GUEST COMMENTARY - If dying young appeals to you, here's a simple bit of advice: move to a state or county controlled by Republicans.
At first glance, the images below appear to be political maps. And in the most real sense of the word they are: the county-by-county differences shown by the map from Jeremy Ney's brilliant American Inequality Substack newsletter and the state-by-state screen shot from the CDC's NCHS below it.
Both reflect, in large part, decades of regional policy differences.
Long-lived parts of America have generally embraced progressive policies dating back to FDR's New Deal; the early-death parts of our country most often reflect conservative opposition to everything from the working-class wealth that unionization and higher minimum wages bring, to the availability of healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
To zoom out ever farther, since many conservative policies affect the entire country, consider what happened to the health of our nation in the 1980s with the Reagan Revolution. It's particularly visible when you compare the outcomes of our healthcare system with other developed countries.
Our World In Data lays it out starkly, as you will see below. One of the proudest accomplishments of the neoliberal Reagan Revolution was—following a bill Nixon signed in 1973 that opened the door—overturning laws in state-after-state that required both hospitals and health insurance companies to run as non-profits.
Reagan also, in 1983, ordered the DOJ, FTC, and SEC to essentially stop enforcing anti-trust laws dating back to the 1891 Sherman Act, resulting in the "Mergers & Acquisitions Mania" that characterized the 1980s and inspired the "greed is good" movie Wall Street starring Michael Douglas.
Health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturers all morphed from regional and competitive organizations into giant, monopolistic predators.
Their profits exploded and our lifespans collapsed. Every year now, they spread hundreds of millions of dollars around Washington DC and state capitols to prevent regulation and maintain the status quo.
We are, quite literally, the only country in the world with a corrupt Supreme Court that has legalized this kind of a vicious attack on its citizens by a bought-off political party and their morbidly rich donors.
The Republicans on the Supreme Court call it "free speech" but every other nation in the world knows it's simply naked, criminal, political bribery.
As you can see above, the average American spends more than twice as much on healthcare every year as do the citizens of any other developed country in the world. And, as the Reagan Revolution really bit hard in the 1980s and 1990s, our average lifespans collapsed while corporate healthcare profits exploded.
And it's not just death by lack of healthcare that skews these statistics: if you're concerned about being murdered, it's also a good idea to avoid states run by conservatives. As the centrist Third Way think tank noted last month:
- "In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.
- "8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century."
It's true of Red cities as well. Again, from Third Way:
"In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump."
And don't even think about having sex in Red states: they generally lead America in sexually transmitted diseases, presumably because most have outlawed teaching sex education in their public schools.
The five states with the highest rates of Chlamydia infections are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and New Mexico. The highest rates of Gonorrhea are in Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.
Speaking of schools, the states with the lowest educational attainment in the nation are entirely Red states. Ranked from terrible to absolutely worst, they are: Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
As giddy as Republicans are about "owning the libs," the citizens they govern pay a tragic price for the sport. They are literally dying as conservative politicians revel in their ability to cut taxes for the rich and suppress wages and healthcare for everybody else.
Republicans are about to take over the House of Representatives and begin their "investigations" into, well, anything that will distract from these terrible statistics. In the meantime, Americans, particularly those in Red states and counties, will continue to die at rates considered obscene by the standards of every other developed nation in the world.
Our next chance to put America back on track will be in two years, and we damn well better get ready.
(Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream" (2020); "The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America" (2019); and more than 25 other books in print. This article was first featured in CommonDreams.org.)