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Capitalism Promises Human Suffering Will Be Bearable .

‘Deaths of Despair’ Are Surging Among the White Working Class

Researchers who sounded the alarm on increasing white working-class mortality blamed the trend Thursday on economic upheaval that created a web of social issues so tightly interwoven that even successful policies would take years to unsnarl them.

Mortality and morbidity, which measure chances of death or illness within an age group, began climbing in the late 1990s for less-educated whites between 45 and 54. That came as progress against heart disease and cancer slowed and drug overdoses, suicide and alcoholism — so-called “deaths of despair” — became pervasive.

Distress born of globalization and technological change probably drove the deadly outcome, new research by Princeton University’s Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton shows. Their findings point to a cycle of despair that’s deepening: Middle-aged whites today are more likely to report pain and mental-health problems than their predecessors and are experiencing symptoms of alcoholism at a younger age.

“Policies, even ones that successfully improve earnings and jobs, or redistribute income, will take many years to reverse the mortality and morbidity increase,” Case and Deaton write in their paper. “Those in midlife now are likely to do much worse in old age than those currently older than 65.”

Fatal Crossover

Less-educated whites are unique in their plight. Mortality has continued its long-run decline for whites with bachelor’s degrees, Hispanics and blacks. In 1999, the rate for whites between 50 and 54 with only high-school degrees was 30 percent lower than the mortality rate of blacks that age. By 2015, it was 30 percent higher, a cross-over echoed across age groups.

The problem bucks a global trend: Middle-aged mortality has been falling globally, even in other advanced economies like the U.K. Adult mortality improvements have been most striking in developing countries, according to United Nations data.

While high school-only Americans earn far less than peers with a bachelor’s degree — about 60 cents on the dollar — income inequality itself doesn’t seem to be the driver of white woe. Blacks and Hispanic Americans fare even worse economically, yet they’ve made consistent gains in combating mortality and morbidity. And in Europe and the U.K., where income divides have also widened, mortality has been declining across demographics.

In the eyes of Case and Deaton, a 2015 economics laureate for his analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare, the decline is a story of cumulative disadvantage. While minorities have a long history of economic struggle, white Americans could once expect a secure job, family life and future with only a high-school degree. But unions, factories and mines began to decline in the 1970s, taking with them high-paying jobs.

Churches Fade

In response, college attendance increased. Those who didn’t go found themselves in lower-paying jobs or left the labor market entirely, pushing down participation for those with less than a bachelor’s degree.

As opportunities eroded, so did institutions that composed the backbone of middle-class existence. Traditional churches ceded ground to creeds that emphasize individualism — as a result, people feel increased responsibility for their own successes or failures. Marriage became less common as men became less likely to work, leaving both genders with less stability.

“The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion,” the authors wrote.

Without their traditional moorings, whites increasingly turned to chemical crutches. Alcoholism worsened. Suicide climbed. And when doctors began to hand out opioid prescriptions more freely during the 1990s, addiction took root.

Narcotic Plague

These days, more Americans die from drug overdoses than car accidents — the former killed about 47,000 people in 2015, while the latter fewer than 38,000. Opioids specifically killed 33,000 people in 2015, and the vast majority overdosing are white.

“Although we do not see the supply of opioids as a fundamental factor, the prescription of opioids for chronic pain added fuel to the flames,” Deaton and Case wrote. “Controlling opioids is an obvious priority, as is trying to counter the negative effects of a poor labor market on marriage, perhaps through better safety nets for mothers with children.”

Case and Deaton’s story chimes with America’s recent politics. President Donald Trump did far better than Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate, in counties with higher drug, alcohol and suicide mortality, according to research by Pennsylvania State University assistant professor Shannon Monnat.

“Much of the relationship between mortality and Trump’s performance is explained by economic factors; counties with higher economic distress and larger working-class presence also have higher mortality rates and came out strongly for Trump,” Monnat wrote. “In many of the counties where Trump did the best, economic precarity has been building and social and family networks have been breaking down for several decades.”

‘Deaths of Despair’ Are Surging Among the White Working Class

EarthRx: The Irish Potato Famine Was Caused by Capitalism, Not a Fungus

Put on the U2 and The Cranberries and let’s down some green brew folks, it’s that time of year again. But while St. Patrick’s Day is cause to celebrate everything Irish-American, it’s also a good time to ponder just why more than a million Irish were forced to leave Ireland while another million were dying of starvation in such a short period of time in the first place. The answer, which also explains why millions of children are currently going without enough food in the U.S., has much more to do with market systems than Mother Nature.

Most of us were taught in school that the Irish Potato Famine, which took place from 1845 to 1852, was simply caused by a previously unknown fungal blight (Phytophthora infestans) that wiped out the potato crop of the Emerald Isle just at a time when too much of the population was dependent on a single type of potato for daily sustenance.

While the blight did strike and take down most of Ireland’s potatoes, the truth is that Ireland was exporting more than enough food to feed everyone at the same time as the famine was happening. Run as a colony of the vast British Empire, Ireland was a colonial food-producing operation, much like India and the sugar islands of the Caribbean, but locals were not allowed to eat the very food they were producing.

In other words, a million Irish starved for no reason other than greed.

“Ireland’s economy had always been made subservient to British interests,“ Quinnipiac University Professor Christine Kinealy says. “Following the appearance of the potato blight, a number of people in Ireland requested the government to close the Irish ports to keep food inside the country. [The British] refused to do so on the grounds that merchants would bring food in under free market forces.”

“Of course, this did not happen.”

Author of several books on the Irish Potato Famine, including a graphic novel for young adults on the subject entitled The Bad Times, Kinealy is also the director of the Great Hunger Museum in Connecticut. I contacted her to find out just exactly what happened in those bleak days of starvation and mass exodus and how the systematic forces behind that great tragedy may still be in play today.

“Potatoes were only one of the crops grown in Ireland and accounted for approximately 20 percent of agricultural produce,” Kinealy says. “Ireland produced large amounts of other foodstuffs—mostly for exportation to Britain.”

“On the eve of the Famine for example, Ireland was exporting sufficient quantities of corn, wheat, barley, oats etc. to Britain to feed an estimated two million people. Clearly Ireland was producing an agricultural surplus.”

Anyone wondering how the richest empire in the world, as Britain was at the time, could allow millions of its subjects to starve while there was a actually a food surplus going on need simply to look a little closer at the modern-day United States. Nearly 16 million households suffer from food scarcity in the U.S., the richest country in the history of countries, yet we are experiencing a food surplus so huge that the government is actually stepping in to buy millions’ of dollars worth of staples like cheese just to keep the market alive.

In fact, more than 800 million people around the world suffer from hunger despite the fact that we currently produce enough food to feed two or three times the global population. Like Ireland during the famine, these millions are starving because of bad policies and ideologies, not because there is not enough to go around.

“Regardless of the wealth of the British Empire, it repeatedly refused to use its resources to either effect structural changes or alleviate food shortages when they occurred,” Kinealy says, explaining how the Irish Great Hunger was not an isolated incident. “Famines occurred periodically in both Ireland and India in the 19th century. In both countries, the rulers in London blamed the indigenous poor for their own poverty—creating the myth that they were lazy, socially backward and uncivilized.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Blaming poor people for being too lazy or unmotivated to succeed is an extremely popular pasttime in the U.S., despite the fact that, just as the Irish who starved were hard at work producing profit for their rich British landlords, most American food stamp recipients are employed full-time.

“The issues that faced the Irish people in 1840 are not unique to this time or place,” Kinealy says. “Poverty, hunger and famine exist today—sadly because the same social structures and attitudes towards poverty still exist.“

Kinealy is right. Thirteen million children in the United States go hungry every day as the “land of the free” now has the highest child poverty rate of any developed country in the world despite its tremendous economic output.

Or maybe because of it.

Like 19th-century Britain, whose empire spanned the world, the United States now runs the globe through a “free market” system of trade laws that concentrate wealth in the hands of the few while dispossessing almost everyone else. Inequality within countries is growing at an alarming rate as the rich monopolize industry through trade subsidies and resource wars.

“The British government at the time of the Famine is often described as being committed to ‘laissez faire’, that is, non-intervention in the market place,” says Professor Kinealy. “However, the British government was the most interventionist government in the world when it came to their commercial and other interests—a stark example of this is the Opium War with China (1839-42).”

It’s a game as old as Empire. Our own modern-day stark examples include wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions like Syria, all of which funded by taxpayer dollars, while poor people at home go without food. These wars are also producing a refugee crisis of epic proportions that the world is struggling to understand.

But consider that there are seven times as many Irish-Americans in the U.S. than Irish in Ireland—which is largely due to the Great Famine migration—and the pattern is clear. Capitalism is a beast.

“Refugees generally leave their homeland out of desperation,” Kinealy says. “Those who fled Ireland during the Famine—over one million people in the space of six years—were doing just that. Undertaking a voyage into the unknown in the hope of survival.”

So as we tilt back that Guiness this year and don those Leprechaun hats while doing the Riverdance, let’s also take a closer look at the daily news about migration from abroad and social unrest in poverty stricken areas here at home. The truth is that the forces behind the Great Irish Famine are still at work today and we are going to need all the “Fighting Irish” spirit we can muster to change that.

EarthRx: The Irish Potato Famine Was Caused by Capitalism, Not a Fungus

Source: ONTD_Political

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