Life: Haves, Have Nots

To me, the most disturbing information in this Paul Krugman post is the rising gap in life expectancy between the top and bottom halves of the wage distribution. For those born in 1912, the life expectancy gap between the poorest and the wealthiest was two years. For those born in 1941, the difference is six years.

In an allegedly egalitarian society, the two-year gap was bad enough. But six years tells me we’re reverting to the conditions found in a Dickens novel.

In an allegedly egalitarian society, in an allegedly “pro life” society, data like this should be the canary in the coal mine telling us we’re doing something very wrong. I’m not holding my breath waiting for most Americans to notice. I doubt many of them will hear about it.

Krugman tells us that the Ryan budget not only eliminates the Medicare program and replaces it with an entirely different program of the same name; it also raises the age of eligibility for The Program That Is Not Medicare, which is not something I had heard before. Jonathan Cohn explains that under the Ryan plan, beginning in 2020 the eligibility age will go up by two months every year. And this will cause another kind of gap:

Remember, the House Republican budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act. That would leave insurance companies free to charge higher premiums, restrict benefits, or deny coverage altogether to individual applicants who have pre-existing conditions. Given the relatively high incidence of conditions like hypertension, arthritis, and vision problems among older Americans, it’s safe to assume many seniors would have trouble finding affordable coverage–if, indeed, they could find coverage at all.

To be sure, pre-existing conditions wouldn’t affect older Americans who could get coverage from large employers, either as current workers or younger retirees. That’s how most “younger seniors” get insurance now. But the addition of so many 65- and 66-year-olds to employer insurance plans would raise benefits costs for businesses and, eventually, their workers. In the late 1990s, when politicians last talked seriously about raising the Medicare eligibility, Hewitt’s Frank McArdle ran the numbers for the Kaiser Family Foundation and determined that

Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 would mean that plan costs for a 65-year-old retiree could be two to four times higher (depending on plan design) for each year of coverage without Medicare.

For a typical large company with a predominately younger workforce, the employer’s actuarial cost for lifetime retiree health benefits would rise about 16 percent (18 percent for a large employer with an older workforce).

Again, a Republican comes up with a plan that is allegedly pro-business that would actually hurt business. I wrote a couple of days ago that most rightie politicians don’t actually understand financial or economic issues, they just think they do. Just like they think they understand war and the military, even if they’ve never served in uniform.

Cohn and Krugman have raised some extremely difficult and important issues that we as a society should be facing. Instead, we get this reaction from Little Lulu, who completely ignores the issues and just blurts that Krugman allegedly wrote something in favor of raising the Social Security eligibility age back in 1996, which makes him a flip-flopping charlatan.

Useful idiots like Lulu exist to be sure we can’t have intelligent discussions about anything. It’s what the Galatian Overlords have decreed.

Anyway, Lulu is quoting a book review Krugman wrote 16 years ago, and I can’t tell from the quote Lulu excerpts whether Krugman is expressing his own opinion or encapsulating the opinions expressed in the book he is reviewing. And, naturally, there is no link to the review. Either way, a lot has changed in sixteen years. Krugman’s consciousness about many things seems to have gone up quite a bit. Lulu’s, alas, has not.

7 thoughts on “Life: Haves, Have Nots

  1. The difference between those born in 1912 vs 1941 could be due to many different factors. I know for example that food changed dramatically in the post war years. Everything in my mothers’ time (born 1922) was organic, there were no other choices. Today, we read of long lasting molecules such as DDT and Prozac found in water supplies everywhere. The onset of puberty has been advancing in females for decades now, possibly due to hormones fed to animals. And on it goes – a major uncontrolled lab experiment on the human race.

    To focus on things like policy effects, you’d have to have data for these age cohorts from a number of different countries (where policies differ), to rule out common factors like changes in food supply.

    ..most rightie politicians don’t actually understand financial or economic issues, they just think they do. Just like they think they understand war and the military, even if they’ve never served in uniform.

    They live in their heads. They have pre-conceived notions about how the world works, and have no interest in any information to the contrary. Same as the medieval Catholic church which refused to consider any evidence that the earth was not at the center of creation. They’re unconscious in other words.

  2. So, being poor is comparable to smoking…..

    “They live in their heads. They have pre-conceived notions about how the world works, and have no interest in any information to the contrary.”

    They are selfish pricks who never learned social skills in their exclusive kindergartens. Let’s not mince words. “Privatize”, for example, means take something that works; shut it down; and give it as a plum contract to one’s incompetent buddies/campaign donors.

  3. Everything in my mothers’ time (born 1922) was organic, there were no other choices.

    But diets were not necessarily nutritionally balanced or sufficient back then. Malnutrition was so widespread it was one of the reasons the school lunch program was introduced. Shocking numbers of young men flunked their World War II draft physical because of medical conditions associated with malnutrition. I think in a lot of ways diets improved after 1941, chemical additives notwithstanding.

  4. Hmmm…
    When we had a ‘missile gap,’ when we fell behind in ‘the space race,’ remember the concerted efforts by our government to close the gap, and win the race? Cost was not a factor!
    But, back then, we were a “Can Do!” nation. Now we’re a “We can’t afford to do that!” country.
    Now that there’s a ‘life expectancy gap,’ we’ll be told that our Galtian “Randlords” work harder, are smarter, and deserve to live longer. That any additional taxes will rob them of not just their hard-inherited, or hard-stolen, gold, but of their “Golden Years.”

    If SS and Medicare are indeed altered to what the right wants, here’s something else to take a look at:
    -With SS, the people who will have benefited the most from it will have been those born from during or right after the Civil War, up until those born before JFK became President. With the people born after WWI, and “The Greatest Generation,” being the biggest beneficiaries. Right now, it looks like those born in the latter part of Ike’s 2nd term, will be the ones who will begin to lose benefits.
    -And for Medicare, the people who will have benefited the most will be those born around the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries, again, up until those born in the latter part of the 2nd Ike Administration. Again, “The Greatest Generation” will be the biggest beneficiaries.
    I don’t begrudge “The Greatest Generation” getting everyththing they could got, and can get, but, won’t it be ironic if they, and their parents, are the ones that benefit the most from the great nation that they saved militarily, but that the children for whom they saved the nation will be the ones who see the social fabric that also made this country great, decline? And that their grandchildren will pretty much have to face the future alone, without the benefit of masses of others, to help offset illness and age?
    I’m not trying to make people from that time out to be the villians. They are not. I just want to point out that our nations greatness apparently lies in the past. We will have rewarded one or two generations the most, with financial and medical resources that will not be available to anyone born after JFK beat Nixon.
    Nice country we had there. Shame we lost it…

  5. The simple solution, of course, would be to raise or even eliminate the cap on Social Security earnings to pay for the increased life span of the better off. Raisinng the cap 40% to allow for the 40% increase in Social Security lifespan (to about $148,000) would be a start but insufficient. Most in the upper half don’t earn $150,000. Eliminating the cap or having a graduated rate structure would be a better, mor economically based solution.

  6. In the 1990’s when Russia collapsed and the oligarchs took charge (same income disparity as the US right now), the life expectancy dropped from the 60’s to the 50’s. It didn’t help that they took to drink, but I expect a similar result with the lack of money and poor access to health care in the US.

  7. Moonbat, I can understand why differences in modern food production, addition of chemicals and hormones and such, could explain why life expectancies between generations would differ, but it doesn’t explain the gap within a single generation between the lower and upper income strata. I think it is much more likely that it is due to differences in availability of medical care, physical work stresses and lifestyle stress factors, which do vary quite considerably between the rich and the rest of us.

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