Celebrate the Facts!
The United States has become a plutocracy where the wealthy, albeit indirectly, govern the bulk of the population. The rich stack the deck by ensuring they not only retain their money but grow it, with little check by legislators beholden primarily to them by loads of ‘dark money.’ In America, the wealthy enjoy extraordinary lives and get to enjoy it for longer, as they live longer, and that trend is increasing. The ingrained tendency to categorize people along racial lines obscures the real issue – in the United States, it is rich vs. poor, and the Devil very much takes the hindmost early.
-The American lens tends to break down trendlines in public health by demographic: men, women, African-American, Caucasian-American, indigenous, and Latino, among others, but that lens focuses on details, and so obscures the truth. Race is a social construct, not a biological division of humanity.
Historical treatment of race meant separating the species of man, Homo Sapiens, into racial taxons. Started in the 18th century by white people, this grouping was twinned with racist theories about supposed abilities and disabilities of those racial groups. Later science-based disciplines of genetics and evolutionary biology have shown that human race taxonomy has no scientific basis. Instead, race categories are social constructs created from prevailing social perceptions without scientific evidence. Yet, despite modern proof that race is an arbitrary fiction, demographers and governments still use racial taxons.
Separation of people by race allows and supports common categorical misperceptions and ultimately racist philosophies and helped create the incredibly divisive political climate in the United States.
Arguably the elite classes are pleased with such division as it consumes the public discourse and mitigates the honest discussions about fundamental economic inequity and generational poverty. A good example is the current discussion of Critical Race Theory by the Infotainment Industrial complex.
These sidebars take the place of discussion of the real problem. In America, there are poor rich, poor people, and not much in between. If you are poor, you are likely to die at a much younger age.
Although life expectancy has generally been increasing over time in the United States, with a notable exception for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have long documented that it is lower for poor people than for the rich. The why’s of this include:
Cohorts of Americans born more recently are experiencing wider gaps in life expectancy. In addition, individuals with lower lifetime earnings are living shorter lives than their counterparts with higher lifetime earnings — and this gap has continued to widen.
For men born in 1930, individuals in the top 20% of income (quintile) can expect to live 5.1 years longer at age 50 than men in the lowest income quintile. But the real story is that this gap has increased over time. For example, for men born in 1960, those in the top income quintile can expect to live 12.7 years longer at age 50 than men in the bottom income quintile. And there are similar patterns for women: the life expectancy gap at age 50 between the bottom and top income quintiles of women expanded from 3.9 years for the 1930 birth cohort to 13.6 years for the 1960 birth cohort.
While the wealthy can anticipate living longer than their predecessor cohorts, but that is not true of the poor, whose life expectancy has remained static. Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5% of the income distribution but increased by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5%
The changes in life expectancy by income pose more problems than simple academic arguments about better health care. With their extraordinary gains in life expectancy, higher earners will collect Social Security benefits over increasingly more extended periods than the lowest-earning groups, who have experienced little to no progress in additional years lived. The increased life spans of the rich also will consume many unanticipated costs.
Commonly proposed resolutions include proposals that increase the retirement age or increase Social Security tax rates. These policies would further erode the progressivity of retirement benefits, a long-standing goal of the program, which aims for poor people to receive a higher return on their lifetime contributions than rich people. An increased retirement age means fewer years without work and far fewer years of leisure for the poor.
Recent federal legislation will help, although the actual ground game will remain unchanged absent substantial real-wage growth across the board.
The American Rescue Plan of 2021 expanded the Child Tax Credit to help children from eligible low-income families. The credit increased from $2,000 per child in 2020 to $3,600 for each child under age 6, from $2,000 to $3,000 age six to 16, and made 17-year-olds eligible for a $3,000 credit. The United States federal government is now distributing these funds in monthly payments, reducing economic pressure on low-income families and presumably allowing better health care and nutrition.
Due to COVID-19, 2021 enrollment on Affordable Care Act exchanges increased 6.6 percent over 2020. The American Rescue Plan also provided additional subsidies for people who procured insurance through the Affordable Care Act and opened enrollment on the exchanges through a Special Enrollment Period available until August 15, 2021. Despite the inefficiencies of industrial medicine in the United States, this should positively affect health.
We are in a revolution, a topic of a previous investigation. Revolutions are not pretty, and the divisiveness and hatred fomented by Infotainment have set the playing field as race and issue-based, not class-based conflict. Infotainment, also known as Hate, Inc., loves those discussions as they lead to revenue. Abortion access, packing the court, gun control, Black Lives Matter protests, hydrofracturing, climate change, and the like are entertaining but devoid of substance. The honest discussion is the rich vs. poor. Whether the revolution solves such is difficult to predict.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.