The Death Gap

There’s always a lot happening these days. Kamala Harris has dropped out of the nomination race. Phone records obtained by the House Intelligence Committee show that Devin Nunes was an active player in the Ukraine scandal.

Nunes in particular has sought to undermine the investigation by alleging that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Intelligence Committee chairman, had coordinated or otherwise communicated with an intelligence community whistleblower who initially raised concerns about Trump’s apparent efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political foes. But the phone records contained in the committee’s report show that Nunes himself had engaged in his own behind-the-scenes communications with the very people at issue in the whistleblower complaint. Nunes never revealed those communications during the weeks of committee testimony. The congressman has discussed the possibility of suing news outlets, including The Daily Beast, for reporting on his private handling of matters related to Trump’s actions in Ukraine.

So busted.

But now I want to follow up on the last post. Along with all those social disruptions that plague “red” voters, add reduced life expectancy. Paul Krugman writes,

Back in the Bush years I used to encounter people who insisted that the United States had the world’s longest life expectancy. They hadn’t looked at the data, they just assumed that America was No. 1 on everything. Even then it wasn’t true: U.S. life expectancy has been below that of other advanced countries for a long time.

The death gap has, however, widened considerably in recent years as a result of increased mortality among working-age Americans. This rise in mortality has, in turn, been largely a result of rising “deaths of despair”: drug overdoses, suicides and alcohol. And the rise in these deaths has led to declining overall life expectancy for the past few years.

What I haven’t seen emphasized is the divergence in life expectancy within the United States and its close correlation with political orientation.  …

… A 2018 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at changes in health and life expectancy in U.S. states between 1990 and 2016. The divergence among states is striking. And as I said, it’s closely correlated with political orientation.

I looked at states that voted for Donald Trump versus states that voted for Clinton in 2016, and calculated average life expectancy weighted by their 2016 population. In 1990, today’s red and blue states had almost the same life expectancy. Since then, however, life expectancy in Clinton states has risen more or less in line with other advanced countries, compared with almost no gain in Trump country. At this point, blue-state residents can expect to live more than four years longer than their red-state counterparts.

Four years is a pretty big gap. A significant gap, I would say. And that’s a gap that didn’t exist twenty years ago. Back to Krugman:

One thing that’s clear, however, is that the facts are utterly inconsistent with the conservative diagnosis of what ails America.

Conservative figures like William Barr, the attorney general, look at rising mortality in America and attribute it to the collapse of traditional values — a collapse they attribute, in turn, to the evil machinations of “militant secularists.” The secularist assault on traditional values, Barr claims, lies behind “soaring suicide rates,” rising violence and “a deadly drug epidemic.”

But European nations, which are far more secularist than we are, haven’t seen a comparable rise in deaths of despair and an American-style decline in life expectancy. And even within America these evils are concentrated in states that voted for Trump, and have largely bypassed the more secular blue states.

This is symptomatic of something massively wrong, and it isn’t just racism. This population has been racist going back to the dawn of white people, whenever that was. This is someething else.