Covid-19 isn’t the reason that US life expectancy is stagnating

“The stagnation in life expectancy isn’t due to some natural limit of human lifespans. In 2019, life expectancy was 84.4 in Japan, 83 in France, and 81 in the United Kingdom and Germany. The US, with its life expectancy of 78.8 years, was already lagging before the pandemic.”

“The relatively poor health of the US is rooted in “fundamental causes,” according to epidemiologists Bruce Link and Jo Phelan. These are the social conditions like economic inequality and racial segregation that worsen some illnesses and reduce access to health care. In the US, solutions could also include policies that replace jobs in towns and cities that have been hollowed out by globalization and deindustrialization. The dignity of meaningful work can improve health.
Of course, we should not ignore the gains that can be made within medicine. I don’t mean high-profile technological advances that will make headlines or boost the bottom line of new biotech startups. I mean routine and preventive care that can detect disease early, help get patients into treatment, and provide a trusted source of medical advice.

Rather than wringing our hands about the Covid-19 life-expectancy dip, the US should be passing laws and expanding programs that draw medical workers into primary and preventive care, not least by paying them more. This is especially true in rural areas with aging populations and a shortage of doctors. Training more Black doctors, especially in obstetrics and gynecology, may lead to dramatic improvements in the shamefully bad maternal health outcomes among Black women in the US.

By focusing on one historical measure of years lost to the pandemic, we run the risk of dwelling on what we can’t change and ignoring what we can improve. If you want the next generation to live longer and healthier lives, one of the best things you can do is push for economic and health care policies that reduce economic and racial inequality, and help ensure that every person has access to the kind of world-class, routine health care that saves lives. Let’s give the demographers of 2110 something to celebrate.”

Why Many Americans Can’t See The Wealth Gap Between White And Black America

“The places where we live affect not only our access to resources, but also who we meet, interact with and become friends with. And because our neighborhoods are so segregated, our social networks are also siloed — about three-quarters of white Americans don’t have any nonwhite friends, according to a 2014 survey from PRRI. The nature of segregation in the U.S. means that we only end up seeing and learning about what our own groups experience, making it hard to understand the lives of people outside of our own group.

This explains, in part, why Americans have such a hard time understanding just how unequal our nation is, and moreover, the racialized nature of that inequality. For example, if you ask Americans about racial wealth gaps, you’ll find that they severely underestimate those gaps; according to a 2019 paper from a team of psychologists, Americans think the Black-white wealth gap is 40 to 80 percent smaller than it actually is.”

“it will always be hard for people to see inequality if it doesn’t bring harm to their own lives.”

Colombia’s protests are a product of its post-peace-deal reality

“Colombia is the second most unequal country in an already unequal Latin America region. Even as its economy has grown in recent decades, the poorest slice of the population is not seeing those benefits, and many lower- and middle-income earners struggle to pay for basic services.”

“unrest that has convulsed Colombia for more than a month. A tax reform bill proposed by right-wing President Ivan Duque sparked protests in late April, with thousands responding to a call from national labor unions to push against the measure.
The government defended the proposed tax increase as a much-needed measure to repair the economy after fallout from the coronavirus. Those who opposed the legislation saw it as putting another burden on middle-class and poorer families who are already in a precarious position, also because of the coronavirus.”

“Columbia recently emerged from decades of internal armed conflict, the culmination of an imperfect and still not fully realized peace process. But this helped excise the civil war as the dominant political issue.”

“The Colombian National Police is very much linked to the military; though a distinctive branch, it falls under the oversight of the Ministry of Defense. The force itself was shaped by the conflict in Colombia, with officers often fighting “on the front lines, wielding tanks and helicopters as they battled guerrilla fighters and destroyed drug labs,” according to the New York Times.

Critics have said the country’s national police needs to reform, moving from a focus on training for battle to one of public safety.”

““They are treating the protesters as they used to treat the guerrillas, as subversives, because that’s the type of public force that is the police,” Restrepo said. “The military and security forces that we have, that was never reformed.””

“The government has also alleged that some of the violence and chaos is the work of guerrillas, including the vestiges of the FARC, as well as drug traffickers who have infiltrated the protests. At the end of May, when protests had stretched on for a full month, Duque deployed the military to Cali, saying the increased capacity would help in the areas that have seen “acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism.” Officials have also said hundreds of police officers have been injured, including by armed civilians.

Restrepo said the government is trying to bring the FARC guerrillas and Colombia’s conflict back to the center of the agenda “to justify the militarization of the police and the techniques that they’re using, the violence [and] brutality that they’re using.” In other words, when it works politically, go back to the us-versus-them paradigm.

This has further enraged protesters who see their legitimate grievances being ignored and their anger recast.”

“Experts told me it would be a mistake to say all protesters, or even all blockades in cities like Cali, are associated with criminal elements. “That being said, you’re having this context of social protests embedded in a city, in a country where, of course, there are some powerful criminal organizations and guerrilla groups,” the Universidad Icesi’s Albarracín said. At least some of those groups will take advantage of the disorder — and the front lines are already so chaotic and disorganized, it’s hard to know who’s who.”

“Protests are happening across Colombia, in cities including Cali, Bogotá, and Medellin. But this is not a fully unified movement. Up close, the protests all look very different, with diverse and often localized grievances — and not all of the demands are aligned.”

The ugly truth behind your fancy rewards credit card

“Every time a credit card is swiped, the bank charges a fee. It seems trivial, but those fees add up — enough to help pay for rewards like points-funded hotel rooms and cash back. To compensate, businesses raise prices, and so cash users (who tend to be poorer) are often subsidizing the perks going to credit card users (who tend to be richer). And the higher the rewards, the bigger the cost to the unsuspecting people paying for it.”

“Credit card rewards aren’t generally taxed like regular income, so to a certain extent, they’re even a bigger benefit than they appear on paper.”

“Klein also said that interchange fees that go up with rewards cards can disproportionately impact small businesses compared to large corporations, many of which are often able to negotiate lower fees or strike deals with big credit card companies. According to the Wall Street Journal, Walmart, Costco, and Amazon have all been able to leverage their size and reach to bring down their fees.”

” not all businesses accept all credit cards, or accept credit cards at all. American Express has the reputation of having high transaction fees that many merchants avoid. And the nice rewards cards often have higher swipe fees than more basic cards issued by the same company. But once a merchant says that they’re going to accept one brand of credit card, whether it’s AmEx or MasterCard or Visa, they can’t really discriminate among the cards under those brands. In 2018, the Supreme Court decided that credit card issuers were allowed to bar businesses from offering consumers incentives to pay with less expensive credit cards. Essentially, if a retailer accepts one type of AmEx, it’s going to accept all of them.

Klein says he thinks if merchants were more easily able to discern which rewards cards to take and which to avoid, some of the poor-to-rich transfer problem could be solved. “A reasonable way for the market to help solve this problem is for the merchants to be able to say, ‘I’m not going to take the Sapphire, the swipe fee is too high,’” he said. “The economist in me is like, the market can correct this to some degree.”

“Another potential policy fix would be to lower interchange fees, which the Durbin Amendment, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, did for debit card transactions. If swipe fees for credit cards were capped, rewards would almost certainly diminish, too. But so would the regressive nature of credit card spending.”

“For many people without credit cards, the problem isn’t that they don’t want one, it’s that they can’t get one because their credit score is too low or they don’t have enough of a credit history to get approved. It’s harder for the unbanked to build up savings, get traditional loans, or pay basic bills. And so they wind up losing money — they turn to expensive payday lenders that charge exorbitant interest rates and risk getting pulled into debt traps or resort to financial products that charge them more specifically because they have less. Rich people reap most of the benefits of the stock market’s rise, a rise that’s fueled by the productivity of workers.
To put it plainly, it’s expensive to be poor in America. And when it comes to rewards cards, it’s expensive to the benefit of the rich.”

Here’s what the “Black tax” does to so many families — including mine

“The median Black household has a net worth of only $24,100, a fraction of the $188,200 in net worth the median white household has, 2019 Federal Reserve data shows.
And these numbers don’t always show the nuance of financial instability for many Black families. A quarter of Black households have zero or negative net worth, compared with a tenth of white families, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The reasons for the wealth gap are complicated and multi-layered, with racism, historical injustices, structural inequality, and educational disparities all playing a huge role. So do career choices, marriage status, and inheritance levels for Black people, which are starkly lower than for white people. The practice of redlining, for example, under which the government would not guarantee loans for Black Americans who were trying to purchase homes, as well as the effect of mass incarceration on Black representation in the workforce, are just a couple of examples of how African Americans are systematically prevented from building wealth.

Consequently, here’s the harsh reality about being Black in America: The deck is often so stacked against you that the weight of it all can feel overwhelming — no matter your income, your net worth, or how much you’ve achieved. For African Americans like me, systemic inequities and generations of poverty can make it seem like whatever you’ve done is never enough, especially when you know you’ll have to help support relatives or make contingency plans for any number of scenarios out of your control.

The reality is that for those of us able to generate wealth and reach a level of comfort, we are often also financially supporting family members or paying down debt. We simply don’t have that generational wealth that so many white families have to fall back on and start out their adult lives with. Even two people earning the same income can be looking at totally different financial situations based on their race and class: One could be putting money into savings or investing, while the other might be using that same income to pay a family member’s rent or help support an aging parent’s retirement.

I know that people like my mother don’t have any real safety net other than relatives. There’s no inheritance coming. As a result, for far too many Black people, low income and low wealth translate into a lifetime of scraping by.”

“Among Black Americans, it’s not uncommon for those who can to help family members financially: Some call it the “Black tax,” a term commonly used in South Africa that refers to the obligations of first-in-the-family college graduates, professionals, or others who “make it” to assist their family members.

I’m happy to help out my mother by covering her needs when she’s short on cash. But it can be an emotional experience for her to even ask”

Critical Race Theory Would Not Solve Racial Inequality: It Would Deepen It

“as former Congressional Budget Office Director June O’Neill and Dave M. O’Neill have shown, this supposed “pay gap” disappears when one factors in the background variables of age, education, math and verbal skills, and work history. In fact, when controlling for these variables, black men earn 99.9 percent of the wages of white men, and when the same calculation is applied to women, black women actually earn 7 percent more per hour than white women with the same education and math and verbal skills. In short order, the pay gap disappears.

By the same logic, although there is a significant poverty gap between white and black children in the United States, this disparity vanishes when one controls for the key background variables of family structure, educational attainment, and workforce participation. As Heritage Foundation scholar Robert Rector has demonstrated, when these background factors are held constant, “race alone does not directly increase or decrease the probability that a child will be poor.” Contrary to the logic of the critical race theorists, the key determinant of child poverty is not race, but a cluster of human and social variables that affect Americans of all racial demographics with remarkably equal force.

Unfortunately, critical race theory does not offer a policy platform for strengthening these key background variables; in fact, it is in many cases directly hostile to them.”

What the pandemic taught us about America’s working class

“April, who works at a pet shop in Minneapolis, makes $11.75 an hour. She loves her job, and it pays better than the federal minimum wage, but not by much. She and her partner get by. They still don’t make enough money to afford a car, but they can manage rent, their phones, and internet, and support their 12-year-old daughter.

Her partner lost his job as a body piercer when the pandemic hit. He went on unemployment insurance for a while, and he and April finally found health insurance through a public assistance program. It was more consistent income than they’d seen in quite some time. “We were able to get a little bit of extra money into our accounts for once. We weren’t going paycheck to paycheck for a while. That was wonderful,” April said. “I think a ton of people were finally out of the poverty level with that money.” Her partner has now found a different job that allows him to work from home.

Life is more or less fine, but April said it would be better if they made more. “We would be able to have a house like a normal family,” she added.

April and her family’s situation is quite normal: In 2019, about 39 million people made less than $15 an hour. When the pandemic hit, that number actually fell — not because people were making more but because low-wage workers became unemployed.”

What’s your “fair share” of carbon emissions? You’re probably blowing way past it.

“The world’s wealthy need cuts of over 90 percent of their carbon emissions, to get to their carbon fair share. The top-skew is so huge that the world’s richest 1 percent cause double the carbon burden of the poorest 50 percent combined (that’s 3.5 billion people).

Most “middle class” Americans are in the global top 1 or 10 percent.”

“So what the hell can anyone do? The main answer for the majority of folks reading this is to cut your personal consumption, and to press for political and systemic changes to get off the “hedonic treadmill,” at least until we’ve stabilized. The “hedonic treadmill” refers to the effect that increases in consumption often result in no permanent gain in happiness.

We’ve all felt negligible or fleeting satisfaction from consumption, but sadly the carbon impacts are far from fleeting — they will last centuries. It’s critical to avoid mindless overconsumption. Many carbon footprint calculators are available to help you figure out your own carbon impact.”