Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poverty Can Make You Get Sick and Die

Several studies prove it. The policies of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and the GOP, in general, have harmed Americans by attacking the public health, increasing death rates as a result.

But does it matter to Republicans? It matters if you give a damn about your country, yourself, and your neighbor. It matters if you give a damn about anything but your gated community, your golf course, your SUV. So dramatic is this issue as a "cutting" issue, a Republican is very nearly defined by the extent to which he/she doesn't care.

What might have been common sense has been left to researchers to prove: poverty and poor health go hand in hand. Poverty means many things to a growing number of people but two factors are obvious: bad nutrition and unhealthy living conditions. Indeed, every step down the economic ladder worsens overall health.

There is yet another factor. The latest research leads to the conclusion that the mere fact of inequality increases mortality rates. This is an increase having nothing to do with nutrition or living conditions. It is a matter of inequality in and of itself.

Some of these conclusions may be found in two studies published by the British Medical Journal. The conclusion is impossible for conservatives and Social Darwinists to refute: The more equally wealth is distributed the better the health of that society. There is the possibility, of course, that America's privileged elite, Bush's base, doesn't really care about the health of society. As they might say in London's East End: Oi'm awlroight, Jack!
Interestingly, states with greater inequality of income distribution also spent less per person on education, had fewer books per person in the schools, and had poorer educational performance, including worse reading skills, worse math skills, and lower rates of completion of high school.

States with greater inequality of income also had a greater proportion of babies born with low birth weight; higher rates of homicide; higher rates of violent crime; a greater proportion of the population unable to work because of disabilities; a higher proportion of the population using tobacco; and a higher proportion of the population being sedentary (inactive).

Lastly, states with greater inequality of income had higher costs per-person for medical care, and higher costs per person for police protection.

- Peter Montague, Economic Inequality and Health

Poorer and working class people in America made great gains after World War II. More enlightened taxation was at the heart of it. In those years, poverty decreased. The Post WWII era was the most egalitarian in American history. It all came to an end with the rise of Ronald Reagan. His improvident tax cut of 1982 ushered in the deepest, longest "recession" since Herbert Hoover's Great Depression. Benefiting only America's elite, Reagan's tax cut ushered in an era in which only the upper quintile would prosper. Everyone else would lose ground.

Incidentally, that trend continued until well into Bill Clniton's second term. The trend abated somewhat at that time but resumed with a vengeance when George W. Bush insisted upon tax cuts that benefitted only his "base", a shrinking elite.

The primary culprit was and continues to be a bill of goods called Supply Side Economics or Trickle Down theory. The policy had been championed by Reagan Budget Director David Stockman who later recanted, calling the bogus theory "a Trojan horse".

"It's kind of hard to sell 'trickle down,' so the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really 'trickle down.' Supply-side is 'trickle-down' theory."

"Yes, Stockman conceded, when one stripped away the new rhetoric emphasizing across-the-board cuts, the supply-side theory was really new clothes for the unpopular doctrine of the old Republican orthodoxy."

"…the Reagan coalition prevailed again in the House and Congress passed the tax-cut legislation with a final frenzy of trading and bargaining. Again, Stockman was not exhilarated by the victory. On the contrary, it seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth, as though the democratic process had finally succeeded in shocking him by its intensity and its greed. Once again, Stockman participated in the trading -- special tax concessions for oil -- lease holders and real-estate tax shelters, and generous loopholes that virtually eliminated the corporate income tax. Stockman sat in the room and saw it happen."

"'Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront?' Stockman asked with wonder. 'The hogs were really feeding. The greed level, the level of opportunism, just got out of control.'"

-The Education of David Stockman 1981:

And it is still out of control.

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daveawayfromhome said...

Until our idea of civic duty goes back to "doing your share" instead of "complaining about others not doing their share and damn-sure-not-doing-anything-until-they-do", our nation is probably doomed.
I remember a Robert Heinlien quote that goes...

"once Romans told their sons to come home with their shields, or on them. Later on this custom declined. So did Rome"

Make the martial element metaphorical rather than literal and you've got the decline of the American Empire in a nutshell. The Republican credo (my version, as determined through simple observation) is obviously "I've got mine, so fuck you!"; with the addition (by the wealthiest) of "it's mine, precioussss".

Isnt it funny how often common wisdom has no teeth until backed up by a multi-million dollar study?
"Gee, poor people arent as healthy, and commit violent* crimes? Who'da thunk it?"

*As if many crimes committed by the Rich in pursuit of Their Money dont often have repercussions of equal deadliness.

Len Hart said...

daveawayfromhome said...

The Republican credo is obviously "I've got mine, so fuck you!";

It's a chilling analogy. A sinking Titanic, a mad melee for limited life rafts.

I wish I could be more optimistic but you haved summed up the source of "Existentialist Angst".

United We Lay said...

So can wealth. My sister has a terminal heart defect. she has to work though it's killing her (literally), because she cannot collect social security. Why? Because my parents have been able to afford health insurance for her and the extra money for health care came out of their pockets. because they didn't file for welfare, they're pretty much going to have to pay for her medical care for the rest of her life. We're in the middle fo a 2 year - going on three- legal battle with the government just so she can survive.

Len Hart said...

United We Lay said...

My sister has a terminal heart defect. she has to work though it's killing her (literally), because she cannot collect social security.

Obviously, United, that is a completely unfair and unjust situation. That's why I hate slogans like "compassionate conservatism". It 's all nonesense.

We have to remember that what we once thought real wealth is now just middle class. Middle Class is ever becomming poverty. The effect is that of increating the transfer of wealth to an ever diminishing segment of the population. At the same time, this ever smaller segment bids up the price of everything.

It's an ongoing process. Bar charts based on GINI indices are but a snapshot. What we really need is an animation showing the process by which an upper fifty percent which may have owned fifty percent of the wealth morphs into a tiny one percent that owns 99 percent of all wealth. That process is underway as we post here.

damien said...

Just a couple of links, Len, to make the point that the wealth transfer process is real and massive and that the times are almost certain to get worse for most people:

The Dow has actually been crashing and we haven't noticed
The housing market points to even more bad news
Don't mention M3

There's a fundamental inhumanity in supply side economics, a 'devil take the hindmost' mentality that enables the criminality of the likes of Enron and the Savings & Loans fraudsters. It distorts peoples thinking. I recall in 1996, when workers in my home state were about to lose their weekend and overtime penalty rates to 'free up the labor market'. The local station interviewed some business leaders who were beside themselves with glee. They confirmed that yes, the changes would increase employee morale by making them work harder, more involved, more entrepreneurial. Rather than just accept a pay check, staff would feel empowered by having to work longer hours to get back the benefits just taken from them! Idiots. But typical of the clouded thinking of those who stand to make an extra buck at someone else's expense.

I might add that this 'freeing up the labor market' is related to the economic idea of a 'clearing wage'. This is the price of labor at which employers will soak up any pool of unemployed. Obviously, in a global economy with Chinese workers on $2 a day Western employers have been keen to use this idea to justify lower local wages. But even here the actual economic mechanisms are more complex than they first appear. Factory jobs are disappearing all over. And China, on some estimates, will need to maintain an annual 6% growth rate in order to avoid social breakdown in some of their regions. Since this is unlikely to occur, the China miracle may stall in the next few years. They're producing goods all right, they just might right run out of markets to sell them to.

US and global corporations are abnegating any implied social obligations and cutting back on training, importing their workers and obliging states to provide infrastructure and loans before they will employ people. The whole business warrants a complete rethink on the role of the Corporation. Our current social and economic dislocations are also underpinned primarily by the fact that Money is mobile and Labor isn't. So a rethink is required.

I believe there's going to be a serious global economic downturn. Of course, there are those who claim that everything is fine. We'll see.

On the political philosophy front, Justin Raimondo has done an outstanding piece on the fascist ideology underpinning the Bush junta. And Al Martin argues that the Republicans have written off the elections of 2008 already. Cheers Len.

SadButTrue said...

Some time ago I posted The Personal Story of a friend of mine, diagnosed with lymphoma, who is only alive because of Canada's 'socialist' health care system. In response I got a story (At Our Expense) from a reader in the US whose brother died of an easily treatable case of appendicitis because, uninsured, he hesitated to seek treatment due to the perceived cost. A chilling contrast to be sure.

Kristen started her own blog dedicated to improving the US system, Ave Cassandra. It's very good.

From one of the comments left on my first post on this:

"Bill Clinton was in Halifax, Nova Scotia a while back, giving an address on CAN-AM relations. He quoted this little nugget of data on spending versus coverage: Canada spends 9.2% of its' GDP to provide health care for 100% of its' citizens; USA spends 13.9% to cover just 45% of its' citizens (1997 data)." The HMOs and big pharma are the only ones saying, "I'm allright, Jack."

Len Hart said...

Damien, Sad ..GREAT LINKS. I am still exploring. Mainly --GREAT POINTS.

Indeed, the transfer of wealth has been underway AT LEAST since the beginning of Reagan administration. His recession of almost two years was just a warning shot of much worse to come. Reich makes the point that I have made to much derision for quite a long time now and that is: the increase in income inquality did not abate until Clinton's second term.

Then came Bush.

The relief was not nearly long enough to reverse a long and established trend.

Damien, sadbuttrue, Dave, and our new friend, United, have pointed to the pernicious consequences. The is yet another:

There are now more than two million individuals incarcerated in state and federal prisons, and the number keeps growing by more than 60,000 a year. (Source: Bureau of Prison Statistics.) Part of the increase is from new prisoners and part is from recidivism. According to studies compiled by the Bureau of Prison Statistics, two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested within three years. If building new prisons and expanding room in existing prisons were effectively dealing with those statistics, the numbers would be going down instead of up.

-Burton Wolfe's Internet Rag

benmerc said...

"There are now more than two million individuals incarcerated in state and federal prisons, and the number keeps growing by more than 60,000 a year."

The complete privatization of our state and federal prison systems is a goal of many in the Gop. It is one of the "service growth industries" they are pushing for the future. How convenient, (and fascist like) for everyone that goes along with jailing all their countrymen that do not conform, (poor people) the pay off being security for the rich and their minions.

In this country we used to try and help the disadvantaged get ahead of poverty and crime, now it appears we would rather create an industry of usury around them and their plight. Just look at the formation of companies like Blackwater, what they currently do in Iraq, may some day be done here, by outfits like them. The privatization movement continues to some degree in my state, for the most part it needs to be stopped, especially when speaking of incarceration institutes.

A similar approach was used in the creation of the HMO's of the 80's & 90's...what a miserable failure they have been. Also, add in the impacts of the right-wing religious wingnuts, empowered through the Bush agenda, we suffer yet more regression and loss in our scientific and health care systems.
The plug must be pulled on these people and their movements, and soon. After watching a good portion of the Republican "debate" it appears they are all (except Ron Paul...who sounds like a libertarian independent that happens to be in the Republican party) on the same path of regression and failure, lets just hope the American people do not get "Fooled Again" yet another time.

Len Hart said...

benmerc said...

In this country we used to try and help the disadvantaged get ahead of poverty and crime, now it appears we would rather create an industry of usury around them and their plight. Just look at the formation of companies like Blackwater

It's packaged and sold as "efficiency" when, in fact, "privatization" is RIFE with waste, corruption and pork. What it is, in fact, is a gang of GOPPERS seizing government by whatever means and then rewarding their evil and crooked friends with RICH contracts. Contrary to what goppers would have you believe there is no incentive for contractors to operate efficiently and, in the case of Blackwater and similar ilk, legally.

"Privatization" is, in fact, fascism and fascism is inherently crooked.

Texas, I belive, has pioneered so called "privately" run prisons. You don't want to be thrown into one.

benmerc said...

"A similar approach was used in the creation of the HMO's of the 80's & 90's..."

Well I got ahead of myself and threw in this statement without an explanation. It is just a simple concept, and one that has been around and repeated many times over the years, especially by the wealthy and those that would claim economic gain in any manner possible or needed to do so.

The correlation in my view, between the privatization movements regarding the prison systems, and the creation/phenomenon of the HMO systems we have had in place for some time, is more along the lines of they both represent inner circles of industry special interest groups that have only their own (economic) interests in mind. Also, these kind of "insider" businesses are innately corrupt or very corruptible, or it certainly seems so, with little oversight or regulation going on.

The usefulness, effectiveness or general economic impacts concerning we, the American people (who ultimately pay for all of this) are the last to be considered .
For the most part, the creation of bogus industries as HMO's or the privatization for most government functions, in my understanding have been complete failures. It really gets down to a core ideological value system: Government for the people by the people VS. Industry for the wealthy by the wealthy. I believe that is a fair comparison.

In my state , although they have been silently de-Bushing with the new executive group, the Republican majority has just turned over all of the expressways to private industry. Yet another "experiment" to be bank-rolled by the citizens. We shall see how this one goes, I wonder if any of the legislators were buddies with the groups that are about to receive the contracts? Being that the expressway authority in our state has had it's problems no doubt, I am not so certain this is the fix. Time will tell.

benmerc said...

Len said:

"It's packaged and sold as "efficiency" when, in fact, "privatization" is RIFE with waste, corruption and pork"

Len, that is privatization in a nut-shell. What I believe people have also forgot, was we formed this government to stand up to the corrupted special interest industries from Great Briton that plied our coasts, and controlled the trade. And once free of their yoke, Americans wanted some form or semblance of order that would protect the common man, I am referring to democracy and some of the necessary bureaucracies that have been needed to regulate a complex large society as the one that has developed.