“There is an underappreciated contributor to the United States’ comparatively poor health: We underinvest in social services that help people live healthier lives and therefore overspend on medical care relative to other developed countries.
The long-term trends in US health care, as I wrote about earlier this week, tell a clear story: Medical outcomes have gotten better, with measures of life expectancy and disease burden improving over the last 25 years, but they haven’t improved as much as they have in other wealthy nations that spend less money on health care than the US.”
“If you combine social services spending with health spending, the US and its peers spend about the same amount of money (a little more than 30 percent of their respective GDPs). But spending in those other countries is weighted more toward social support — food and housing subsidies, income assistance, etc. — whereas America spends more on medical care.”
“Eighteen percent of people in the US live in poverty, compared with 10 percent in other wealthy countries. And we know that people with lower incomes face many structural challenges — lack of access to healthy food, clean water, and fresh air, for starters — that lead to worse health outcomes. When they get sick, they have a harder time both finding a doctor and affording their medical care. In general, they also live with more stress and anxiety than people who make more money, which also has deleterious effects on their health.”
“Since the early 1960s, the Cuban government, often with justification, has relied on a critique of U.S. intervention, embargo and hostility to explain its persistent economic difficulties. For many Cubans, however, that formula long ago lost its power. Instead, today’s protestors have targeted the revolutionary imagination itself and its failure to deliver either bread or freedom — whether freedom from domestic or foreign powers.”
“In the first half of the 20th century, the need to shore up the island’s economy meant the relationship with the United States was rarely decided in favor of Cuban autonomy. By the 1950s, the symbols of U.S. economic hegemony in Cuba — from the notorious United Fruit Company in the east to a sprawling, often illicit, tourism economy in Havana — had become galling to many. This, along with the U.S. government’s willingness to prop up an increasingly unpopular dictator (Batista) inspired many to join the movement to overturn his government.
After the revolution against Batista brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, tensions between Cuba and the United States escalated quickly amid Cold War-era U.S. interventions throughout the hemisphere. This geopolitical context inspired and accelerated the radicalization of Cuban domestic politics and gave anti-imperialism an increasingly central place in the government’s rhetoric.”
“Despite Covid-19 surges in Europe, the United States of America’s extraordinary death toll remains among the worst in the developed world.
As of January 9, 2021, nearly 373,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US, with a death rate of more than 1.1 per 1,000 people, according to Our World in Data.
While there are nations with higher death rates, this still puts the US in the top 20 percent for deaths among the world’s developed countries, with more than twice the death rate of the median developed country.”
“As a result of Covid-19 surges in Europe, the US does look relatively better, compared to other developed nations, than in September. Back then, the US had seven times the death toll as the median developed country. That gap has shrunk massively — to two times.
That’s not because the US has done better but because Europe has done much worse. After managing to largely suppress the coronavirus over the spring and summer of 2020, Europe eased up over the late summer and fall, and saw huge surges as a result.”
“there are some countries that have managed the pandemic well. That includes some European nations like Denmark, Estonia, Cyprus, Finland, Norway, and Iceland. But the biggest success stories are Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan — which have broadly adopted more aggressive government measures against the coronavirus than America.”
“So why did the US fail so badly? A lot of this comes down to President Donald Trump. He pushed the country to reopen far too early and quickly, calling on states to “LIBERATE” their economies. He abdicated federal leadership and instead forced states, cities, and private entities to pick up the slack on a host of issues, particularly testing and, recently, vaccines. He downplayed the need for masks, outright mocking people, such as President-elect Joe Biden, for wearing them. The list goes on and on.
In comparison, other leaders around the world have taken Covid-19 more seriously — embracing social distancing, testing and tracing, masking, and, when necessary, more extreme measures like lockdowns. Even with the recent surge of the coronavirus, many countries across Europe have reacted quickly and aggressively by imposing lockdowns, slowing the spread of the virus. The US, by comparison, has by and large remained open, with some states still not requiring masks.
Clearly, not everything has gone perfectly in Europe and other parts of the world. A lot of people and places have screwed up their response to the coronavirus, showing that it’s no easy challenge.
But when the numbers are added up, the US remains an extraordinary failure in its handling of Covid-19.”
“It took the world decades of stops and false starts to come up with the Paris climate agreement, and it remains the most potent international framework to get countries to reduce their contributions to global warming. However, it has critical weaknesses that have threatened to collapse it completely.
In 2015, just about every country in the world convened in Paris and agreed to a few simple but hard-fought principles: The climate is changing due to human activity, the world should aim to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century compared to preindustrial levels, every country has an obligation to act, but every country gets to set their own goals.
The terms of the climate agreement are voluntary and don’t carry the force of law (hence “Paris agreement” or “Paris accord,” and not “Paris treaty,” which would be legally binding). But the terms are structured in a way that creates a lot of incentives to encourage countries to do more to limit their emissions of heat-trapping gases, and it contains some prods for countries that are slower to act.
It was clear from the outset that what countries initially planned to do to cut greenhouse gases wouldn’t be enough to stay below 2°C, let alone hit an even more aggressive target under the agreement of limiting warming to less than 1.5°C.”
“the idea of the Paris agreement was to get everyone to agree to a common set of goals and strengthen their commitments over time, with periodic international meetings to see where everyone stands and to hammer out the tedious rules of how to gauge progress. So far, this hasn’t been enough to keep the world on track to meet the goals of the accord.”
“In September, China made a surprise announcement at the United Nations General Assembly that it’s striving to be carbon-neutral by 2060. While China hasn’t laid out exactly how it plans to meet its goal, researchers have begun chalking out a road map to get China to its targets.
The European Union, meanwhile, has adopted a program called the European Green Deal, which aims to make its 28 member countries carbon-neutral by 2050. Its core elements, such as ensuring a just economic transition for workers in industries likely to be left behind in the shift to clean energy, are actually modeled on the Green New Deal proposal in the US. Crucially, Europe’s program calls for a border adjustment carbon tax that could go into effect as soon as 2021. For countries that aren’t doing enough to fight climate change, their goods could face additional tariffs in the EU.
If the United States decided to stay out of the Paris agreement and not step up its commitments, the EU’s new policies could take a big bite out of the US’s roughly $320 billion worth of exports to the bloc.
The EU, China, Japan, and South Korea are also working on their own trade agreements with climate change as a key element.”
“The best item I’ve ever bought for my home is a machine that shoots warm water at my bare butt.”