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December 22, 2017 | Why Are Americans Dying Younger?

Is an American author of books and articles on economic and financial subjects. He is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, and author of the daily financial column, Diary of a Rogue Economist.

BALTIMORE – “U.S. Lifespans Fall Again,” was the headline in The Wall Street Journal yesterday.

The accompanying reportage tells us that the average American now lives a month or two less than he did in 2015.

What to make of it? How could the greatest economy in history shorten its citizens’ lives? Where’s the payoff from Obamacare, miracle drugs, and medical science?

You can argue with economic growth figures… employment statistics… and inflation calculations. But lifespan? Isn’t this real news?

And if an economy is meant to give people what they want, isn’t declining life expectancy the ultimate failure?

 

 

Losing the War on Poverty

The story was on page 3. No mention was made of it in the editorial pages. Instead, the front page carried a big story about a big “victory for Trump,” in the form of the tax bill passage.

The two stories are related. The tax bill is supposed to rev up the economy. As far as we know, your wealth affects how long you live.

There are a few areas in the world where people tend to live longer than the average, unrelated to wealth.

Looking out from our house on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, for example, we see Costa Rica in the distance.

“That peninsula has more centenarians than almost anywhere on Earth,” we were told. Is it true? We don’t know.

But except for exceptions – blessed by nature, genetics, or simply lying about their age – generally, the more peaceful and prosperous you are, the longer you can expect to live.

Where do people live the longest?

Monaco, Japan, Singapore, and Australia.

Where do they live the shortest lives? Can you guess? The leaders in the short-life contest are three desperately poor African nations – Swaziland, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone.

More interesting to us are the formerly rich nations whose economies have been sabotaged by politicians and economists.

Zimbabwe, for example, was once the richest nation in Africa. During the hyperinflation crisis of 2006, life expectancies fell to the lowest in the world; a newborn girl was expected to live only 34 years.

The statisticians haven’t caught up with Venezuela’s fast-evolving crisis. But with children dying from hunger and lack of sanitation, not to mention government goons killing thousands of people, life expectancy must be declining rapidly there.

The number of Americans officially in poverty is 41 million… about the same proportion as in the 1960s. Since then, Washington has spent $22 trillion in a fake war on poverty.

 

 

Killer ZIP Codes

Of those who are poor, about 11 million have no obvious means of supporting themselves.

Some live off relatives. Some hustle drugs or engage in other petty crimes.

Some recycle trash.

They get by as best they can.

Even those who have jobs are often way behind their fathers and grandfathers. From a report in the British newspaper The Guardian:

In West Virginia in particular, white families have a lot to feel sore about. Mechanization and the decline of coal mining have decimated the state, leading to high unemployment and stagnant wages.

The transfer of jobs from the mines and steel mills to Walmart has led to male workers earning on average $3.50 an hour less today than they did in 1979.

As officially tallied, the U.S. economy is growing at about 2% a year. But that’s using the feds’ numbers. And it is a nationwide average.

As we’ve discussed in these pages, there’s a big difference between what happens in the rich ZIP codes and what goes down in the poorer ones. Our guess is that more people in more areas are poorer than the government’s numbers suggest.

 

 

Depressed Counties

Today, according to the 2016 federal Survey of Consumer Finances, the top 1% of American families owns 40% of the nation’s wealth.

That’s up from the 30% of the nation’s wealth they controlled in 1989.

These folks don’t live in the hollers of Kentucky… the rusty mill towns of the Monongahela… or the dirt plains of Alabama. They live in the wealthiest ZIP codes – in the Upper East Side, New York… in Aspen, Colorado… and in Beverly Hills, California.

So it is reasonable to assume that if the average rate of nationwide economic growth is about 2%… there must be plenty of places where it is negative.

We asked Joe Withrow, who heads up the Bonner & Partners research department, to look into it. Here is what he has found so far:

I haven’t determined the percentage of depressed counties yet according to my scoring system, but here’s the raw data:

  • 87% of U.S. counties have seen a rise in the poverty rate since 2000
  • 59% of U.S. counties have seen a fall in inflation-adjusted wages since 2000
  • 56% of U.S. counties have seen a rise in the number of job losses over the past 10 years
  • 59% of U.S. counties have seen a fall in the labor force participation rate over the past 10 years

And if you adjust wages using Shadow Stats data – which calculates consumer price inflation the way the government did back in the 1990s – 99% of U.S. counties have seen a decrease in wages since 2000.

Being poor is not the same as wanting to take drugs or kill yourself. But remember our axiom: People are neither always good, nor always bad, but always subject to influence.

Weighing on America’s poor and lower-middle class are record levels of debt and a growing suspicion that their own government has rigged the system against them.

Some fight it. Some take a fall.

Regards,

Signature

Bill

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December 22nd, 2017

Posted In: Bill Bonner's Diary

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