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Will We Hold the GOP Responsible for the "Missing Americans"?
Does the GOP want citizens to die young? Their priority, instead, is the profitability of the companies in their states & keeping the taxes on their oligarchs low…
In the 1930s, after FDR rolled out programs to aid the homeless and unemployed across the country, America enjoyed a longer life expectancy — and more healthy years within that life expectancy — than any other wealthy nation.
While some of that was due to the public health crisis echoing across Europe in the wake of World War I, it was largely because FDR’s Democrats in charge of the country were building schools and hospitals like there was no tomorrow.
Republican President Eisenhower followed in that tradition through the 1950s, and in the 1960s LBJ rolled out Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, we continued to have the world’s best lifespans and quality-of-life.
Then came Reagan’s austerity and neoliberalism campaigns in 1981 and America began to become unraveled.
A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences in the journal PNAS Nexus looked at “excess deaths” (they called them “missing Americans”) in our country versus others around the world. The researchers from Boston University School of Public Health, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Harvard Medical School and TH Chan School of Public Health found:
“The United States had lower mortality rates than peer countries in the 1930s–1950s and similar mortality in the 1960s and 1970s. Beginning in the 1980s, however, the United States began experiencing a steady increase in the number of missing Americans, reaching 622,534 in 2019 alone.”
The excess deaths, it turns out, are almost all entirely the result of Republican policies, both at the federal and state level.
The researchers found:
“Stagnant minimum wages and losses of collective bargaining protections have contributed to widening economic inequality. A scant safety net for working-age adults and the absence of universal healthcare have privatized risk, tying health more closely to personal wealth and employment.
“Additionally, lax regulation of opioids, firearms, environmental pollutants, unhealthy foods, and workplace safety has contributed to elevated US mortality, particularly among lower-educated and lower-income people.
And it’s worse in Red states:
“Increasingly divergent policies at the state level have resulted in widening health gaps across US states. In those geographic areas of the United States where excess mortality has increased the most, voters have turned towards policy-makers who have further undermined population health, e.g. through refusal to expand Medicaid or to implement firearm regulations.”
While not coming right out and saying that people live longer in Blue states than Red states, that’s largely what the study found. And it’s not a small effect:
“In 2021, there were 26.4 million years of life lost due to excess US mortality relative to peer nations…”
While President Eisenhower ran for re-election in 1956 by bragging about how on his watch millions more Americans had gotten good union jobs or signed up for Social Security, by 1981, when Reagan took office, the 1978 efforts of five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court to legalize political bribery were beginning to seriously take hold.
That’s when everything changed. Since 1981, millions of Americans have died unnecessarily because of neoliberal austerity policies: their lives were sacrificed on the altars of increased corporate profits and lower taxes for billionaires.
— Reagan told us that the “union bosses” were just out for themselves and the best thing American workers could do was to rely on their employers’ good will. He also claimed that the minimum wage actually hurt low-wage workers because, he said, it prevented employers from hiring more people.
Both were lies, as history has vividly shown, and both contributed to our epidemic of early and unnecessary deaths, as Red state minimum wages are still as low as $7.25/hour and Red “Right to Work for Less” states make it nearly impossible to unionize.
“Stagnant minimum wages and losses of collective bargaining protections have contributed to widening economic inequality” that leads to early deaths, reported the researchers.
— The Republican backlash to Obamacare extending Medicaid to everybody in the country wasn’t limited to their lawsuit before the Supreme Court that ended up letting Red states opt out of coverage, or to the Astroturf “Tea Party” movement funded by rightwing billionaires.
— To this day, more than a decade later, there are still a dozen Red states that have taken the five Republican justices up on their offer and refuse to expand the program. Those Republican-controlled states have also thrown hundreds of bureaucratic roadblocks to people getting any kind of state services, from food stamps to unemployment insurance to housing assistance.
“A scant safety net for working-age adults and the absence of universal healthcare have privatized risk, tying health more closely to personal wealth and employment” that leads to early deaths, reported the researchers.
— A collaborative research project between the University of Texas and the University of Toronto published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the Red state preference for deregulation and a lack of oversight:
“…explained 9.2% of an enrollee’s odds of receiving prolonged opioids… The correlation between a county’s Republican presidential vote and the adjusted rate of … prolonged opioid use was 0.42 (P<.001). In the 693 counties with adjusted rates of opioid prescription significantly higher than the mean county rate, the mean Republican presidential vote was 59.96%, vs 38.67% in the 638 counties with significantly lower rates.”
— Cancer alley is alive and well in Texas and Louisiana thanks to Republican governments’ in those states refusal to enforce environmental regulations that would keep carcinogens out of the air and water.
— A child living in Mississippi is ten times more likely to die from gunshot than a child in Massachusetts because Republicans in Mississippi refuse to adopt rational, constitutional gun control regulations like Massachusetts has had for decades.
— Obesity and the diabetes, heart disease, and strokes associated with it are vastly more prevalent and thus deadly in Red states than Blue states because so many more people are living in poverty in Red states and junk food is cheaper than healthy food.
— Twenty-nine states, encompassing virtually all the nation’s Red states, have no state-level workplace safety agencies; those only exist in 21 mostly Blue states. As a result, Red Wyoming has 10.4 workplace deaths per 100,000 workers while Blue Rhode Island only has 1.0 deaths per 100,000 workers.
“Additionally, lax regulation of opioids, firearms, environmental pollutants, unhealthy foods, and workplace safety has contributed to elevated US mortality, particularly among lower-educated and lower-income people” wrote the researchers about unnecessary/early deaths in America.
When The Washington Post looked into the differences between Red and Blue states, what they found was shocking.
For example, noted the authors:
“Ohio sticks out — for all the wrong reasons. Roughly 1 in 5 Ohioans will die before they turn 65, according to Montez’s analysis using the state’s 2019 death rates. The state, whose legislature has been increasingly dominated by Republicans, has plummeted nationally when it comes to life expectancy rates, moving from middle of the pack to the bottom fifth of states during the last 50 years, The Post found. Ohioans have a similar life expectancy to residents of Slovakia and Ecuador, relatively poor countries.”
While it would be easy and glib to say that Republican politicians want the citizens of their states to die young, the simple truth is that they don’t care: their priority, instead, is the profitability of the companies in their states and keeping the taxes on their oligarchs low.
Author Mark Jacob noted on Xitter:
“Voting for Republicans is like eating poison.”
In fact, eating poison is a choice. Most people trapped in Red states, though, don’t have the means or ability to move to a Blue state because they’ve been denied a good education, are saddled with medical debt, and/or haven’t made enough at their work to afford the transition.
Blue states, for their part, are fighting back on behalf of their citizens. As Bernie’s poverty advisor Nikhil Goyal wrote for The New York Times:
“Fourteen [Blue] states have adopted a state-level child tax credit, with many featuring a fully refundable provision so that families with little to no income can benefit. This year, New Mexico has expanded free preschool seats and made child care free for families earning up to four times the federal poverty rate — roughly $120,000 for a family of four.
“In the upcoming fiscal year, Minnesota will pour more than $250 million of additional funding into early childhood education to reduce the costs of child care and create thousands of new preschool slots. This includes $10 million to supplement funding of the federal Head Start program, which serves children up to the age of 5 and should be bolstered by states.
“Today, nine [Blue] states have universal free school breakfast and lunch on the books. Just last month, the governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, established a $20 million initiative that will help fund grocery stores in food deserts.”
But every action draws a reaction, as Isaac Newton was quick to point out. Republicans are now trying to do to Blue states — to all of America — the same damage they’ve done to Red states over the past 40 years.
In the eleven months since Republicans have taken control of the US House of Representatives, child poverty in America has doubled. This is because Republicans in the House refused to renew programs Democrats put in place providing health care, food assistance, housing support, the child tax credit, and subsidized child care: all have now expired.
In the past 40 days, 3.2 million children lost access to healthcare, 70,000 childcare and preschool programs have closed, and the child tax credit has expired. So have the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s emergency allotments. As of yesterday, 10,046,000 Americans have been kicked off Medicaid, nearly all in Red states.
And it’s all intentional.
Republicans will proudly tell you it’s necessary to keep taxes low on their billionaire donors, and to prevent poor people from becoming “lazy.” Speaker MAGA Mark Johnson will tell you that it’s the Christian way, just like trashing queer people and forcing 10-year-old rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term.
Welcome to the 2023 GOP and their plans to “deconstruct the administrative state” and drag America back to the 19th century.
Mark Jacob was right about the poison part. But instead of Republican voters eating it, their politicians are determined to force it down the throats of all of us, our children, and our grandchildren.