Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Olbermann's Statement

I did not post anything on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attack because I do not feel that the memorialization of this event has helped anyone heal. It has only reopened five year old wounds, making people complict to their leaders. Whether it was intentional or not, the decisions by news organizations to re-run news footage and stop reporting any other events that day feeds into a propaganda machine for the Bush administration. I refused to be a part of that.

However, after seeing Keith Olbermann's statement from MSNBC, I think there may be some cause for hope.

Olbermann says nearly everything I would have said myself, if I were given the opportunity, and done it in an articulate, pointed, and intelligent way. Everything our President is not.

The Eight Americas

In the 2004 presidential campaign, John Edwards often commented that there were two Americas. He seemed to be referring to a Marxist proletariat and bourgeois distinction. A new study suggests that there are as many as eight Americas, at least in terms of health and life span.

Where you live, combined with race and income, plays a huge role in the nation's health disparities, differences so stark that a report issued Monday contends it's as if there are eight separate Americas instead of one.

Millions of the worst-off Americans have life expectancies typical of developing countries, concluded Dr. Christopher Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health.
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Health disparities are widely considered an issue of minorities and the poor being unable to find or afford good medical care. Murray's county-by-county comparison of life expectancy shows the problem is far more complex, and that geography plays a crucial role.
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Murray analyzed mortality data between 1982 and 2001 by county, race, gender and income. He found some distinct groupings that he named the "eight Americas:"
  • Asian-Americans, average per capita income of $21,566, have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.
  • Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.
  • Middle America (mostly white), $24,640, 77.9 years.
  • Low income whites in Appalachia, Mississippi Valley, $16,390, 75 years.
  • Western American Indians, $10,029, 72.7 years.
  • Black Middle America, $15,412, 72.9 years.
  • Southern low-income rural blacks, $10,463, 71.2 years.
  • High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.

Longevity disparities were most pronounced in young and middle-aged adults. A 15-year-old urban black man was 3.8 times as likely to die before the age of 60 as an Asian-American, for example.

That's key, Murray said, because this age group is left out of many government health programs that focus largely on children and the elderly.

This kind of study, along with other evidence that the gap between rich and poor is increasing, should be alarming. This is not a matter of comfort; this is about life and death.