The Future Looks Blight (Chapter 2)

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, The Corporate Bund at 4:17 pm by George Smith

Welcome to the great blue collar die-off. That’s the name Barbara Ehrenreich has given to the health news that the life expectancy of middle-aged white people without a college education has decreased, the result of an increase in mortality now equivalent to the death toll due to HIV/AIDS. She knows, having done the definitive work on what has been done to this class in our lifetimes. (“How does one survive on six or seven dollars an hour?” asks one character in the linked video. A No-Prize if you can identify the smarmy guy who says it.)

The economy of the corporate dictatorship has come home to roost for a portion of white America, and it’s class based, a factor the New York Times linked piece doesn’t really get around to until near the end of the piece. Affluent middle class whites haven’t show up in the awful statistics so much. (Yet.)

Nevertheless, the life expectancy for this slice of America’s white tribe is still above that for African Americans, who’ve never faced anything but the grinding wheel of the national economy. However, life expectancy for the same classes in other Western developed nations is on the rise, It is only here where we are so exceptional.

None of this can really be much of a surprise although one of the doctors interviewed by the Times concludes, “It seems so sad.”

I’ve written about the bleak trends in WhiteManistan for a couple years. The Forty Year Slump entry sums up much of what I thought, having experienced it, first hand:

When I was entering college, Alcoa aluminum closed the biggest extrusion plant in the world in Cressona, PA, where my father worked. He escaped lay-off and was transferred to a small soda bottle-cap manufacturing plant outside Lancaster, a three hour drive every day.

The metal-working plants closed. A recession was in full swing when I graduated from college in Reading, PA. There were no jobs so I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Lehigh.

During the Reagan years, the nation’s economic policies destroyed Bethlehem Steel. The center of Allentown and the south side of Bethlehem turned into slums. I saw it happen. The people voted for the man who was killing their future. So did the rest of the country…

When you rip the economic heart out of a community it takes a lot down with it.

I’ve never known a time when the road wasn’t downhill. I suspect most people have the same impression unless they’re of the top slice. The better educated, and with more good fortune, were better at clinging to the diminishing number of seats in the country’s economic version of musical chairs.

But give the statistics a little more time. As more scientists begin looking into the matter, we’ll see more. And in the next few years, perhaps even a little sooner, the same thing is going to come for the college-educated white class. The plutocrats are going to winnow them out and part with even less to those left over, for the privileged work of keeping the lights on and the toilets clean.

And then, like those described in this week’s news, they, too, will self-medicate until death with drink, drugs, suicide and other causes of mortality when masses are permanently ejected from ways to make a living. Dispair and distress will tighten their grip as the country descends into a paradise of all against all. Politically, there’s no reason to expect any change, no radical steps taken to reverse the serious systemic problems that have led us to this point, and certainly not in the next eight years, even if the not-insane party takes the White House.

From the Seattle Times, today:

The average age of the homeless people who have died this year has been 48. Most have been male and white. There were 12 deaths in January, more than in any other month.

Forty-four of the deaths have been by accident or natural causes, seven by suicide and four by homicide. There were 20 deaths classified as involving drugs, alcohol or both.

Murray and Constantine attributed homelessness here to several factors, including what the mayor described as a heroin epidemic “across this nation and in this city.”

The mayor also mentioned, “jobs lost during the Great Recession that have never returned” and inadequate state funding to help people with mental illnesses.

Political theorist Sheldon Wollin died in late October, notes the New York Times, at 93.

In his last book, Wollin described the United States as an example of inverted totalitarianism.

Reads the Times, in its final paragraph on the man:

With time, he took the view that corporate power and political power were becoming so closely intertwined in the United States, and the public so apathetic, that genuine participatory democracy was at best a remote possibility, expressed in rare “fugitive” expressions of the popular will.

“Democracy in the late modern world cannot be a complete political system,” he wrote in a 1994 essay, “and given the awesome potentialities of modern forms of power, and what they exact of the social and natural world, it ought not to be hoped or striven for.”

His last book reflected this dark interpretation of politics in the United States. It bore a sobering title: “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

Perhaps Wollin would say, too, that the decline in life expectancy of America’s white tribe is not at all unexpected, given his analysis of where we are.

Democracy Inc, is here for download, at Cryptome. (And, yes, your host has read it. Although a slightly heavy lift, you should, too.)


  1. anon said,

    November 6, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    It looks like suicide is becoming a leading cause of death in that demographic segment.

    I had a coworker: white, male, divorced, two kids under age 10 living with his ex-wife, in his early to middle fifties, who had undergone heart surgery a few years before his divorce. He used to take “shortcuts,” specifically, cutting pills in half and deciding which medically recommended dietary supplements, like fish oil capsules for blood thinning, to skip in a given month because he wasn’t making enough money. The job had insurance, but this was before the ACA.

    He had a series of strokes, and eventually he gave up any hope. He took off from the rehabilitation facility and was found dead about a day later. This was after a previous suicide attempt in the facility.

    Before the first stroke, was he depressed? Probably. Was he angry? Most certainly. Did he understand the infamous “root causes of the problem,” however? Nope.

    The worst part is that things will keep happening this way until it becomes unprofitable, and those who “opt out” via suicide or addiction will just get called “weak” or “not tough enough.”

  2. George Smith said,

    November 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    The pile of stories that has resulted has focused on the difference between the lower class uneducated white mortality jump, 22 percent, and the increasing life spans in the Hispanic and African American demographics and why this might be so. A New York Times pundit called this possibly the result of a whiite “bourgeois moral logic” (you have to love that as coinage from the snob) being blown up whereas the lower two demographics never clung to such.

    There’s some truth to it, one supposes, but what I think it boils down to is the white middle class has had its Bible of pieties and received wisdoms about ‘Merica exposed as a network of elaborate bullshits in no way supported by the reality of the last four decades. And it’s had a collective nervous breakdown resulting in a blinding rage that wants to lock up everything, or tear it down, if it’s going down, too. So the question to ask the leadership of the country, and the wealthy, do they think grinding all the economic value out of labor and the middle class was worth it given they’ve created a monster, a set of political, economic and civic conditions that virtually guarantees an end to their American empire.

    The part of this story that has to do with increase in mortality is just another consequence of it. The same thing happened to white men in Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the takeover of all the assets by the oligarchs. There, the mortality jump was even higher and much more rapid.

    But I’ll reiterate my belief that the great white middle class die-off won’t stay confined to those with only high school educations. It will come for a segment of the college-educated, too, as the economy increasingly sees them as unfit for work, too, reducing them to gypsy cab driving for Uber, renting out their bedrooms, or holding three adjunct faculty positions. Since many of the educated now certainly qualify for food stamps and the Medicaid expansion under the ACA, they’re certainly feeling the same pressures and stresses as the uneducated. I know it for a fact. If you know any of the highly educated people who work in newspapers, you know they’re facing it, they have health problems, too, as a result of the predation, and they’re trying to get to retirement as fast as possible while hoping the owners don’t attack what pensions and benefits they have left.

    I was going to put this in another post, but I might as well throw the link in here, to the Financial Times.


    America’s Labor Market is Not Working

    By no less than Martin Wolf.

    “The relentless decline in the proportion of prime-aged US adults in the labour market indicates a significant dysfunction,” he writes near the end.

    In this piece Wolf explains the US is the only advanced nation where the labor market is so broken. He adds that one big thing is a contributor: corporate America is only really interested in employing people under 25 or over 60 (probably part-time) because they’re the most pliant and can be paid the least.

    The destruction of the labor market, which has only accelerated since the Great Recession, inversely coincides with the rise in mortality.

    As for why Hispanics and African Americans mortality rates are decreasing (although the African American rate is still higher than that for whites), I’d say it has a lot to do with better coping skills.

    I live in a more downscale side of Pasadena. There are a lot of little food markets, the dollar store and such that help stretch things. None of these things exist to such an extent where the white mortality rate jumped. A few days every week, there’s a table where people sign up the locals for national cell phone safety-net benefit.

    In white America, where they’re dieing because of dispair, alcohol and drug overdoses, and lack of access to healthcare because their states didn’t even allow the Medicaid expansion, they bitch about “the Obamaphone” because they watch Fox and get a daily dose of news about the leeches dragging the country down.

    The problems facing American society as it proceeds into the future are virtually unresolvable given the facts on the ground.