American Decline & Declining Life Expectancy

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/28/2017 03:10:00 PM
If "truth in advertising" held, this ditty should be the United States' national anthem.
If America is such a great place, then why do so many Americans want to end their lives faster? The numbers don't lie: for a second consecutive year in 2016, US life expectancy has decreased. All this is happening in the face of medical advances and is due primarily to two things. First are  "unintentional injuries," a euphemism for the aforementioned high-risk drug abuse. Second are increased numbers of suicides. Yes, deaths of despair are real Stateside and are occurring at an an increased rate just as other countries are still experiences rises in life expectancy.
The United States has not seen two years of declining life expectancy since 1962 and 1963, when influenza caused an inordinate number of deaths. In 1993, there was a one-year drop during the worst of the AIDS epidemic.

“I think we should take it very seriously,” said Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC. “If you look at the other developed countries in the world, they’re not seeing this kind of thing. Life expectancy is going up.” The development is a dismal sign for the United States, which boasts some of the world’s highest spending on medical care, and more evidence of the toll the nation’s opioid crisis is exacting on younger and middle-aged Americans, experts said.
The truth is that life in America is such an unattractive proposition for so many that they'd rather end it all by suicide or largely risk the same result by abusing drugs. My question for all the USA # 1 cheerleaders, Trumpists, and assorted American exceptionalists is, how do you explain away these facts? For the US population as a whole, life is getting worse. We have the numbers to prove it since so many would rather not live. Nowhere else in the developed world are you seeing such declines.
“We should take it very seriously,” Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, told my colleagues Lenny Bernstein and Christopher Ingraham. “If you look at the other developed countries in the world, they’re not seeing this kind of thing. Life expectancy is going up.”

In other words: In no other developed country are people taking and dying from opioids at the rates they are in the United States. We have about 4 percent of the world's population but about 27 percent of the world's drug-overdose deaths.

WaPo asks why other developed (OECD) countries are not suffering as high rates of drug-related fatalities and suicides or plunging life expectancies. The answer to me is very simple here as well: maybe the United States is not as wonderful a place as the USA#1 cheerleaders make it out to be. in fact, it's rather miserable for more than should be the case. 
It seems to me that the first requirement for having a "great" country is having people who are actually glad to live (in it). The United States circa year-end 2017 is obviously failing by this measure. With 2017 overdoses expected to rise even more, what reason do we have not to believe life expectancies will get even worse going forward?

America is in obvious decline. Its declining life expectancy is due to the misery borne of living there by far too many. If your own people give up on life, then you have no business claiming to be the shining city on the hill and all that jazz.

Post-NAFTA Mexico Alludes to Plans B, C & D

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/19/2017 03:47:00 PM
Going back to plain vanilla trade, there is much afoot in Mexico as politicians there appear to be contemplating the end of NAFTA as we know it thanks to el loco del norte Donald Trump. There is now some weird shorthand emerging about the different strategies Mexico can pursue if NAFTA is scuttled. Sure, none of them are quite as attractive as trading with the world's largest economy right on its doorstep on tariff-free terms, but hey, you have to make a living for your people somehow if that convenience falls through.

Plan B is, simply put, sign as many trade deals as possible with whomever is willing to do so:
The government of Enrique Pena Nieto might already be implementing a Plan B of sorts as it tries to sign as many trade deals as possible to replace the country that buys 80 per cent of its exports.
Plan C is to (unilaterally) eliminate all tariffs in Mexico in hopes of turning it into the Latin American Singapore. It's far-fetched, yes, but you know what they say about desperate times:
An unlikely new right-left coalition has emerged to challenge the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and to stop left-wing firebrand Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Some of the coalition's members are pushing a Plan C that would lead to the elimination of all tariffs in an effort to turn Mexico into a Latin Singapore.
Plan D is more "strategic" in the sense that Mexico can cotton up to the United States' erstwhile geopolitical "rival" China:
Mexico sent its first shipment of blueberries to China last summer, as trade between the two countries continues to grow. But experts are skeptical the Chinese market can solve Mexico's trade issues should the NAFTA talks fail.

"It's become very sexy to talk about replacing trade with the U.S. with trade with China," said Enrique Dussel Peters, an economist at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and co-ordinator of its Centre for Mexico-China Studies. "It's as if one could simply start sending to China, automatically and massively, the same cars we now send to North America.
With Mexican politics in a similar state of flux with populist firebrand Obrador leading the polls, these are more suggestions than actual courses of action at present.  Moreover, you do have to wonder if any combination of other assorted trade partners Mexico can legitimately "replace" the United States with as a key trade partner.

El Gordo: How NAFTA Made Mexico Ameri-Fat

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/18/2017 01:23:00 PM
The Trumpian Buddha-esque physique is now achievable in Mexico thanks to NAFTA.
While Donald Trump likes to recycle easily refutable arguments about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) being "the worst trade deal ever," he doesn't seem to mention one that should be of concern to his Mexican counterparts. While such self-interested reasoning is what you'd expect from an "America First"-championing US president, a woe that the Mexicans are now suffering from is actually one Americans are profiting from:
Mexico began lifting tariffs and allowing more foreign investment in the 1980s, a transition to free trade given an exclamation point in 1994, when Mexico, the United States and Canada enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement. Opponents in Mexico warned that the country would lose its cultural and economic independence.

But few critics predicted it would transform the Mexican diet and food ecosystem to increasingly mirror those of the United States. In 1980, 7 percent of Mexicans were obese, a figure that tripled to 20.3 percent by 2016, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Diabetes is now Mexico’s top killer, claiming 80,000 lives a year, the World Health Organization has reported.

For many Mexicans, Nafta promised to make real “the fever dreams of joining the modern economy,” said Timothy A. Wise, a trade expert at the Small Planet Institute and Tufts University. “All former rural workers would be in new jobs in the burgeoning manufacturing industries of the post-Nafta world. That just hasn’t happened.”

“The only way that Mexico became a ‘first world’ country was in terms of diet.”
And that's the real story here. While American agricultural and food production interests have succeeded in making Americans the fattest among developed nations, Mexico now trails by a minuscule margin among OECD nations as they've consolidated markets south of the border post-NAFTA. So, if Mexicaons haven't exactly achieved an American standard of living, they've at least achieved American super-sized waistlines:
Among its chief champions are American farm and food-retailing interests whose fortunes have benefited tremendously from the open market. Mexican exports to the United States have surged, and a more stable economic structure has evolved in Mexico. The country’s unemployment rate has stayed mostly constant, but average wages have fallen to $15,311 in 2016 from $16,008 in 1994, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Critics of Nafta acknowledge the complex causes of obesity, but argue free trade intensified the problem by opening Mexico’s largely isolated economy. In addition to dramatically lowering cross-border tariffs, Nafta let billions of dollars in direct foreign investment into Mexico, fueled the growth of American fast food restaurants and convenience stores, and opened the floodgates to cheap corn, meat, high-fructose corn syrup and processed foods.
You take the good with the bad, I guess.

Deport-o-Rama: N Koreans in Canada

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/12/2017 07:43:00 AM
On the face of it, this news item is rather dispiriting: what kind of heartless people would deport North Korean refugees? Somewhat more promisingly, it's not as bad as it sounds. Rather, authorities in Canada are looking into those who gained entrance into Canada based on dubious stories. Since North Koreans are granted automatic asylum in South Korea,  it is their belief that they would be "safe" there anyway if Canada refuses their applications:
Hyekyung Jo, a North Korean defector living in Toronto with her husband and sons for seven years, had hoped to remain in Canada as a permanent resident.

Instead, she and as many as 50 other North Korean families residing across the GTA [greater Toronto area] recently received letters from the federal Immigration Department informing them that their requests for permanent residency are poised to be revoked. They face deportation to South Korea — a place that Jo said is hostile to North Korean nationals.

Part of the issue identified in the Oct. 30 letter that Jo and her husband, Myungchul Kang, received is this: the South Korean government automatically grants North Koreans citizenship. Canada recognizes South Korea as a safe haven for refugees.

Another issue: Jo admitted at a Saturday news conference with other affected families that she and her husband weren’t truthful when they arrived in Toronto as asylum seekers in 2010. They told refugee board officials they’d travelled directly from China when, in fact, they’d lived for several years in South Korea.
What's so bad about living in South Korea? Many folks around the world would jump at the chance of living there...but the story is more complicated for North Koreans. Indeed, the North Korean refugees in Canada cite safety concerns as well as discrimination:
Progressive Conservative MPP [member of provincial parliament] Raymond Cho, who is originally from South Korea, attended the news conference. The PC immigration critic and representative for Scarborough—Rouge River said his native country can be a difficult place for North Korean defectors, who often experience discrimination at school and while seeking work.

That occurs partly because North Korean dialects are distinct and set them apart from southern speakers, Cho said. In addition, South Korean documentation, such as social insurance numbers, identifies North Korean nationals on paperwork that employers can see.

“It’s almost impossible to get a good job,” Cho said. “That’s the reality.” Cho told the crowd of about 200 people that North Koreans who don’t thrive in the South look elsewhere, to places like Canada.
Elsewhere in the article, the problem identified is that immigration brokers had told many defectors to lie about their situations to gain Canadian asylum, and those that did so are now facing deportation. It's a hard choice to make, I think: does possibly being led to lie about one's circumstances outweigh the purported discrimination North Koreans encounter in South Korea?