That's the advice from one of the brightest young stars in the Plutocratic Galaxy of Greed. If you're whining about being chronically unemployed, just shut up and be grateful. You'll have less risk of turning into highway splat now that you no longer have to commute to work. If you're stuck in the impoverished suburbs, you don't have to breathe in the polluted air in our big city jobs centers. If you're lucky enough to live long enough to become warehoused in a nursing home, rejoice. You'll probably get better care in an economic depression than you would during a boom time. That's because there are theoretically enough people desperate enough to take a $9/hour job emptying bedpans than would have been the case without the government austerity policies dictated by capitalists gone wild.
Former Obama budget director/millionaire Citigroup executive Peter Orzsag has written a sleazy piece citing these and other "findings" to extol the upside of a crappy economy for the little people. And here you thought austerity had been thoroughly debunked! "This is a morbid column about some unexpected and encouraging news," he cheerfully begins. (I can just envision him sitting at his engraved Apple laptop, cuddled up in a velvet smoking jacket, sipping Courvoisier as he taps out this drivel).
A reasonable estimate is that for every percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate, the U.S. mortality rate drops by 0.3 percentage point. In other words, and although it runs counter to our intuition, recessions may be bad forOrszag cherry-picks his way through various studies, noting that since destitute people can no longer afford to smoke and drink, they're being forced to protect their lungs and livers. He cites the economic collapse in Iceland, and the ensuing improved health of the inhabitants who found themselves priced right out of vice. Strangely, he does not see fit to add that Iceland actually let its banks fail and chose to bail out its people instead. He also doesn't mention that Iceland's recession has essentially ended, thanks to good public policy and a democratic system of government.
yourour wallets but good for our health.
America's depression, for all but the booming stock market and those at the very top, slogs on and on and on. Its long-term health effects are just now getting some serious attention.
To be fair, Orszag wrote his plutocratic puff piece before a more recent study was released, reaching the exact opposite conclusion: Joblessness does indeed shorten lives, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. From today's New York Times:
“What is it about employment that has this huge impact on mortality, beyond the material resources it brings?” said Jennifer Karas Montez, the study’s lead author, a researcher at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.
The study was an attempt to explain the reasons behind the troubling trend of declining life expectancy for the least educated Americans, particularly women. A study last year found that white women without a high school diploma lost five years of life expectancy between 1990 and 2008, a measure of decline last seen among Russians in the economic chaos that came after the fall of the Soviet Union. This year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that mortality for women had gone up in more than 40 percent of the counties in the United States since the early 1990s.
But the study raised more questions than it answered, in particular about why employment status affects physical health. Ms. Montez said there was some evidence that having a job offered intangible benefits that could improve health, including a sense of purpose and control in life, as well as providing networks that help to reduce social isolation.Meanwhile, banker cum health expert Orszag actually thinks that statistics showing that unemployed people get more sleep is a huge plus. He either doesn't know, or chooses not to know, that excessive sleepiness is a sign of clinical depression. Or that the 30% increase in the past decade of our national suicide rate has been directly linked by the Centers for Disease Control to our unaddressed crisis of long-term unemployment. His glib conclusion:
None of which should make usThe Pete Peterson Fix the Debt cabal are going to jump all over this piece, and the dubious statistics behind it, in an effort to resurrect austerity policies in the wake of the epic scandal of the flawed Reinhart/Rogoff study. Their new, improved message: the Sequester and all the other whips and chains of gratuitous economic sadism may be painful, but a whole bunch of new cherry-picked stats now shows that they'll help all you peasants live to a shriveled old age.
plutocratswish for economic trouble. ( But it does, it does!) Higher unemployment means loss of productivity, lower income and mental anguish, and those are more than sufficient reasons to combat joblessness. There may be some small consolation, though, in learning that it probably doesn’t harm human health the way that we all imagined. ( We can ease what little is still left of our Randian consciences, fellas!)
The better to chain-CPI you with, my dears, said the Orszag wolf at the door. Yes, it is Orszag who's also been championing cuts in Social Security -- not because it'll actually help the economy, but because making people suffer for no good reason will magically tranform his old boss into a Profile in Courage in the eyes of Wall Street. That corner office is waiting.