Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Trickle-Down Economics is Killing Middle-Aged White Men

Those without a job or a pension (or an inheritance) are totally screwed. Republicans have been cutting everything from unemployment benefits to food stamps to Medicaid — and want to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits for retirement and disability too. And they want to cut wages and/or offshore jobs for their corporate sponsors too. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't --- find a job (preferably one paying a living wage).

Damned if we do and damned if we don't --- find a job

And voters with jobs always seem to vote for politicians to cut these programs for people without jobs, not realizing that there is a very good chance that they too will one day need these benefits for themselves (many, if not sooner rather than later.)

Many homeless people in Los Angeles could die this year because they refuse to leave their living quarters near storm drains. New York City also struggles with homelessness (in a town where multi-million penthouses remain vacant most of the year.)

The GOP is always saying we're living longer, and why we should raise the age for Social Security retirement to 70 (even though it's the rich who are mostly living longer). For the Republicans, it's almost as if life is the most precious thing in the whole Universe at the exact moment of conception; but the very second someone is born, they are left all on their own to fend for themselves for the next 70 years.

We've learned since the Great Recession that anybody over 50 is screwed when looking for a new job — so there is already a very long window (20 years) of economic insecurity for many older workers in the United States. (That's assuming one is lucky enough to be healthy and employed while earning a living wage to survive on for the first 50 years).

And to make matters worse, corporations have been stealing pensions from workers. (One union says GM is cheating retirees out of $95 million in benefits.)

Add to that, a new study shows: "White, middle-aged Americans are dying at a rising rate, a startling reversal that suggests addiction and mental-health issues are setting back decades of gains in longevity. Suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and chronic liver diseases largely drove the rise, which occurred between 1999 and 2013. Economic stress may play a role in substance abuse by middle-aged white people".

Many people are reaching midlife short of a cornerstone of the American dream: making more money than their parents did. Average hourly wages in real terms have been stagnate for decades. Median real household income for whites with a high-school education have fallen since the late 1990s. (Economic Policy Institute: "Wages for top earners soared in 2014. Fly top 0.1 percent, fly!")

Quote of the Day: "Americans must understand that when some talk about entitlements, they mean you are not entitled, but they are."

Are we headed for another recession?

Factory Orders Comes Crashing the Economic Party 

Q3 GDP A Not So Hot 1.5%


  1. 100 CEOs Have More in Retirement Savings Than 41 Percent of Americans Combined

  2. New York Times:

    The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased ... Middle-aged whites were committing suicide at an unprecedented rate and that the all-cause mortality in this group was rising ... Deaths from drug and alcohol poisoning also increased in this group. The least educated also had the most financial distress ... The number of whites with mental illnesses and the number reporting they had difficulty socializing increased in tandem. Along with that, increasing numbers of middle-aged whites said they were unable to work and reported difficulty socializing, difficulty shopping, and difficulty walking for two blocks ... Their increasing reports of pain, poor health and distress provided a rationale for the increase in deaths from substance abuse and suicides.

    Ronald D. Lee, professor of economics, professor of demography and director of the Center on Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley, was among those taken aback by what Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case discovered: “Seldom have I felt as affected by a paper. It seems so sad.”

  3. New York Fed:

    Even though male and female workers have similar unemployment rates, men are more likely to lose their jobs during recessions because they are more likely to work in cyclically sensitive sectors such as construction and manufacturing. Job loss rates are also both higher and more cyclical for young workers and less educated workers. However, duration of unemployment follows a different pattern. Even though young workers have higher risk of unemployment, they face much shorter unemployment spells. Job loss is less likely for older workers, but if they lose their jobs, they tend to experience longer jobless spells.

  4. Now White People Are Dying From Our Terrible Economic Policies, Too: "As the middle class hollows out, whites who started life under relatively promising circumstances are finally seeing the floor fall out under them."

  5. Paul Krugman:

    "Something terrible is happening to white American society. And it’s a uniquely American phenomenon; you don’t see anything like it in Europe, which means that it’s not about a demoralizing welfare state. ... Something terrible is happening to our country — and it’s not about Those People, it’s about the white majority."

  6. Paul Krugman:

    White Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and drinking. But what’s causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior? In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true. That sounds like a plausible hypothesis..., but the truth is that we don’t really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society. Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them [They did!]. So you can understand why some voters have rallied around politicians who at least seem to feel their pain.

    Comments on the article at Mark Thoma's blog:

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