The United States is one of the wealthiest countries on earth. The small percentage of people who hoard that wealth are likely to have a very good year. The markets are booming with no end in sight, and the Republican tax plan is already doing what it was designed to do: entrenching the wealth and power of large corporations, real estate developers, and wealthy heirs. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just became the wealthiest person in history.
Also, babies born in the United States are 76 times more likely to die in their first year of life than babies born in similarly wealthy countries.
Is it cheap and obvious to juxtapose those facts? Maybe, but they are still the terms of the current crisis. We live in a country of nearly incomprehensible wealth and incomprehensible, unnecessary suffering.
The latter point comes from a new study on childhood mortality published this week in the journal Health Affairs, and reported on by The Washington Post. Researchers compared child mortality rates between 1961 and 2010 in the United States to that of 19 other wealthy democracies during the same time period and found that, in addition to our comparatively staggering infant mortality rate, children between the ages of 1 and 19 were 57 percent more likely to die than their international peers.
For adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, the rate of death by injury is wildly out of line with other countries: researchers found that a 15-year-old in the United States is 82 times more likely to die from gun violence than in a comparable country. For infants, the leading causes of death were sudden infant death syndrome and complications related to premature birth.
There are also persistent racial disparities in infant death rates, a fact that was confirmed once again in a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report also found that even the lowest state rate of mortality for infants of black women—8.27 in Massachusetts—was still “higher than the highest state rates” for infants of white and Latino women.
The researchers behind the Health Affairs study recognize that premature birth and gun violence are vastly different public health issues, but still found a common thread connecting childhood mortality rates across a range of ages and circumstance: extreme wealth inequality and an inadequate safety net. In other words, they were political problems.
They concluded that “persistently high poverty rates, poor educational outcomes, and a relatively weak social safety net have made the U.S. the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into.”
Researchers end the study with a straightforward suggestion: “do everything possible to improve the medical and social conditions of children that are responsible for these preventable deaths.”
The most consequential medical access policy to come out of this administration so far is a plan to make it more difficult for poor people to qualify for state-funded healthcare through work requirements. Meanwhile, it has been over 100 days since Congress let funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures 9 million children, expire. Nearly half of the young children in America rely on CHIP or Medicaid for health care access.
The S&P 500 hit an all-time high again on Tuesday.