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Rich People Live Longer Than Poor People. Leftists are Shocked. Shocked!

Gary North - March 12, 2013
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Reality Check

The best way to send a leftist into apoplexy is to show that rich people have some advantage that poor people don't. "Unfair! Unfair! The government must do something about this!"

Rich people in the United States have longer life expectancies than poor people do. This information has been available for decades. But when the latest study showed that the gap is increasing, The Washington Post got onto this story fast.


The Post looked at two counties in Florida. One had higher income. Its residents live longer.

In St. Johns County, which is a "beachfront" county, incomes are twice as high as income in inland Putnam County. So are housing prices. Life expectancy has risen to 83 for women, 78 for men. (Unfair! Unfair! The government must do something. But what? How about executing women when they reach 78? That might cause women to move, so the law would have to be imposed nationally.)

In Putnam, women die at 78. Men die at 71.

The widening gap in life expectancy between these two adjacent Florida counties reflects perhaps the starkest outcome of the nation's growing economic inequality: Even as the nation's life expectancy has marched steadily upward, reaching 78.5 years in 2009, a growing body of research shows that those gains are going mostly to those at the upper end of the income ladder.

This is cause and effect in Leftieland: money buys years. Ignored is this possibility: moral lifestyles vary, and healthier life styles produce people who live longer and who make more money. For example, what about the possibility that poor people smoke more than rich people do? The article mentioned this, but only late. What about the possibility that poor people eat more junk food? Sorry, not covered. How about divorce rates? Not covered.

The tightening economic connection to longevity has profound implications for the simmering debate about trimming the nation's entitlement programs. Citing rising life expectancy, influential voices including the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, the Business Roundtable and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that it makes sense to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare.

Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. The two systems are the bulk of the discrepancy between the present value of the shortfall between expected revenues and expected outflow: $222 trillion. Irrelevant, say Leftists. There ought to be a law against this fiscal discrepancy. The government must immediately take $222 trillion from the rich and invest it wisely. That should be easy enough.

"People who are shorter-lived tend to make less, which means that if you raise the retirement age, low-income populations would be subsidizing the lives of higher-income people," said Maya Rockeymoore, president and chief executive of Global Policy Solutions, a public policy consultancy. "Whenever I hear a policymaker say people are living longer as a justification for raising the retirement age, I immediately think they don't understand the research or, worse, they are willfully ignoring what the data say."

Ms. Rockeymoore did not mention that poor people pay less money into Social Security and Medicare than rich people do. That is the sort of statistic that people like Ms. Rockeymoore do not think is relevant.

What is her background? We learn on Global Policy Analysis's site:

A former Adjunct Professor [translation: part-time] in the Women in Politics Institute [translation: women's studies] at American University, Maya has also served as the Vice President of Research and Programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), Senior Resident Scholar at the National Urban League, Chief Of Staff to Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Professional Staff on the House Ways and Means Committee, and as a CBCF Legislative Fellow in the office of Congressman Melvin Watt (D-NC) among other positions [translation: former Capitol Hill staffer].


Next, notice the word "privileged." Here are other possible adjectives: hard-working, thrifty, future-oriented, health-conscious, non-smoking, educated.

"Life expectancy has increased mainly among the privileged class," said Monique Morrissey, an economist who focuses on retirement issues at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning research organization."

The article did report this:

Advocates of raising the retirement age say only a relative handful of older workers would be harmed and that the vulnerable could be protected by enacting hardship exemptions. Meanwhile, they say, with a wave of baby boomers moving toward retirement and health-care costs always on the rise, the retirement programs are sustainable only if people are willing to pay higher taxes or accept fewer benefits.

These are facts. The article did not mention any of this again. Odd.

Did you know that men used to outlive women? Was this fair?

Overall, life expectancy has improved substantially since the first Social Security payments were issued in 1940. Then, a man who made it to 65 could expect to live 12.7 years, compared with 18.6 years in 2010. A woman who turned 65 in 2010 could expect to live 20.7 more years, compared with 14.7 in 1940.

Notice: life expectancy was high in 1940. Men lived to 77. Women lived to 70. So, maybe in 1940, men should have been executed when they reached 70. That would have made things more equal.

[Just for the record, life expectancy of Social Security recipients was higher in 1940 than the usual age that is reported about short life expectancy in the old days. There is a statistical reason for this. The statistics for life expectancy are almost always "life expectancy at birth." The older the age surveyed for life expectancy, the higher the life expectancy. That's because most of the people who were likely to die at younger ages did die. So, the life expectancy of survivors is higher than the average life expectancy at birth.]

Lefties blame economic inequality for most of the evils of our day. They say we must tax rich people, so that they pay "their fair share." I wrote about this two decades ago: "The Politics of the Fair Share."

But given the widening differences in life expectancy for people on opposite ends of the income scale, "that would mean a benefit cut that falls heaviest on people who generally are most reliant on Social Security for their retirement income. It is totally class-based," said Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University professor and co-chair of Social Security Works, a coalition opposed to reducing old-age benefits.

The good news is that Social Security and Medicare are going to bankrupt the federal government, so this discussion will eventually end. The children of every class will take over the support of their parents, the way it was before 1935.

The problem is in the counties that border on Washington D.C., where government workers live. This is where people live to ripe old ages: In Montgomery County, Maryland, men live to 81.4 years, and women live to 85. In Fairfax County, Virginia, men live to 81.3. Women live to 84.1.

In Washington, D.C., which is financed by Congress, men live to 72.6 years and women live to 79.6. There is where federal policies and funding dominate. This is the main "social laboratory" for the federal welfare state. It is matched only by Indian reservations, where life expectancy is also low.


The article then discussed Putnam County. There are not many good jobs. The article interviewed a hospital official in Putnam County. "There are health-care deserts out here. ... There is a lack of access because there are not enough doctors around."

Why aren't there a lot of doctors? Maybe because people there don't go to doctors. But I'm just guessing.

Why don't people there go to doctors? Because they don't have a lot of money. Why don't they have money? Few jobs. Why aren't there jobs? Because employers prefer to hire people with better educations. Why don't people in Putnam have good educations? Because they dropped out of school. But they all didn't? True. The ones who stayed in school then moved to places like St. Johns County, where there are better jobs.

All of which indicates the truth of my life's mantra: It is better to be rich and healthy than it is to be poor and sick.

"Being more affluent and educated, you are likely to have better access to information and you are also more likely to want it," said Joe Gordy, chief executive of Flagler Hospital, which is in St. Johns County.

You can't fool Joe Gordy!

At this point, the story reported that twice as many people smoke in Putnam County than in St. John's. That fact should have been mentioned earlier. That's the trouble when you are a welfare state proponent who is also anti-smoking. You don't know which to attack first: smoking in general, which means specifically poor people with inferior public school educations, or rich people who don't smoke and who therefore enjoy the privilege of living longer.

Here are the problems, said one expert: unemployment, education levels, and income. "This is fueled by poor economics and a lack of access to health insurance and health coverage." He concluded: "This is not rocket science."

But what about Medicaid? Not good enough. What about Medicare? Not good enough. What about free public education? Not good enough.

This leaves executing older people in St. John's County. This will restore equality. This will eliminate privilege.

This is not rocket science.

Cyndi Stevenson is a member of the St. Johns County commission. She concluded: "A good economy does a lot for a family." You can't fool her! She stayed in school. I'll bet she studied rocket science.


Lefties are always alert to economic inequality. They understand that it is better to be rich and healthy than it is to be poor and sick. Because their programs, when made law, do not eliminate inequality, they always come back for more legislation. Their plan is always the same: tax the rich, and give the money to government bureaucrats to administer on behalf of the poor. The poor remain poor, but it's a good deal for the bureaucrats. That's what really counts, if you're a Leftie. It subsidizes your own class.

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