Amer­i­cans Get­ting Sicker, Dumber and Dy­ing Sooner

Trillions - - In This Issue -

and think­ing ca­pac­ity, and at least one lim­i­ta­tion for con­duct­ing some ba­sic liv­ing task, such as buy­ing food, wash­ing, get­ting dressed, tak­ing med­i­ca­tions or even just get­ting out of bed. The per­cent­age of peo­ple lim­ited in this way is ex­pected to surge from 8.8% of those who re­tired at 65 to 12.5% of those aged 56 to 57, who are still 10 years away from re­tire­ment.

A sad truth of the mat­ter is that the re­tire­ment age was raised to 67 for those born in 1960 and later, ac­cord­ing to a law passed in 1983. The logic was that se­niors were liv­ing longer and health­ier lives. Ac­cord­ing to these new stud­ies – and build­ing on past ones – the op­po­site is clearly the case.

Another con­sid­er­a­tion fac­tor­ing into the chang­ing life ex­pectan­cies is re­lated to in­equal­ity among se­niors. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished in Oc­to­ber by the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD), the gap be­tween wealthy and low-in­come se­niors is wider in the United States than in 33 of the 35 OECD mem­ber na­tions. (The only places where the gap is worse still are Mexico and Chile.) With that wealth gap, while the wealthy in Amer­ica live longer and in com­fort, the poor have to work more years at tougher jobs, suf­fer more with pain and ill health in their later years and die younger.

The two re­ports also sug­gest that this low­er­ing of life ex­pectancy, es­pe­cially for poorer se­niors, will con­tinue.

One rea­son for this is that low-wage work­ers of­ten get stuck in jobs that are much tougher on them phys­i­cally or they have no jobs at all and suf­fer even worse. In Mcdow­ell County, West Vir­ginia, part of the re­gion most af­fected by the de­pressed econ­omy, for ex­am­ple, male life ex­pectancy is only 63.9 years – just above that of Haiti, Ghana and even Pa­pua New Guinea. Chronic poverty, ill health, sui­cide and drug/ al­co­hol abuse are cited as com­mon causes.

A sec­ond rea­son is that as the U.S. econ­omy con­tin­ues to evolve, it does so of­ten at the ex­pense of au­tomat­ing many jobs that were once per­formed by peo­ple. That, in turn, ex­ac­er­bates the se­nior wage/ wealth di­vide.

A third rea­son is that the cur­rent tax struc­tures fur­ther sup­port mak­ing the rich even richer and the poor even poorer, and this is about to get much worse, with an es­ti­mated $1.7 tril­lion in wealth trans­ferred to the rich­est un­der Trump’s new tax bill.

A fourth rea­son – only pro­jected at this point – is that as the health-care plans be­ing pro­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ef­fec­tively gut sup­port for the poor­est and most in need, those peo­ple will be stuck suf­fer­ing and with­out proper treat­ment for far longer than ever be­fore. Many more will die pre­ma­turely.

Only a rad­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing of the tax codes to be­gin fa­vor­ing the mid­dle-class and poor for real (rather than just in the protes­ta­tions of the cur­rent Repub­li­can Congress and White House) plus a com­pletely new con­cept of how uni­ver­sal health care will be sup­ported across the coun­try could even be­gin to make a dif­fer­ence in all of this.

This won’t hap­pen un­less Amer­i­cans wake up and re­al­ize that un­bri­dled cap­i­tal­ism is the enemy of democ­racy, not a com­ple­men­tary as­pect. The only thing that can dis­lodge the now-deeply-em­bed­ded par­a­sitic oli­garchy is rad­i­cal and mas­sive change on a cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic level.

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