Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Campaign 2004 - 2 -- 4 more years of what?

In "The Vicious Cycle That's Killing Us," Tech Central Station, Aug 6, 2004, Radley Balko reports:

It appears that America has a new public health crisis on its hands, one "every bit as threatening as the terrorist threat." Economist Christopher Ruhm concludes in a paper published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research:
"During temporary economic downturns, smoking and weight decline, while exercise rises. Specifically, the drop in tobacco use is stronger for heavy smokers, the fall in body weight is larger in the severely obese, and exercise increases most among those who were completely inactive."
Ruhm drew similar conclusions in a 2000 study, when he found that a 1% dip in the employment rate generally corresponds to a 0.5% drop in the death rate. As the NBER Digest notes, "Three other studies have shown similar results: a fall in total fatalities during economic downturns for 50 Spanish provinces, 16 German states, and 23 OECD countries."

Unless we act now, affluence may soon become America's number one killer.

Balko then proceeds to castigate politicians for failing to act against this threat to public health and well-being.
In fact, not only have our public officials let killer prosperity go unchecked, a Lexis search reveals that nearly every single elected official in the country has openly and without apology advocated policies they believe will increase overall wealth and prosperity! Our politicians are openly encouraging Americans to increase their chances of death! Where are the media?
And the victims of these misguided policies are of course found disproportionately among the poor, especially minorities.
Predictably, the wealth menace hits minorities and the poor the hardest. According to NBER, "The 1-point increase in unemployment is predicted to decrease severe obesity among males, blacks, and Hispanics by 2.0, 3.1, and 4.3 percent, compared to 1 percent for both whites and females."

This makes sense, if you think about it. The already-rich aren't affected much by a suddenly robust economy. They had money all along. Their lifestyles were set.

It's the working poor who have the most to gain -- and, therefore, the most to lose. An economic boom makes people rich who weren't rich before. Therefore it makes people less healthy than they were before they increased their income.

Racist, regressive and ruthless, why should we allow Americans to be tempted by the fickle allure of affluence?

Though fair and balanced in assigning blame across the political spectrum, he courageously points to one group of politicians most responsible for this sad state of affairs.
As is often the case, free market types deserve most of the blame. While all elected officials claim to want to impose the threat of affluence on all Americans, from what I can tell, it seems that the policies promoted by the free marketers actually do the most to create wealth. That of course makes ardent capitalists responsible for the death by wealth of thousands of formerly poor Americans.
But if Balko's going to hand out blame he should be equally fair and balanced and hand out praise as well. Surely the Bush Administration is owed some credit here for a set of economic policies that have spared the traditional victims from the ravages of affluence!

And surely the Bush/Cheney campaign is missing the boat by failing to showcase the benefits their four more years of their policies would bring to the vast majority of the American people.


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