Elizabeth Gudrais, an associate editor of Harvard Magazine, writes in this issue of the slickly produced publication for Harvard alums that:
- life expectancy is declining for men in more than 50 of America's counties;
- LIFE EXPECTANCY FOR WOMEN IS DECLINING IN MORE THAN 900 OF AMERICA'S COUNTIES--MORE THAN 25%!!!;
- America's top 1% receive a larger portion of national income than at any time since 1928;
- America's Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, places it in the company of Sri Lanka, Mali and Russia.
Gudrais points out that such a decline in life expenctancy is almost unprecedented except in circumstances of mass epidemic or social and economic collapse like in the former Soviet Union.
I don't usually write about issues outside the area of the growing assault on Internet privacy and freedom of expression, but the substance of this Harvard Magazine article was so shocking, its source so Establishment-based and I found no reference to it in dKos diaries or articles.
Here's some of the facts most easily accessible at Truthout's site:
Income inequality has been rising since the late 1970s, and now rests at a level not seen since the Gilded Age—roughly 1870 to 1900, a period in U.S. history defined by the contrast between the excesses of the super-rich and the squalor of the poor.
There is also evidence that living in a society with wide disparities—in health, in wealth, in education—is worse for all the society’s members, even the well off. Life-expectancy statistics hint at this. People at the top of the U.S. income spectrum "live a very long time," says Cabot professor of public policy and epidemiology Lisa Berkman, "but people at the top in some other countries live a lot longer."
Kawachi, who grew up in Japan, believes a predominant consumption culture in the United States exacerbates relative deprivation. "The Japanese have a very strong culture against conspicuous displays of affluence," he says. "When I was a child growing up in suburban Tokyo, it was very difficult to distinguish, by dress or anything else, rich kids from poor kids—whereas in America, bring it on!"
Perhaps motivated by inequality and the prospect of getting ahead, Americans work longer hours than their European counterparts—about 200 more hours per year, on average, than the British, and 400 more hours per year than the Swedes. Again, there are counter-examples (the Japanese work almost as much as Americans do, just 50 hours less a year), but in any case, time spent at work is time not spent with friends or family, and this has its own implications for health.
The bottom line: Americans have been suckers for at least 35 years, buying a whole collection of myths from America being a "land of opportunity" to the poor being responsible for their own plight. The result has been the near death of labor unions, the disintegration of the social safety net and infrastructure and the removal of any regulatory restraints on greed.
As an American who has lived in Europe for the last several years, I can tell you that life is far different here. Sure, there are frustrations with an absurdly rigid, anti-entrepreneurial bureaucracy. The consumer in me is annoyed by the fact that you can't find anything open on Sunday afternoons or evenings.
But the health care is far superior for the average person. You may want to go to L. A. for breast enhancement or a nose job, but if you're a middle-aged worker with health problems, especially if you're female, you're far better off in a civilized country like France or Germany or even the less affluent European countries like the Czech Republic or Slovenia. You won't find your self "uninsurable (or even unemployable) as soon as you're diagnosed with uterine, breast or prostate cancer.
Europeans have smaller houses and smaller cars on average, but they actually enjoy nights and weekends off. And they still practice that ancient custom of a yearly holiday, usually four weeks.
When Harvard Magazine's editorial writers are admitting that life in America is bad and getting worse, it's time to quit thinking about incremental change and half-assed solutions, especially as the U. S. financial system collapses along with the dollar.
Wake up, folks. You have been sold out again and again by your leadership, some of whom swear allegiance to the Elephant, but nearly as many of whom cling to the Donkey. What has happened to Americans over the past generation could not have taken place without the cooperation of both major parties.
Those of us who live outside, like Jerome a Paris, watch from afar like the voyagers of the old CS&N + JA song, "Wooden Ships." A tragedy of extraordinary proportions is taking place in the U. S., rendered comprehensible only by the karmic justice of America succumbing to the same mythology that moved it to exploit and kill millions upon millions of Vietnamese, Iraqis, Nicaraguans, etc., etc., etc.
You should be asking yourself a few questions now. Among them should be:
- Why is life deteriorating for women even more quickly than for men in the U. S. according to these statistics?
- Why do Americans let themselves be worked harder by their masters and accept less in return than their counterparts in European countries?
- Why is America, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King pointed out, the greatest perpetrator of violence in the world?
- Why does neither major political party nor any major media outlet speak about these facts?
And when you have some answers to these questions, act and act soon. Time is short.