Security, and the cost of net interest on the debt.”

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Meanwhile, conditions for the rich have never been better. This is reflected in the growing life expectancy gap between the rich and the poor. The richest one percent of men live 14 years longer than the poorest one percent, and the richest one percent of women 10 years longer than the poorest.

Despite expending far more per capita on health care than other major capitalist countries, the United States has fallen far behind when it comes to life expectancy and mortality. The US began to lose pace with other developed countries beginning in the 1980s, and by 1998 had fallen below the average for countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The first nodal point, in the early 1980s, corresponds to the initiation of the social counterrevolution by the administration of Ronald Reagan, which involved union busting, strikebreaking, wage-cutting and plant closings on a nationwide scale, combined with cuts in education, health care and other social programs. This was launched with the breaking of the PATCO air traffic controllers’ strike in 1981, carried out with the complicity of the AFL-CIO. Reagan’s social policies were rapidly adopted by the Democrats and continued by the Clinton and Obama administrations.

The second major inflection point was the Wall Street crash of 2008, which was followed by trillions in bailouts for the banks on the one hand and brutal austerity against the working class on the other. The ensuing decade has seen the explosion of the opioid crisis, which has ravaged communities across the United States.

According to the JAMA report, the decrease in life expectancy is the outcome of nearly three decades of increasing mortality among midlife working-age adults, those 25-64. This is mainly the result of a dramatic rise in drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicide and a series of organ system diseases.

The rise in mortality has impacted workers across every racial and ethnic group, with the largest number of excess deaths occurring among white workers—a grim refutation of the concept of “white privilege.” By means of such racialist conceptions, the ruling class seeks to promote racial and national divisions even as the reality of social life confirms the fundamental identity of interests of workers of all races and nationalities.

Woolf and Schoomaker found that the largest relative increase in midlife mortality was concentrated in New England and the Ohio Valley, two areas that have been hit particularly hard by deindustrialization and the opioid crisis. Approximately one third of the excess deaths since 2010 occurred in just four states—Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky. Eight of the top 10 states for excess deaths are in the Midwest and Appalachia.

“What’s not lost on us is what is going on in those states,” Dr. Woolf told the New York Times. “The history of when this health trend started happens to coincide with when these economic shifts began—the loss of manufacturing jobs and closure of steel mills and auto plants.”

From the comments:

As Chris Hedges noted in a recent interview with Abby Martin, the eliets will kill us all if we don't stand against them.

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Just like FDR saved capitalism so too did Obama. From the moment he became president he pushed so many policies that were detrimental to the working class, but very good for the elite class. Next time someone tells you that you are responsible for what the republicans are doing remind them that it was Obama's decision to pass hideously flawed ACA, expand the war of terror that created sanctions and austerity policies on us. It was his decision to bail out the banks and let 9 million people lose their homes while turning a blind eye to the crimes that the banks were committing.

Clinton's deregulation of the banks set up the economic crash for Bush to ignore and then Obama got to bail out the banks and buy foreclosed homes for pennies on the dollar taking millions of homes off the market. He encouraged Black Rock capital to buy up homes too and now they have become absent slumlords and raising rents so high that people are paying over 40-60% of their paycheck on rent. And now both parties have just passed out of committee a heinous bill that will allow them to cut the programs many elderly, disabled, retired and poor rely on. Oh yeah this is definitely class warfare, but do we have to just accept it? Other countries are rising up to say hell no to the austerity measures sweeping the globe. Why can't we? Oh yeah the stock market has gone way up. Big effin deal when the economy elsewhere is going to hell in that proverbial handbasket and another engineered recession is just around the corner.

Now Obama is out there saying that we shouldn't be asking for things to get better because he is also up there in the big money stratosphere. His family is set for life and the hell with those who put him in office thinking he was going to do great things.

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most people aren't.
Just look at what the US is doing to prevent Cuban doctors from helping the poor around Latin America.
Just look at how we are going to help post Brexit Great Britain by owning their heath care.
I am trying to remember where I read about Big Pharma disdaining the One Shot cure. When One Shot cured HIV, it lost the market for Aids patients, and they were really pissed.
There have been no other research programs for One Shot cures since, and they have thrown in for expensive treatments that benefit both CEO's and shareholders, but that do not save or even improve the lives of the unwanted.
Thanks, Obama. This atrocity happened on your watch.

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studentofearth's picture

@on the cusp report “The Genome Revolution,” pondering the question “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” in April this year.

“The potential to deliver “one shot cures” is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies,” Richter wrote. “While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.”

The American health care model our government is working to export to the rest of the world through trade agreements and treaties.

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Still yourself, deep water can absorb many disturbances with minimal reaction.
--When the opening appears release yourself.

The 1% does not want us to die. It wants us to buy. They can turn a profit on anything, even extended life spans with all that lack of productivity. Yes, the government claims that it "borrows" the money to pay for increased Medicare costs, but it's only borrowing if you plan to pay it back. It's only lending if you actually give real money. They are simply printing money and giving it to seniors on condition that they give it to health care "providers" and other such parasites. Seniors are not dead weight, they are cash cows.

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A PROUD Hillary hater since 1993

Daenerys's picture

@doh1304 expect people to keep buying things with NO FUCKING MONEY?! is what I keep asking. *rips hair out*

(replace Boomers with the 1%)

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This shit is bananas.

@Daenerys
loans and 29% interest rate credit cards. That way they can include our debt as an asset on their balance sheets to inflate their stock prices. The beauty of it is that they are able to do it while keeping actual money out of our grubby little hands.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

@doh1304

Universal Basic Income would keep the nation afloat and raise the GDP 2-3 percentage points. QE just shovels more money to the top 1 percent.

I hope they figure that out before the crash.

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The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.
– Albert Camus

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snoopydawg's picture

@gjohnsit

DK had a recent diary talking about how much their insurance premiums and deductibles were going up this year. Lots of bitching about it, but not one person mentioned single payer or Bernie's health care plan. This was after months of them defending the ACA and saying how much they liked their plans. I remember many of them being upset when democrats dropped their turdish ACA that wasn't single payer or even had a public option. Go Warren or Harris and even Biden who all want to continue incrementalism and putting Bernie's plans down. Talk about voting against your interests.

I see lots of comments on my local news on MFA and people say that they don't want government run health care. The way to get around this talking point is to say that the government is not going to be involved in anyone's health care. They are just going to be who pays for it and taking out the insurance middleman. Taxes go up some, but not as much as buying health care goes down. Seems simple enough to me.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

@snoopydawg It is just that their interests differ from yours. They may not care about money, they may not care about their health, they may not care about education. Because that is not what is important to them.

Many see religion as being their primary interest. Many see being the world's policeman as being in their best interest. Many see liberty and freedom as being in their best interest. Many see limited government as being in their best interest. Many see the ideas that progressives have as not being in their best interests at all.

It really is time to drop the voting against their interests meme. Who is to say that we get to decide what is in their best interest? That doesn't seem particularly progressive to me.

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mimi's picture

@davidgmillsatty
I would say, don't always believe what you think/nt

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@gjohnsit a credit card when she was 17. She ran up her $1,000 limit. She moved, simply forgot or ignored the monthly payment for a few months. They just hammered her.
She is now 21, has paid $8,500 on the bill, still owes $750.
That is crazy, but legal, and quite common.

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longtalldrink's picture

@gjohnsit That the reason there is a "push back" from "liberal" voters on M4A is that (somewhat unnoticed )point regarding the "all" part. If, if, if...M4A was going to be implemented like the roll-out of social security...which meant the exclusion of certain races...doggone it...there would be NO argument. acorruptgovernment-creinhart.weebly.com/social-security-act-of-1935.html
The part of M4A that is unpopular is that it will help blacks and Hispanics. That is why Buttigieg's health plan is so pseudo popular...because ya know...he is saying Medicare for "some". That is the "real" argument here...and why Sander's plan seems so "radical" to the all-important "middle-class (read white) voter."

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5 users have voted.

Well done is better than well said-Ben Franklin

that is the way it is!
Tax dodgers everywhere totally understood his message. People of low income, dependent upon those programs voted for him.
I am talking income so low, they would never have paid taxes anyway, thought he was their Savior from taxes they would never, ever have to pay.

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Lookout's picture

...and lousy diet recommendations driven by corporate interests. Coke funds both the diabetes and heart associations. As I wrote last Sunday we are the fattest and most unhealthy (so called) advanced nation. Although the system is broken we can take control of our own diet.

Lustig's book "The Hacking of the American Mind...The science behind the corporate take over of our bodies and brains" is pretty interesting. He has a clip and more info at his site...
https://robertlustig.com/

The health system is a mess focused on scripts and scalpels. Eat better and try to avoid the system all together, and that's a shame...it should be a helpful rather than harmful system. You just can't have quality health care driven by profit...there will be worse and worse outcomes as we've seen. (New dietary guidelines were introduced in the 80's)

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And rising costs...
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Not only do we need M4A, we need dietary advice that is based on science not the profit of big Ag and big Pharma. The doctors have been brainwashed too.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

doncha want to work?

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/11/amazon-warehouse-...

the shape of things to come

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enhydra lutris's picture

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

snoopydawg's picture

Watch this 6 minute video that explains what the bill dems just helped pass.

I don't think this is getting as much attention as it should be.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

@snoopydawg in MSM. Cruel and inhumane. Suffering will be very wide spread.

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@snoopydawg Kat Food Commission, V2. Who need Simpson and Boles when you've got chuck Schumer.

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We are in an economic maze, a mutation of an elaborate book keeping system married to a fictitious monetary system where the only goal is the accumulation of wealth. We can't even really see it because we're part of it. Where every discussion is stopped dead in it's tracks with the question "How are we going to pay for it? How can we afford it?" A system where if you can't work and earn enough there is a whole legal apparatus to strip you of whatever assets you have to repay your debts.

We are being abused, and we identify with, enable, our abusers....a Stockholm Syndrome on steroids. We are asked to sympathize with Bill Gates because he may have to pay a few billion more, as if he could even notice the difference between $107 and $104 billion.

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what their forebears sought to with-hold.

Clever, that.

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May we be united and strong -- laurel

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snoopydawg's picture

@davidgmillsatty

been happening for decades? How much of the article did you read? Did you watch the video gjohnsit posted? The one I posted? Without any details I have no idea how to interpret the chart or how they plan on changing anything.

It really is time to drop the voting against their interests meme. Who is to say that we get to decide what is in their best interest? That doesn't seem particularly progressive to me.

I was addressing what people said about health care not the other issues you listed. It sure seems contrary to me that people are concerned about how much they are paying for health insurance, but don't want something that would lower their costs. YMMV though.

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8 users have voted.

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

@snoopydawg Even in the unlikely event (looking more so every day) a Democrat wins. And yes it seems contrary to what a person who cares about health and those costs thinks. But there are a lot of people who just don't care that much about health care. A lot of polls show this.

And my point was that it is not just health care we think they don't get. It is many things. And I enumerated a few.

And yes I watched the video. It was interesting. But the doctor said it was all about race and yet none of the examples he cited mentioned race. Bad outcomes were based on voting patterns that could be related to race, but it was a leap to conclude that.

I have lived in Memphis Tennessee for 22 years . I was really pissed off when Tennessee refused to expand Medicaid. It cost the state a lot. Was that vote the result of racism? Hard to say.

An equally likely reason for its failure to pass is the deep seeded disdain for anything the federal government does and disdain for state government is not far behind. And that probably goes for Kansas and Missouri as well.

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@davidgmillsatty @davidgmillsatty or helpful?
And what was your point in dropping it in for our edification without any context?
A jury would be confused.
A judge would not allow it into evidence.
What are you doing here? Not "here", as in participating in this site, but by dropping in that chart in the comments?
You have an agenda. What is it?
Inquiring minds want to know.
We are very tolerant here (the site) of various and sundry agendas.
It is perfectly ok to spell out yours.

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@on the cusp @on the cusp That was posted as the article was also about which candidates are really concerned about the decline in life expectancy. Sorry about omitting the link. I tend to go to original sources especially if an article is about science or medicine. I don't know how that chart presumes I have an agenda. Just thought the chart was interesting.

What is your agenda? Don't like dissent?

https://newsatjama.jama.com/2019/10/15/jama-forum-declining-us-life-expe...

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@davidgmillsatty I have no agenda, other than fairness.
It just seems like you do promote something that I can't determine.
I didn't call out "jail house lawyers", you did. I am stunned that you did that. You use that as an insult. You have not experienced it up front and personal.
You were a personal injury attorney, I have interviewed prisoners on Death Row, represented 2 Death Row guards in their divorces. I totally know Texas Death Row.
Link in the future to avoid these chats.

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@on the cusp @on the cusp Maybe not. But the average internet Joe loves to call out lawyers and the vast majority have no idea of the complexities they are dealing with. I have faced this phenomenon at least a thousand times on the internet. Probably way more. These people take over legal blogs and have made legal blogs not worth reading. I have had that happen numerous times on legal blogs where I used to comment and finally quit because the lawyers left.

I make legal commentary because I think people have a right to know what lawyers think. But if every time you comment you get bombarded by people who don't like your opinion, there really is not much point.

I have seen a lot of "jail house lawyers" or their equivalent, on the civil side. And yes, when I use the term it is not meant to be flattering because in depth legal analysis is usually shut down by those who practice the equivalent of it. Because that is what happens commonly on the internet and this place is no exception. And I am not singling out this place. It happens everywhere.

I have no doubt that because of this phenomenon most lawyers refuse to participate on blogs. And I am sure the same goes for MDs.

But professionals (in any subject) only have three choices: leave, be silent or respond. And none of the choices are ideal.

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