Exploring Human Potential

Deplorable Conditions and “Deaths of Despair” Trap Trump Loyalists.

Posted on | March 24, 2017 | No Comments

Mike Magee

As the House leadership twists arms today, the noose is getting tighter by the minute around the necks of the most loyal Trump voting block – white males with only a high school education or less.

As the twisted deliberations over a deeply flawed bill progress, Brookings is hosting the Nobel Prize winning economist Angus Deaton whose latest survey results could not be more timely. His lead: Deaths of white males with no higher education continue to escalate. For those age 50 to 54, white deaths are now 30% higher than mortality rates of blacks in this age bracket.

Deaton, who released the first indicators of a reverse in historic life expectancy advances for whites in 2015, has now labeled the human losses as “deaths of despair.” These tragic outcomes, he believes, are the result of a basket of deplorable conditions that began to trap whites economically over the past two decades. Globalization and technology caught vulnerable whites by surprise – even though they were warned. As Deaton said, “The company man job has gone away for working-class people.”

As jobs disappeared, marriages declined, relationships became stormy, children were born out of wedlock, and individuals were increasingly socially isolated. In response, whites turned to alcohol and drugs, especially opioids. At the same time, owing to the absence of national health care insurance, they put off health care, and their burden of chronic disease including heart attacks, stokes, hypertension, pain syndromes, and mental health deterioration made a bad problem even worse.

For many, Trump spelled hope. But the formula he supports as we speak, will predictably worsen their deplorable state of affairs. As Rand’s labor market expert, James Smith, recently said, “The bad things that are going on in America do not appear to be going on in Western European countries, and that’s a big deal.” Those countries have a secure safety net and health services that the Republicans are busy dismantling.

According to Deaton, this will only get worse if Trump policy prevails. He says, “As these people move into old age, they’re going to be sick, and that has disastrous consequences for Medicare and Social Security policy… People may want to soothe the beast. They may do that with alcohol, they may do that with drugs, they may do that with food.”

Harvard professor David Cutler, appearing with Deaton at Brookings today, saw the Trump and Ryan solutions in stark terms.“Treat the fever by causing an even bigger fever,” were his words.


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