It’s not always the victim’s fault

December, with its few hours of bleak sunshine each day, is not a good time to hear bad news.  

Yet, it’s not really comforting to repeatedly hear that the stock market is doing well and we’re at full employment. Not when the stock market always inflates after the government gives the very rich a big bundle of cash and that housing costs are increasing much faster than wages.   

And there’s been an avalanche of bad news lately.  

Last week the President signed an act ending food stamps next April for 700,000 people. Reportedly, leaders in the administration are saving people from becoming dependent. It’s one thing to spend billions subsidizing oil companies–about 10 percent of that aid is returned in campaign contributions–but malnourishment is better than dependency for the poor. 

And Seattlite Charles Mudede, offended by a 60 Minutes feature on homelessness in his city, pointed out it’s not merely that a few individuals made bad decisions. A Brookings Institute study found 53 million American workers (44 percent) earn “a median average of $18,000 a year”–and half are the sole breadwinner in their home. 

Mudede commented, “The universities and the media have yet to imagine…a group of Americans who do not make obvious poor decisions, but who still end up on the street.”  

Humans have an inborn instinct to blame the victim.  It makes it easier to believe it won’t happen to us. But if you’re under 65, chances are you’re one illness away from homelessness.  

And not long after the EPA exempted wetlands and small waterways from Clean Water regulations–its 46th rollback of environmental regulations under Trump–the National Bureau of Economic Research released a study, based on EPA data, stating that “fine particulate pollution increased 5.5 percent between 2016 and 2018, and evidence suggests the spike is responsible for 9.700 premature deaths last year alone.”  

I wonder how much money deregulation saved industries last year. Does anyone believe it could be enough to make up for nearly 10,000 early deaths? 

But we’ve got the cleanest air and the cleanest water in the world, right? 

 Not if you go outdoors. 

The Environmental Performance Index ranks the U.S. first in the world for drinking water, but 29th on water overall. And air? We’re first in indoor air quality, but 88th in exposure to particulate matter.  

Eighty-eighth? And it’s killing people? And everyone is okay with that? 

Just days before Thanksgiving the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study showing that, after declining for decades, the death rate for U.S. adults 25 to 65 years old increased from 2015 to 2017. (Figures for 2018 are yet to come.)

Increasing death rate means lower life expectancy.

The Washington Post reported that “the average life expectancy in the United States fell behind that of other wealthy countries in 1998, and since then the gap has grown steadily.”

The highest increase in the mortality rate since 2010–23 percent–was in New Hampshire. Idaho is among the 22 states in the 6-10 percent range.  

Professors cited many different causes for people dying younger including misusing opioids, driving with cellphones, being overweight, self-destructive habits, suicide, etc. 

Strangely, neither particulates in the air nor any other environmental causes were mentioned. Neither was poverty nor the decreased access to healthcare. 

Apparently, “the universities and the media have yet to imagine…a group of Americans who do not make obvious poor decisions,” but still die young.

I’m waiting for a sunny day before reading the government report on warming that came out Black Friday. I’ve heard it’s depressing. 

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