In early December, it was reported that the American middle class, once 60% of the population, is now a minority. On December 20th, watching Fareed Zacharia’s Global Public Square (GPS), I was shocked to hear a report by Nobel Laureate Economist Angus Deaton with a recent surprising discovery that middle aged whites are dying at an alarming rate. Mr. Deaton attributed this directly to a shrinking middle class and loss of the American Dream. Here’s a partial transcript of his report:
EnlargeFor working-class, middle-aged whites, the news has been incredibly depressing in 2015: a study conducted by Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton found that between 1999-2013, mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites aged 45-54 (especially without a college education) had increased substantially. The causes for the rise in premature deaths vary, from suicide to complications from diabetes to alcohol abuse and liver disease. But if there is one word that, in a nutshell, explains why more white Americans are dying in their 40s and 50s, it is economics.
Life expectancy rates run the gamut in the U.S. Men on average are living until their early 80s in affluent areas like Marin County, CA and Fairfax County, VA compared to a mere 64 in the predominantly white and much poorer McDowell County in West Virginia. In fact, men in parts of rural West Virginia are dying even younger than men in notoriously unequal countries in Central America. The sad reality is that the increasing misery among working-class middle-aged whites is, in some cases, self-inflicted: in red states especially, many of the people who are dying from alcoholism, morbid obesity, poor diet and untreated diabetes are the same people who watch Fox News religiously, vote straight Republican and show up at Donald Trump or Ted Cruz rallies.
Less educated Americans who are drawn to Trump or Cruz wouldn’t dream of voting for centrist Hillary Clinton, let alone a self-described democratic socialist like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. They have been conned into believing that outspoken progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren are enemies of free enterprise when in truth, they are pushing for a more ethical form of capitalism. And the more they vote for Big Business Republicans, who support the outsourcing of American jobs to poor developing countries, the worse their lives will become.
On the TV show Mr. Deaton was more dramatic in making the connection between outsourcing middle class jobs and the dying off of the middle class. For example, he claimed a major reason for the despair, leading to suicide and drug and alcohol abuse, was that upon leaving school these young people were finding the factories where they expected to work had moved to China, Viet Nam and Cambodia.
I have been known to attribute many of America’s problems to outsourcing middle class manufacturing jobs but this tops any connection I have ever made. Mr. Deaton claims that the decline of America as world leader in manufacturing has led to a decimated middle class, income disparity, and the dying off of Republicans’ most reliable constituency.
A crazy irony in this is that “Big Business” Republicans are primarily the force behind these job losses by pushing their post-industrial, globalist agenda. So as they push this agenda they are driving out their core constituency.
Trade policies and bad trade deals are the main cause of the shrinking voting bloc. This has made the pending Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) the new “third rail” for both parties. This is why 70% of Republican primary voters want someone other than another establishment candidate. Knowing this, Republican leaders in Congress have said they will delay a vote on TPP until after the election. They don’t want their members who support TPP facing angry voters during their campaigns. Upwards of 70% of Republican voters oppose TPP and Democratic voters are even more opposed to it.
This makes TPP the locus of the current battle “for the soul of the Republican Party” which is crucial to the survival of the Republican Party. If the party can’t shake the grip of the “Washington Cartel” (Big Business, Big Government and Big Media alliance), they may relegate the party, along with the communist party, to the ash heap of history.
How best will all Americans be served? Will the Republican Party reform itself? Will Americans vote again for divided government and gridlock? Must we suffer through a long and tedious process of developing a third party?
Frank Shannon served in the U.S. Army, was an engineering/operations manager for AT&T for 27 years, was the owner of a small manufacturing business for 23 years, served as Colorado Chair of the Coalition for a Prosperous America and moved to Mesquite in 2013.