Capitalism is killing us
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.”
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.
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.