Inequality Kills: Top 1% Lives 15 Years Longer Than the Poorest

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Yves here. Notice how the article includes the “Oh those poor people make bad lifestyle choices,” as the reason for shorter lifespans among the poor. While it gives a contrasting set of arguments, it sanitizes them by putting them under the heading of “stress,” such as those that are directly related to economic desperation and despair (suicide and drug addiction), as well as those that are due to living in neighborhoods with environmental hazards or safety issues. I hope other researchers will isolate the impact of higher level of suicides and drug-related deaths among the poor on the averages. Then you have the next order issues of less access to medical care.

I suspect one reason that poor people live longer (relatively speaking) in NYC is not the lifestyle choices some experts harp on, but that people in NYC are more active by virtue of being required to walk a lot. Obesity levels are much lower than in the poor areas of the South and Middle West. Unless you live right on top of one of the major bridges or tunnels, everyone here has the same air quality, and NYC tap water is also famously high quality. I know poor people who are HIV positive and get free meds from clinics here. I doubt most places in the US provide that much support for HIV positive residents.

Subtly, one can argue that poor people here are less poor in lifestyle terms than elsewhere. NYC has excellent public transportation, which makes it somewhat less difficult to manage being poor. The city has good parks and free entertainment of various sorts. Mind you, we are still taking degrees of hardship, but less hardship may make a difference in terms of stress, which also affects health. By contrast, when I visit Birmingham, I see women of color in lily-white neighborhoods (always women who are likely maids given that they are waiting in neighborhoods with no business districts or strip malls in walking distance) waiting for the busses that hardly ever run and wonder how they can possibly manage. And they are unlikely to be the worst off.

By Sam Pizzigati, who edits the Institute for Policy Studies inequality weekly Too Much. His latest book, published by Seven Stories Press, is entitled “The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.” Originally published at

Rich people live longer than poor people. No big news there—we’ve known that health tracks wealth for quite some time now.

But here’s what we haven’t known: The life-expectancy gap between rich and poor in the United States is actually accelerating.

Since 2001, American men among the nation’s most affluent 5 percent have seen their lifespans increase by more than two years. American women in that bracket have registered an almost three-year extension to their life expectancy.

Meanwhile, the poorest five percent of Americans  no gains at all.

Now a three-year gain in average lifespan might not, at first glance, seem earth-shakingly significant. But consider this: If doctors could by some miracle suddenly cure all cancer, federal health officials  the average overall American life expectancy would increase by just three years.

In other words, as MIT’s Michael Stepner , the changes in life expectancy we’ve witnessed over the last 15 years rank as “the equivalent of the richest Americans winning the war on cancer.”

The gap widens to a chasm when you look at the 1 percent.

Forty-year-old American women among our nation’s top 1 percent can now expect to live 10 years longer than women of the same age in America’s poorest 1 percent. For men, the gap has grown even wider—to 15 years.

All these stats come from a study  in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This new research combines IRS tax records with Social Security Administration mortality data to paint a deeply unnerving picture of 21st-century life and death.

That poor Americans “have 10 or 15 fewer years of life,” notes Stepner, a co-author of the study, “really demonstrates the level of inequality we’ve had in the United States.”

So what do we do about this inequality?

Stepner and his colleagues belong to the “practical politics” camp. They see inequality as too entrenched to take head-on. Better, they advise, to spend money on social services for the poor and promote healthy behaviors like not smoking and eating wisely. Poor Americans, , live longer in unequal places——that take this approach.

But other analysts  on this perspective. Focusing on the unhealthy behaviors of the poor, they argue, lets the rich—and their political pals—off the hook.

People who engage in unhealthy habits, these analysts point out, don’t smoke or do drugs or overindulge in junk food because they don’t know enough to protect their health. They engage in these habits because they’re seeking relief from the stresses of everyday life.

Deeply unequal societies, researchers  over the past four decades,  of these stresses than more equal societies. And this greater stress affects everyone, the affluent included.

In places where the wealthiest don’t make all that much more than everyone else, where you stand on the economic ladder doesn’t make all that much of a difference. You’re not going to obsess—and stress—about it.

In deeply unequal societies, it’s . If you have money in these societies, you’re going to worry about losing it. If you don’t have money, you’re going to feel intense pressure to get it.

Amid all this stress, people will naturally seek relief. The affluent can afford to get this relief from behaviors that support their health. They can go to spas and country clubs. And if they should veer off onto some health-threatening path, they can always afford a stint in a .

Poor people don’t have those options. So the gap between how long they live and how long the rich live continues to widen. If we want to change that dynamic, we have only one choice: We have to confront, not accept, inequality.

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91 comments

  1. Eduardo Quince

    Instead of inequality kills, a more apt title would be money buys longevity

    1. Knifecatcher

      And just like that you’ve placed the responsibility back on the poor for not being more successful, rather than our institutions and society for restricting access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

      1. Eduardo Quince

        I’m not placing responsibility on anyone. The article says the widening gap in lifespans between the rich and poor is due to longevity gains at the upper end of the income distribution. At the lower end of the income distribution, the average lifespan remains unchanged. If it were getting shorter, you could say inequality kills. But there’s no killing going on, only lifespan extension among the rich. I’m not saying it’s fair but let’s call a spade a spade.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It used to be that as GDP rose, lifespans also increased at all income levels.

          And in case you missed it, there have been studies showing rising death rates among middle aged less educated rural whites, and a separate study showing shortening lifespans among rural women. This study was broader in terms of cohorts.

          I stand by the title.

          1. Eduardo Quince

            Point taken, though the studies you cite imply that rurality may be more lethal than economic inequality

            1. DJG

              Eduardo: No. What we know from the collapse of economic life in many U.S. small towns is that rural poverty is bad and increasing. Because the U.S. is so urbanized now, rural poverty also is invisible. See the link that I pasted in below, about poverty in economically strapped small-town Arkansas.

  2. tim s

    People who engage in unhealthy habits, these analysts point out, don’t smoke or do drugs or overindulge in junk food because they don’t know enough to protect their health. They engage in these habits because they’re seeking relief from the stresses of everyday life.

    Stupid is as stupid does. Regardless of whether one is rich or poor, If this is one’s response to stress, then expect no improvement in their condition.

    I’d imagine that the increase in longevity is primarily related to medical care access & life prolonging drugs. The rich can still be unhealthy, stressed, and miserable, yet live longer.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      They also act if the poor have realistic choices. Junk food is cheap not just in $ terms but in time terms, and a low-income person may not be able to “pay up” in terms of one or another to not eat them some of the time. And what would they replace it with? Probably something like pasta (cheap calories you can store easily at home and cook quickly), which isn’t good for you either.

      1. tim s

        Beans, rice, seasoning. Easy to cook, keeps well, sticks to your ribs, non-addictive. One can do much worse than that as far as nutrition and taste goes, and many people do. Cheap also. Cheaper per unit nutrition than all the subsidized junk food crap. Both available in large quantities, and can be cooked in larger quantities for a week worth of eating. Not to mention both were staple foods for “poor” folk long before processed foods.

        Time? Three hours ONCE a week can prepare enough food to eat for the week. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You really don’t have a clue of what time stress looks like. Three house is a huge amount of time and proves my point.

          I don’t have three hours once a week to cook or for any discretionary activity. Ten minutes is a lot of time for me, which is why my posts have so many typos. Poor people are time and money stressed.

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            Thank you Ives. Like many working single parents, I find time to use a crockpot maybe once every 2 weeks to make a stew or beans. These wholesome one pot meals take about 20-40 minutes of prep time, and then you need to be able to focus some attention on them during the ~6 hour cooking process. It is a major, massive effort to find the time to do this. If I were truly living the life of a professional (with 50+ hour work weeks punctuated by being with my kid) I would not have the time to make red beans even ~once a month. If I were constantly waiting to be called for a few hours of desperately needed hourly work………. it would be impossible.

            Like most internet scolds he has no idea of what he’s talking about; only a cutesy vision of cultural probity that mocked reality even when it was formulated (in the 1950s, based on nostalgia about rural lifestyles).

            You know why our now deceased grandmothers took to canned soups, sliced bread in plastic wrappers, and other culinary atrocities of the mid-century? They — at home — didn’t have the time to cook like 19th century pioneers. In the 50s, Procter and Gamble grew rich off of easing a real need; in the 90s Martha Stewart grew rich off upper middle class contempt for that effort.

            Food scolds are particularly contemptible minions of the modern elite.

            1. tim s

              I have more than enough clues. That is no three hours of intensely focused time. The beans cook while you can do other things, including nap if needed. Been there.

              You can’t tell me that all poor people have no time. There is much variety in being poor. You can’t just lump them all together and make blanket statements as is so often done by those others. There is also community to be had in being poor. I know asian poor in the states who eat better than rich whites, and it’s not expensive food.

              It’s one thing to try to help the poor by correcting injustice, and it’s another thing to have this abject pity for them in stating that they are completely helpless. That is degrading, and incorrect. Plenty still have some dignity and ability to deal with their circumstances. Those that can’t or won’t, so be it. Life is struggle, and the strongest survive. Flame suit on – that’s the way it is. Creationists, even in disguise, may disagree.

              The above was for Yves previous post.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Sorry, if I leave anything on my stove for 2 hours it winds up burned. And that includes bean soups which have a lot more water in them than cooked beans. You still assume someone has time to putter around the house/apartment and not be engaged in some other form of concentrated activity. You do not comprehend time stress. If someone has young kids, they command/demand attention, for instance.

                1. tim s

                  After a certain amount of time and experience, you really should be able to figure out how much water to add so that it doesn’t all boil off.

                  OK, you’re stressed. Gotta deal with it. I have a 9, 7 & 3 year old, and I’m not exactly a spring chicken. A full time job, two acres with a garden, 15 or so fruit trees, four goats, 15 or so chickens, three bee hives, three vehicles to maintain, only one of which was made after 2000, a 1948 tractor I got for $750 a couple of weeks ago that should be running and very useful with a carb rebuild, gas tank cleaning, and a hydraulic lift rebuild, all of which I have to learn about as I go. Fortunately my past experience maintaining vehicles is very applicable. Still, I could have killed myself with an error in draining the fuel tank that left more gasoline on the floor of my garage than I was at all comfortable with. I have a house built in 1960 that has problems with everything from the septic system to the well to the foundation. Most all of which I do. I’d be broke if I had to pay for all of the work required around here. And I could go on. I am the sole supporter of the family. My wife stays at home. She takes care of the food needs for the family, as well as the typical household work. I make less than six figures a year. It may sound like BS, but I assure you nothing I’ve said here is a lie or even a half-truth. How can you say I do not comprehend time stress?

                  1. Yves Smith Post author

                    You have a wife who is full time at home.

                    You do not have any comprehension of time stress. You have a dedicated home worker. That is a luxury in America. Most couples have both members in the workforce.

            2. tim s

              Fluffy. I routinely make pots of beans with onion and garlic. Beans soaked overnight – time involved, 2 minutes. Chop onions and garlic pods – 1 min. sautee, 2 minutes. Beans soaked overnight – time involved, 2 minutes. Combined with seasonings and heated to boiling – 15 minutes. Pot boils for two hours – I’m doing something else. Hardly a significant time investment. You have kids? they can help. That can be quality time. I know – I’ve done it. I’m teaching it to my kids. They can do it already.

              I have used a crockpot, and it can cook overnight. Also left it on while going to work. Never had to pay any particular attention to it.

              Sure, the 19th century pioneers had it so well off, plenty of leisure time….oh wait. I wonder what they’d say about all of this…

              Internet scold is pretty dismissive, as is a judgement that I don’t have a clue. Keep in mind that there have been hard times before, and the people who could summon the strength to survive were our ancestors. Sometime in the future people will the say the same about our time, because there will be those who survive all of this, and no doubt there will be harder times than this coming. Of course there will be plenty of people who don’t, but then, that’s the nature of our existence. Some have it easier, and some harder. Those who can survive the hardest will be the strongest of all. The poor can either take up this challenge, or they will not, but pity will do them no good.

              1. Lambert Strether

                “pity will do them no good.”

                There are a lot of things that will do the poor no good, including a large number of “If only they would ______” tropes; fill in the blanks with a solution, including the American tradition of rugged individualism.

              2. cwaltz

                You’re making assumptions. I assure you if you leave beans in a pot for 12 -13 hours even on low that they will burn( a 10 hour day,which counts as 9 because it includes lunch, commute time of 3 hours for both to work and home because you are taking a bus.)

                Just because you have a day where you can easily adjust things doesn’t mean everyone does. Many of the really poor are not just working one job but two which would increase commute times. That increases time stress. It’s not about being stupid, it’s about having the luxury of dictating the terms of when you will work. It’s about having the means to sit around while those beans cook instead of paying the opportunity cost.

                I have a child and one of the first things I insisted on was when he created his availability that he have one full day off. I explained to him this day would benefit both him and his employer. It would allow him to have a full day to get things like laundry and shopping done. I also explained to him that while his employer might not believe it, the day would also benefit his employer because it would mean my son could predict his days off to schedule things like dental. Despite my explaining the reasoning and my son following through on requesting the day off(Thursdays) before working there, on at least more than one occasion that his employer has scheduled him for a day that is supposed to be off limits. His options are better than the average poor worker since he lives at home and can afford to stand up to his employer when this happens(and yes mom has insisted that he stand up and say listen I’m willing to be a little flexible and work early or stay late but I’m NOT willing to work 7 days a week because you can’t find enough help for the market price you are offering) however, many don’t have the luxury of being out of work and finding another job. If you live paycheck to paycheck(something I am working on making sure my children can avoid by allowing them to save on rent) even losing a few days work can be problematic.

          2. jrs

            It’s hard to find time, but I push back and try to make time, not because this is possible for everyone always but because it is possible for me sometimes, but only with great will and effort. And sometimes I accept I lose that battle, eat quick and junky.

            I think we may need to become super scheduled to get by in this world, schedule our free time even. That’s hard for those who aren’t super scheduled types by nature, but were meant to be easy going laid back creative types, not lazy but having time to follow their muse (type B not type A!), but can’t be without everything falling apart in this crazy culture. We were supposed to be able to work less with technological progress, isn’t it about time we demand to work less?

          3. PQS

            Yes. And the commenter assumes more than just time. S/he also assumes access to a clean and working kitchen with a stove that works and a fridge as well. Oh, and someone to do this work for a family on top of working, commuting, and shopping for said ingredients.

            Not to mention the assumption that somehow a diet of beans and rice forever is not either monotonous or lacking in other nutrients.

            1. tim s

              We’re talking the “poor” here, not the homeless. That’s another story. most poor have a stove and fridge, at least in the states. Many poor have family, especially the Hispanics. Quite often they have an extended family, frequently with the older women doing these things. Community and family is most necessary for the poor to get by. If one is poor and alone, then good luck – it will be most needed when behind the 8-ball.

              Food need not be an event or entertainment. Sustenance and nutrition is sufficient. On the flip side, there is much variety to be had in beans and rice. So many variations with peppers alone, for example. I’ve been eating beans for lunch for years now.

              1. tegnost

                have you noticed that rents are increasing and previously poor people are now homeless people? You sound like a pretty austere person, sustenance and nutrition are enough certainly if all your other needs are met, and what do you advise the poor without family to do? where do you store your beans after you cook them? don’t beans need a couple of hours on the stove? I think you’re talking about people who have legacy housing, but call themselves poor because they don’t spend much on food. I’m calling you out as not likely an actual poor person. $20,000 a year in 1980 was a lot more than poor, what is your current financial state?

              2. Yves Smith Post author

                Sorry, I know people in NYC who are above poverty level technically and don’t fit your picture. One lives in flat with a roommate (and we are talking very small one bedroom in a former tenement, 350 square feet, one person living in the small living room, the other in a loft bed in the small bedroom, miniscule galley kitchen) with only a half fridge and effectively no shelf space. I know another person who lives in a different version of the tenement apartment, similar size, by herself, and again no full fridge. At least she has a bit of kitchen storage space, but all that allows for is a very skimpy set of pots, a few nesting steel bowls she uses for food prep and eating, and a pan, a few canned items, and minimal spices. Neither person has enough counter space for any real food prep. The best they can do is put a board over the sink.

          4. tim s

            Haven been repeatedly been told I have no clue, I figure I’ll give a little history. It wasn’t until I was about 30 that I ever made more than $20,000 a year. I was single. I didn’t need more money. I rarely spend money on restaurants or fast food. Didn’t have car’s worth more that a couple thousand in the late 80’s & 90’s. Rented. Worked odd jobs and then drove a cab for a few years. My entertainment was close to free. I played guitar, read alot of library books & people watched.. Shopped at thrift stores. Generally bought just staples from the store. Most years I made less than $10,000. Dumpster dove – found lots of great stuff. Even periods where I got alot of my food from dumpsters – better than you might think. What I smoked was relatively cheap. I have a clue or two.

            My mom goes to church and they have a garden she tends to. It does very well. So much great vegetation. She comments frequently how so few of the members take advantage of it, almost noone eats any of it. Are they poor people at this church? Maybe, but most are not. May they be “poor” tomorrow? Absolutely a possibility. What will they say then when their food choices are the choices are like these “food deserts” mentioned here. Will they suck it up, go out and grow some food, or will they just fall apart. Odds are pretty good that the latter would be the case based on their current habits. Do people even know that food can be grown out of the ground in many places? People can even grow food with no ground, just water and some containers, maybe a pump. What do you think that the logical end to such ignorance will be??? Pity will do these people no good at all.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              You can take pride in managing well in your circumstances, but your circumstances are not what I am talking about. You still don’t get it. Many people who are poor are incredibly time stressed on top of being poor, particularly those who have families. Three hours is an enormous amount of time for someone who is working a job in retail (where the new rules are they call you at the last minute and if you don’t jump you lose the slot and maybe the job) and trying to slot 2-3 other gigs on top of that. James Levy confirms that this is an issue for him and his wife.

              For most places in the US, the local minimum wage is well below a living wage for a single person, let alone a person with family obligations. That often means they try getting 50+ hours of paid work. With commuting time, that’s more like 60-70 hours for work before you get to having to keep your family from falling apart and keep your house/apartment minimally maintained (laundry, etc).

              You exhibit zero understanding of the idea of time stress. A person who is time stressed does not have time to go dumpster diving because it may not pay off. Or keep a garden because they don’t have time to attend to it consistently enough to wind up with decent crops.

              You basically ‘fess up elsewhere that poor people have trouble getting on if they can’t get help, meaning labor and other assistance, from family members. What if you grew up in a manufacturing town where there is no work? Your parents and older relatives might be able to stay by virtue of having bought houses long ago and having Social Security and Medicare, but you can’t. Or you are estranged from your family for good reason, say physical or sexual abuse? You assume an awful lot based on your experience when it is not universally applicable.

              1. tim s

                You can’t get universal applicability to something as nebulous a “poor”, or even ill defined. Poor is pretty much defined in our economic oriented terminology as not making a minimum amount of money per year. There is no definite poor. People come and go. What is poor to one person is not poor to another.

                I wholly agree that family and community are essential factors. A poor person rich in family and community is better off than a rich person with noone. I also wholly admit to saying that not everyone will survive their hardship. Ours is a more natural world than we may want it to be. Plenty of people will die from the ills of poverty. There’s no fairy tale ending for many, and those who are not able to free themselves from whatever is dragging them under, either from their strength or ingenuity, or with the help of other hands that may reach out to them.

                That doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless for many others in similar dire circumstances. Others will survive, as in the past, so in the future. So far, I’ve been one, and I’m doing my best to teach my kids so that they have the best shot when the pressure builds on them someday.

            2. tegnost

              so we now know you’re over 30, and you at some unspecified time made 20,000 a year, how much do you make now?

            3. tegnost

              Do “these people” know that their gov’t is actively supporting the agribuisness that is providing this not nutritional food to them, and do they know that our gov’t is actively trying to force the eu to similar low standards? Ask not what pity can do for others, what can it do for you?

        2. cwaltz

          Actually beans are not that easy to cook. You need to soak them overnight and even then they take a precious amount of time to cook. Time, by the way, many of the poor do not have because they are busy working 60 hours to afford a roof, transportation, etc, etc. Then when they do get home they don’t have staff so they get to do laundry, vacuum, help the kids with homework, etc, etc. Additionally the ones who experience extreme poverty also have things like public transit to contend with. They might leave work and then be sitting at a bus stop for 30 minutes or have to leave an apartment an hour early so they aren’t late for work(and if they’ve cobbled together two jobs to get that 60 hours in to cover bills then you can double that time spent waiting on buses.)

          If you work 10 hours, sleep 8, commute for 3, then you’ve already got 21 of your 24 hours accounted for. That gives you 3 hours to groom, perform household tasks like grocery shop or laundry(and yes it is usually an either/ or situation since sometimes these things ALSO mean getting on a bus.

          I’m guessing you’ve lived a life where you’ve never had to catch a bus or had to do laundry at a Laundromat for an extended length of time otherwise you wouldn’t be so blithe when suggesting that these people are stupid.

      2. Quantum Future

        Not necessarily Yves. I had a rough six months in 2013. My food budget was $50 a week. I ate lots of chili, eggs, romaine and chicken. I lost 35 lbs and felt great. Poor people may not have been taught this can be done but a low carb, high protein diet with 38 grams of fiber per day can be had for this price. My goodie item was banana peppers for the romaine and blue cheese dressing, crystal light for the drinks instesd of just water.

        This kind of diet lifestyle change will lower blood pressure, sugar and weight which such conditions add stress.

        People can use there smart phone even the poor have one to Google ‘digestive disorders and mental health’. One comprehensive stool sample to test for Diverticulitis, H.Pylori or Candida and treatment to metabolize nutrients and also eat as suggested can help turn a persons health
        around. The Internet is a leveler of wealth at times but many just use it for entertainment focused purpose.

        You attack inequality by attacking lobbying and the current misuse of law to encourage it. The Republic must be restored. I doubt the write of this article is that dumb to realize this, most Americans do these days so the article is mushy fluff of useless information.

        1. different clue

          @Quantum Future,

          Did you secure access to a kitchen, cook tools, etc. during the time before your rough six months? Did you build up a base of knowledge of how to cook, assess nutrient needs and sources before you entered your rough six months?

          How non-rough was your life before the rough six months? How non-rough did your life return to being after your rough six months? How would your non-rough periods compare with the baseline roughness of the very poor and the ultra-poor? What cooktool access and knowledge access would the poor and the ultra-poor have?

          Since the Overclass will resist re-equalization for some time to come, perhaps those who care about the poor can figure out how to kitchenize or at least cooktoolize the poorest, and also how to knowledge-ize them into a position of being able to prepare low-time-needed food from non fridge-needed storable staples. Keeping several million people alive longer . . . when the Overclass wants to see them die faster . . . . might be a form of Lower Class WarFighting in and of itself. It sounds like a worthy project for those who CAAaaaaare about the poorest to take on.

          Kurt Saxon, the noted Survivalist, has some good information on cooking cheap with few tools and little time, but this is knowledge he aquired before he passed through his interlude of ultra-poverty, I suspect. Still, this sounds like a bunch of good information and tools for somebody to give the poorest while they and we all wait for someone to solve the problem of inequality and lifespan.

          Some of these things can NOT be adapted to the situation of the urban poor and poorest. But some of them CAN be if well intentioned people above and beyond the orbit of the urban poor and poorest make a project of teaching them this knowledge.

          1. tim s

            Well DiffC, if you’re going to throw ignorance in with poverty, then that’s quite a different picture. One going into poverty with skills gives you a much better chance. But isn’t that life? If you don’t know essentials and can’t do essentials, then what can you really expect from life? Rely on luck? Regardless of optimistic idealism of strangers, which really falls under wishful thinking, any one person’s continued existence ultimately depends on themselves and maybe a few of those closest to them, and they can only play the cards that are dealt them. Some hands are losing hands.

            1. tegnost

              is it possible that one does not “go into poverty”? Your “losing hands” argument is reprehensible.

              1. cwaltz

                It’s particularly ignorant since most economists admit that it’s cyclical. People are born into poverty and have to work extra hard and be extra lucky to escape it.

                As he says though, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

          2. different clue

            How many readers of this thread are among the future ex-middle class? How many readers of this thread are among the future Nouveau Poor? Perhaps all the not-yet-poor people reading this thread should aquire foodskills/ foodknowledge/ food tools now while you still have any time and money at all.

            Perhaps those Kurt Saxon essays could be very useful to any not-yet-poor person who reads them.

        2. Lambert Strether

          $50 a week? Luxury!

          Four cans of baked beans for a dollar. That’s $30 for a month. I varied it with dollar spaghetti sauce and spaghetti from a dollar store.

          And for real variety, I’d wander into Whole Foods and eat the samples.

          Now, I didn’t have to do it for long, because I found work. But I did do it.

          1. cwaltz

            Don’t buy the cans. Of course, then you are stuck with soaking the darn things overnight and then cooking them the few precious hours you might have not working(I’m guessing that rough spot might mean the person was unemployed which meant they actually had TIME at home to cook dry beans properly.) It IS cheaper though.

      3. tim s

        Assuming my last history comment goes through, I forgot to add a key factor – I can fix almost anything. That is invaluable.

        1. tegnost

          As can I, what does that have to do with anything, humans have complex brains capable of not just making things, but fixing them as well…but as you I’m sure do, I rely on asking questions to those who know more than I in specific circumstances, and the commons contains more knowledge than I care to or am capable of carrying around with me. Where did you learn to fix things? Who taught you and under what circumstances? You were born mr fixit?

          1. tim s

            I admit I’m an outlier. That doesn’t make my points invalid. I’m not the only one There are many outliers, many of whom may find themselves in poverty. I’m just saying there are things that can be done to alleviate that situation to an extent. If someone can do anything to keep that last straw off of their back, that could be the difference between making it another day/week/year, they may make it out. Many people may learn to do things. The internet has provided immensely more opportunity to learn skills than ever before. I’m amazed at the knowledge at the fingertips available these days.

            I admit I’m fortunate to live in a climate that allows me to grow food almost by just sticking it into prepared ground and letting nature take care of it. I can ignore the garden for weeks at a time, and still harvest a relative abundance. I’m fortunate to live in an area that the economy has not tanked. I’m still preparing for the worst. In my mind it is inevitable. In the back of my mind, my main fear is that my kids will starve to death, or die some other collapse related death. I know circumstances can change in a heartbeat. Following the economy and world events since 2008 more closely, I’m aware of the tenuous situation most if not all of us are in. I know the vultures and predators have their eyes on all of us, and are tightening the screws on all of the basic needs, from food to shelter and everything in between. I know that many, many people who have developed their habits in our consumer culture that is an incredibly corrosive culture. The people with these habits are in a very tough situation, that is likely to get worse. These habits can be broken if already there, and resisted if not. Only those who can manage to summon some inner strength to take advantage of whatever skills they may have or obtain will survive the hard times. Ours is a society that is past a huge peak, and the downside of those peaks in never pretty in human terms.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Not just “grow food”. You airbrush out how you can afford to have a house with land. Your pretty story of virtuous poverty does not add up.

        2. Clive

          I really so wish I was practical and have the sort of skills that you describe. But I simply do not. It isn’t like I haven’t tried in the past and I am certainly motivated as the things you describe (not just here but in your earlier comments) are tasks which I would dearly love to be able to accomplish. When I was younger, this was completely inexplicable. It isn’t that I can’t get my head around how to use materials and what, as an intellectual concept, has to be done. I hugely enjoyed working with my dad as a kind when he did electrical wiring installations (he was an electrical engineer so did both the design work and also got involved in the build too). I used to marvel and had massive respect for what the other trades were able to do too — plastering was something that particularly beguiled me when done by an expert. Woodworking and joinery too.

          But whenever I tried, the result was hideous bodgery and unmitigated disasters. I learned to concentrate on what I was good at which was solving more abstract, problems and more design-orientated work. I was — and probably still am a bit — disappointed at my own lack of ability and, probably worse, an inability to learn “hands on” jobs.

          Even if that wasn’t the case, a degenerative eye condition (I’ve had one cornea transplant and have been advised another is indicated) meant that any sort of task needing even remotely good eyesight is now difficult to pretty much impossible for me. Distance vision-wise, I’m 20/40-ish on a good day with all the (painful) various lens appliances I have to use inserted, not able to achieve minimum driving standard and with glasses it is worse than that. The real hit is near-distance, I can’t see if a screw head is slot or cross, whether a wire’s insulation has been nicked or completely cut through, if a nail is hammered in or protruding (unless I can do it by touch) — and so on. Trying to do manual work is painful, tiring and above all dispiriting.

          So I have no choice but to hire people when I need house maintenance or yard work done apart from the really basic stuff. I hate not being able to do it myself, but there’s no point in trying to deny the inevitable. And as for being remotely self-sufficient in the context you describe, well, I and anyone who had to rely on me or my “skills” would be dead in a year though malnutrition or exposure or some other such miserable fate. More likely, other people would have to carry me and I wouldn’t like that much either.

          I’m probably an extreme (or perhaps “early onset” would be a better way of putting it) example, but we all age and you can’t unfortunately assume that we’ll be able to maintain our level of physical functioning indefinitely. Then what ?

          Then, we need other people and either the means to pay them or else a system which provide for us in way which don’t necessitate reliance on transactionalism.

          1. tim s

            Clive, you have tried your best and have succeeded with what skills and talents you were born with and/or aquired. You have lived according to your talents, and have either made it out of poverty, or avoided it one way or another. That is all that can be done, and if things go your way, that will be enough. That’s all anyone can do. There is no dishonor in failing if the best effort is given, even if dying is the result.

            I’m not as nearly adept at abstract, design oriented work as you likely are, although as an engineer, I get by well enough to stay desirable to those who employ me.

            I’m far from self-sufficient, and could not survive on my own either, in the society I live if collapse were to come and food stores were empty and the electricity grid failed.

            Failing health is definitely a problem, but also a fact of life. Good health is an invaluable gift, but in many ways outside of one’s control. You can, and should, do your best to maintain your health, but in the end we all fall apart. If you make it long enough to fall apart, then you have made it as far as you possibly can. I have failing eyesight as well in my late 40’s. Nothing so bad that corrective lenses can’t keep me going as of now. More importantly, I’ve been having issues with my hands for several years now (repetitive stress related) that threaten my work livelihood, as well as my skills all mentioned above. Doctors have been able to do nothing for me there, and I’ve been in despair – I need my hands for everything I do. Fortunately, I’ve found that a combination of stretching, strengthening, and self massage have given me hope and things are slowly improving, it seems, although the next relapse is always waiting for me to get careless again. As I get older still, I’d imagine that my hands will be the 1st to go. Then I’m likely done, unless I can lean on my grown kids, assuming they’re still alive. It seems only right if that’s the case. Hopefully, our relationship would be good enough that they would not mind, and it could even be beneficial to each of us. Surely I could still be an asset to them somehow. If I’m done, I’ve lived a life.

            Yes, we need other people. If our options as a society are limited to paying strangers, or systematic assistance (in this case would mean government assistance), then we as a society have a bleak future. Within our society are many smaller divisions where these are not the only two options. I’m fortunate to have good, knowledgable, friendly neighbors. We help each other in kind – money is not discussed. For those in poverty with such connections, that is radically different than poverty places where everyone is desparate and alone.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Clive is very polite. I’n not. I’m getting tired of your patronizing tone and your “I know better and people who don’t live the way I do are irresponsible and deserve what they get” which is the subtext of your remarks. It’s judgmental and lacking in compassion or a realistic understanding of what other people’s circumstances are like. You have a full-time, stay at home wife, which is a financial cost the overwhelming majority of poor couples cannot afford to make. You also preach a gospel of extreme self-reliance yet then say family support is necessary. Your position is contradictory.

              Wake up and smell the coffee. I remarked before you chose to ignore that many people can’t live near their families because the communities they grew up in are in a depression (my brother lives in one like that, population has fallen from 15,000 25 years ago to 10,000 now) or their families are so toxic they are better off limiting their with them. And your model of helpful neighbors also isn’t operative in most of the US. It is in Maine with its small communities and harsh winters, where if your boiler goes out, you need your neighbor and vice versa so you cooperate in emergencies even if you normally can’t stand each other. But this is a rural model and not how most of the US operates. Neoliberalism has been very successful both in encouraging people to see themselves as atomized and forcing them to behave that way (job instability, the need to be willing to move to find work and accommodate employer demands).

      4. jsn

        Anyone who wants to get a sense of what its like being poor and how stress manifests there should read your Nation link for Sandra Bland yesterday:

        The deck is really, really stacked!

  3. DJG

    Thanks, Yves. Here is a story making the rounds on my FB this morning. Although a month old, it hasn’t aged. Not when the writer points out that inequality is cultural and institutional and goes back to slavery.

    I appreciate that you are working the neglected area of public health as an indicator of inequality. I’m not seeing much on the topic elsewhere, and as you point out, when there is coverage, it is usually minimized. Or else it is the fault of the “under-served” who somehow get themselves addicted to opioids.

  4. RUKidding

    It’s a host of issues. Here in Sacramento, the poorest tend to live in neighborhoods riddled with gang violence, drugs, etc. On top of that, most are food deserts with very limited access to any kind of grocery store. There may or may not be some kind of expensive bodega to buy limited types of food, and maybe there’s a fast food chain somewhere.

    Poor people often have a hard time affording quality fruits and veggies and end up eating sugary carbohydrates & high fatty foods because they are more affordable and more readily available. This leads to obesity and a whole host of health problems.

    And then, yes, public transport is limited at best and often not even available. And now Sacramento RT is proposing to raise fares yet again and take away the few breaks they have for lower fares for the elderly and disabled. So good luck getting anywhere, including a doctor, dentist or grocery store.

    As I age, I find I need to focus more on my own health and take supplements and engage in certain types of exercise that I didn’t have to consider when I was younger. As someone with enough money, I can visit not only “regular” doctors, but alternative health care professionals and purchase high quality supplements at a high price. Yes, I’ll probably live longer (like my parents did), but it’s due to a lot of benefits I enjoy that the poor simply cannot and do not.

    But hey – it’s their “fault” that they’re poor, and they deserve what they get, right??

    Anyway, isn’t the mantra from the right: if you get sick, die fast? Takes care of those lousy eaters out there who aren’t holding their own. Who needs ’em?

    1. jrs

      Don’t we also just kill the poor not just by neglect (as in lack of healthcare and healthy food) but by more actively killing them by poisoning them? You know like in Flint?

      Most areas where the toxics of industrial society are dumped are poor neighborhoods, not rich ones. They also of course happen to be disproportionately minority neighborhoods, so that it’s called environmental discrimination.

  5. saurabh

    Recently I was lamenting how the current crop of life extension companies (like Google’s Calico) are going to make a vampire class of people who can pay to live for 150 years while proles continue to die in the muck.

  6. Ray Phenicie

    I didn’t read the article very deeply but there is a ton of research out there which shows that living in unsafe neighborhoods (crimes on the person as well as environmentally related crimes like the situation in Flint) with culturally impoverished settings (the arts are more than just ambiance) is hazardous to one’s health. Of course not having the money to participate in society and culture are also huge risk factors as that aspect adds to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

    1. Ray Phenicie

      Actually I’m not sure if there is a ‘ton’ of research but there’s a fair amount. Digging is required to find it however.

  7. Rufus T. Firefly

    It’s difficult not to channel Joe Bageant, at the glib sophistry of the “just vote down-ticket” platitude, after the last few primaries? The winners are pretty much as expected (here’s a pretty perfect example from my home state: ) The state & local tickets might have been mimeographed by ALEC, as the usual voting irregularity stories disappear down the memory hole and everybody’s inured to the social networking advocacy solutions’ interns hijacking each and every comments thread. We’re obviously going to pay to be guinea pigs, drinking radium flavored return water, tainted with agriculture chemicals, rBGH, ractopamine, STA-dosed, GMO-gavaged CAFO waste. Eating glyphosate soaked mono-cultured, novel organisms, wrapped in phthalate esters, regulated solely by the invisible hand of WalMart’s supply chain. Stories of organic kale, tainted with heavy metals, chelated from thin air… whistleblowers SEO’d away.

  8. James Levy

    As an asymptomatic diabetic I know that as we are currently under a lot of stress (my wife and I suffer from various physical injuries and have a lot of physical work to do because we can’t afford to pay anyone to do it; my job is awful and my wife’s commute very long) I am finding it harder and harder to avoid overeating and just collapsing in a heap. If things get worse then holding it together becomes really problematical. I fought to get my blood sugar level down and keep it down so if you poked me tomorrow you wouldn’t know I was diabetic, but stress and depression eat away at your resolve. I feel nothing but sympathy for those who fall over the edge. Jonathan Kozol once wrote that a few kids, by dint of great effort, real talent, and good fortune, make it out of America’s worst schools and do fine–but a child’s future should not depend on superior talent and heroic efforts. People should be allowed to be just plain normal and still thrive. We don’t face such awful scarcity in this country that a being average should condemn you to debt peonage or worse. If we just ended the corn subsidies, shifted them to vegetables, and removed all taxes from foods that are good for you while taxing the crap out of foods that are bad for you we’d go some way towards making things better for people.

    1. Ray Phenicie

      Agreed that the subsidies to the agriculturalists -farmers- are a bad deal all around. In addition to supporting bad eating habits they facilitate marketing forces that allow the dumping of US crops into overseas markets. Also, no USDA encouragement for organic, pesticide free food. It’s toxic sludge for all and plenty of that.

  9. KYrocky

    Raising the retirement age for Social Security has been justified because of one thing: people are living longer. But it is just not true. Only rich people are living longer, and because of that we want to make everyone else work longer, even though they die sooner. This is the conservative actuarial dream: raise the eligibility age to when most people die so that there will be no need for the rich to contribute more to funding Social Security. Cornerstone of the Grand Bargain.

    As a nation, America does not give a crap about poor people. The poor have no voice or influence; they have no representation, no effective representation anyway, just lip service at best. And as nation, we continue to reduce what supports had existed while at the same time eliminating the ladders of economic opportunity. Once upon a time there was a guy who said we should judge ourselves by how well we treat the least off among us. America has become a much, much nastier place, and all so the rich can have more.

    1. different clue

      If the future ex-middle-class majority people decide to realize that they are the future Nouveau Poor, then they will give a crap about the poor because they will understand themselves to be the people they are giving a crap about.

      Then they will have to figure out how to conquer various levels and institutions of government and civil society away from the pro-Overclass Stooges who currently staff them and run them now.

  10. jrs

    The rich can afford to go to spas and so on, and it’s no doubt fun, but everyone knows there is cheaper stress relief like meditating, but that takes both discipline and time. It’s not revolutionary, but it might be counter-cultural.

    By the way I know people who have gone to luxury rehabs. No, it’s not all the rich, you don’t know what addiction does to loved ones if you think so. How parents will spend the kids college fund and their retirement money if they think it will save the kid from certain death via addiction. Noone really knows how to treat addiction fully, but the luxury places could at times be a good start. Yea there’s 12 steps and so on for those who don’t have a loved one willing to go to the brink of poverty to save one (which is what the luxury places have too, they just have a lot else as well).

  11. Eduardo Quince

    there is cheaper stress relief like meditating, but that takes both discipline and time

    Good point. Meditation need not take extra time if you develop the habit of shifting into a meditative mindspace whenever circumstances permit (e.g., while waiting in line, commuting on public transport, whatever).

    1. cwaltz

      I would not suggest meditating on a bus…….it’s a good way to miss your stop or your bus.

  12. shinola

    Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see what seems obvious to me.
    To paraphrase an Econ. prof. (circa 1974!):

    Wealthy people tend to live longer because, among other things, they can afford better medical care than poor people.

  13. Robert Dudek

    I think that a movement towards organic homesteading communities can do a lot to alleviate bad food, lack of time, and stress. Obviously this isn’t for everyone. But if you are reasonably healthy, small-scale bio-intensive farming can be the answer. There are millions of people in North America that don’t have steady work or any work: everyone would be a lot better off if they went back to the land.

  14. Zane

    NYC has famously high quality water?
    (FWIW) I stayed at a newish higher end chain hotel near LaGuardia about 15 years ago, filled a glass of water in the sink, and could not see through the glass due to the cloudiness and little white particles floating around in the water. Stayed that way no matter how long I ran water.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, we do. Wins taste tests regularly too.

      Near Laguardia is not in the 5 boros. Plus if your hotel had crap pipes. all bets are off. “New” could have plastics and the water leached the plastic. Same things happens with water in plastic bottles. Or storage tank not cleaned often enough. In my 65 unit building, they drain all the pipes and clean the water tank a couple of times a year.

    2. different clue

      New York City had the money and power to take over water sources arising far from the City and devote them strictly to the City’s use. Those are the Upstate and Outstate sources of the good water reaching the City today.

    3. Clive

      You should never assume that hotel or similar water from the faucet is of potable quality. Even if it is fed directly from the main city water line, the distribution system may not have been designed to potable water quality specs (minimum flow rates, pipe quality, pipe joint quality, reverse syphon prevention valves to stop waste water being “sucked” into the potable water system, measures implemented to prevent heat soak from domestic hot water lines being uninsulated and placed next to cold water lines) and once you add in any sort of storage all bets are off unless there is a rigorous specification of minimum tank turnover periods and/or tank cleaning.

      Let’s assume that all these were at designed in. But then it is up to the building owner to do the necessary maintenance (sanitary flushing of the system like Yves mentions, cleaning of pumps, checking for leaks and weeping joins where contaminants can enter the system) and would you be completely shocked if you found that sometimes maintenance schedules were skipped because of cost savings ? That sort of lack of maintenance is the first thing to get put on the “we’ll do it next time” list because it is unnoticeable to hotel guests, at least at first.

      Finally, even if it was all specified correctly and the maintenance is done by the book, when the building was constructed, contractors often face issues on site which cause them to deviate from the design and inadvertently build in dead-legs in the pipework, traps and air pockets. The contractors don’t tend to do this maliciously, it’s just the encounter a piece of framing that wasn’t done right and have to work around it, a duct that wasn’t supposed to be in that place but they can’t get through it so do a “u” bend, slab or roof curb cut-outs that weren’t where they should be — the list is endless. So the pipe routing is not what the architect intended and the resultant water flow isn’t what was envisaged.

      It never ceases to amaze me that people look at a large structure which it is impossible to get a complete visual inspection off (unless you hack off every sq. ft. of drywall and lift all floor / ceiling coverings) and gaily assume that everything is just peachy. Or that the building owner would never tolerate some issue or other and immediately rectify any faults and couldn’t — perish the thought — be tempted to ignore it because it would “cost too much” to fix it ? It’s like the bigger and more complex the system, the more people seem — inexplicably and counter to logic — to just trust it.

      The water probably wouldn’t kill you, but no way is it guaranteed to be what the city sends through its distribution system.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, the result of our minimum 2x a year water tank cleaning is there is no water at all for 6-8 hours each time. Unacceptable in a hotel setting.

  15. VietnamVet

    The elite and their media like to blame the victim. But, western globalists realized that they didn’t need the middle class anymore to fight their wars and that they caused wage inflation. Blue collar jobs were moved overseas. The difference in wages added to their offshore accounts.

    It is difficult to fight an addiction if one has a job, medical care and family help. It is near impossible without it. Alcohol, opiates, loneliness and despair kill. Mankind needs a purpose in life and the survivors will find it; be it in jailing rich parasites, joining an evangelistic religion that promises paradise, demanding government provided jobs, or saving the earth.

    1. different clue

      De-addicting to spite the drug-industrial complex, and living longer to spite the Elites . . . . are not the highest purposes in life. But can they be high-enough for some people to make the drive-to-survive difference to people on the edge of committed/ not committed to their own survival?

      Can living longer to spite the enemy who wants you dead sooner be enough to motivate some people?

  16. Corey

    As it should be. Poor people, ignorant people, lazy people, irresponsible should live shorter lives. Otherwise, what’s the incentive to achieve, or be educated, or work hard, or make responsible choices? Being poor should carry penalties, just as being wealthy should bring rewards. Not sure what the issue is here.

    Oh, and on average women live longer than men. As a male, I guess I’m a victim. Waaaah waaah. I demand equality. Take away some healthcare from her and give me more to compensate.

    1. Robert Dudek

      Your argument might make sense if everyone had equal opportunity from birth.

    2. different clue

      I would take this argument more seriously if you coupled it with the argument that rich people should be forbidden by law to leave any bequest whatsoever upon their death to their descendants. Lets see those descendants live on their own rightfulness-to-survive.

      And as others have said, equal access to education. Also, militant belligerent protectionism to bring back all the American jobs currently held hostage in foreign exile . . . . so that the non-lazy wanna-work people have jobs to do.

      1. fgbouman

        Ideal solution for bequests is to allow nothing to be bequeathed by anyone. Instead, each year’s leavings from those who died would be commingled in a single account by the gov’t and then distributed to every person turning 18 the following year with no diminution in the amount (i.e. the gov’t would pay the admin costs).
        That would require tight control on all of the myriad ways available to dodge it, but if full implemented would lead fairly rapidly to a roughly equal playing field. Some would prosper and some would fail, but there would be no Koch, Rockefeller or Walton heirs to worry about distorting the playing field.

    3. pretzelattack

      thank god the walton kids had the incentive to be born billionaires. that right there shows you we live in a meritocracy.

  17. Anne

    Let’s face it: most of us haven’t got a clue what it’s like to live on the edge. Oh, we think we do, because maybe we had a spell of unemployment, or a health issue, but really, we just don’t.

    I’m sitting here in my nice house in the country, on my laptop, with the flat-screen on in the background, relaxing. We got our Blue Apron delivery today, so tonight I whipped up a nice Asian pork dish for dinner. Tomorrow, I will go to my – sometimes stressful – job where I make a good salary. I have health insurance; my husband is fully covered by the VA. I have a growing retirement account that I make regular contributions to. We grow vegetables in the spring/summer, and have ready access to fresh, high-quality food. We can pay our bills. We are reasonably healthy, with family nearby and a strong support system.

    We can’t do whatever we want, buy whatever we want, we sure don’t live like any 1%-er by any means. But sometimes, I feel rich, I feel lucky, I feel blessed. Whatever trials and tribulations we’ve faced – and there have been some, for sure – how can I stand in judgment of those who are living lives I can’t even begin to comprehend?

    1. tegnost

      yes, imagine paring down your belongings to fit in a shoulder bag, including your lifetimes memorabilia. (the first thing you do is try not to look homeless)

      1. tegnost

        seriously, anyone who wants to know what it’s like to become homeless should do that, pack a bag, and look at everything you’re leaving behind. And you won’t get it back later, it’s gone.

  18. Buffalo Cyclist

    Interesting mention of the relationship between NYC’s walkability and better health outcomes. Of course, under neoliberalism, everything, including physical activity, is treated as a commodity. Many communities (especially in anti-tax jurisdications) lack sidewalks or are filled with by six lane highways and cul de sacs designed to discourage walking. Other communities, including “liberal” San Francisco, are destroying the commons by privatizing public parks for the benefit of the wealthy and at the expense of the working class.

    But despite this, the pundit class will not acknowledge that the narrative of blaming the poor for their worse health outcomes is in any way flawed.

  19. Min

    For the bottom 1% one big factor reducing their life expectancy is unemployment. Most of them spend a great deal of their working life unemployed. We know that long term unemployment kills.

    FWIW, I once read a US magazine article — hardly an authoritative source, but there you go — written in the 1950s that claimed the opposite, that poor people lived longer than rich people, contrary to what one might think. The reason, said the article, might be the high stress of the rat race, which high earners faced but low earners did not. I don’t know whether life expectancy in the 1950s was as the magazine claimed, but unemployment was low.

  20. ke

    You have too much CO2. The answer is:

    Oil
    Real estate
    Asphalt & concrete
    Gold
    Public education
    Public healthcare
    Global trade
    Monetary & fiscal policy
    Weapons
    Iphones
    Climate money
    Experts
    PLANTS

    You have a generator and a controller, with VFD

  21. ke

    Could we please stop reinventing a crappier and crappier technology wheel, shorting out nature.

  22. tony

    New York is also full of first and second generation immigrants who are a lot healthier than American general population. Also, for adults, the US is pretty meritocratic and people who end up near the bottom usually either had weak health in the first place or do make bad choices.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You actually believe nonsense like this?

      First, meritocracy is a myth. You might bother getting out of your bubble. I’ve written about how HR professional have lamented for 100 years that it is unattainable even in a single company. That means you most assuredly cannot achieve it on a broader basis. And I can name plenty of people who have failed upward or are crooked and have schemed their way upward, as well as plenty of very highly competent people who didn’t get anywhere near as far as they should by virtue of being born into the wrong family (start with my ex-McKinsey secretary, who smarter, had vastly better people skills and judgment than the overwhelming majority of McKinsey associates. And on top of that she could type like a demon, wrote well, and was drop dead gorgeous).

      Second, health is significantly a function of genes. My mother is the original couch potato, smoked for 14 years, now lives in a city with some of the worst air in the US, loves deep fried and fatty foods and eats them with no inhibition. She’s 88, lives by herself, and is sharp as a tack. No cognitive decline and gets around (slowly) without a walker. Her doctor says she’s in fantastic health for her age, and she made lots of what you would deem to be bad choices.

      Take your bigotry against the poor elsewhere.

      1. Skippy

        I think Young’s satirical essay ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’ not unlike Hudson’s work ‘Super-Imperialism’ that was taken as a how to book and not as the author expressed….

        “The Rise of the Meritocracy is a satirical essay by British sociologist and politician Michael Young which was first published in 1958. It describes as dystopian society in a future United Kingdom in which intelligence and merit have become the central tenet of society, replacing previous divisions of social class and creating a society stratified between a merited power holding elite and a disenfranchised underclass of the less merited. The essay satirised the Tripartite system of education that was being practised at the time.

        Meritocracy is the political philosophy in which political influence is assigned largely according to the intellectual talent and achievement of the individual. Michael Young coined the term, formed by combining the Latin root “mereō” and Ancient Greek suffix “cracy”, in his essay to describe and ridicule such a society, the selective education system that was the Tripartite system, and the philosophy in general.

        The word was adopted into the English language with none of the negative connotations that Young intended it to have and was embraced by supporters of the philosophy. Young expressed his disappointment in the embrace of this word and philosophy by the British Labour Party under Tony Blair in the Guardian in a commentary in 2001.

        It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.[1]”

        Disheveled Marsupial….. or as Paul Barker points out that “irony is a dangerous freight to carry….

        1. fgbouman

          I’m passing your comment on to my FB page – I think that some of my friends in “meritocratic” Singapore will enjoy reading it. Singapore came into existence shortly after the book was published so I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee Kwan Yew or one of his team had read it… in the wrong way.

  23. Min

    Another contributing factor to poor physical health among the poorest in society is poor mental health. The incidence of each severe mental and emotional disorder in the population is on the order of 2-3%. At any given time, up to 25% of the population may have some mental or emotional disorder, but that includes fairly mild ones. The incidence among the poorest is rather higher, because most of these disorders impair the ability to hold a job or to work well, as well as the ability to take care of one’s health. They may also have physical components which impair health and reduce lifespan.

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