Sunday, June 30, 2013

The New Deal Saved Lives & Austerity is Destroying Them

(WPA poster promoting good health, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

"Comparing historical data across states, we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people."

--Dr. David Stuckler & Dr. Sanjay Basu, "How Austerity Kills," New York Times, May 12, 2013. Stuckler is a researcher at Oxford University and Basu is an epidemiologist at Stanford University. They are the authors of the new book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, New York: Basic Books, 2013.

Today, the story is quite different. Between the half-hearted (and long-gone) Obama stimulus (the biggest single part of which was tax cuts, not direct government spending), the recent "sequestration," and state budget cuts, the governments of America are cutting food assistance to low-income seniors, cutting cancer research, cutting funding for job training programs, cutting off unemployment benefits, and working hard to cut off food assistance to millions of low-income Americans.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has seen a rise in deaths from pneumonia and suicide, and ranks number one among developed nations in first-day infant mortality.

In their book, Stuckler and Basu show how austerity (including less spending on health care) imposed on several European nations, by the International Monetary Fund, has correlated with increased rates of deadly infectious diseases and suicides. So, while it might be a stretch to say that austerity is murder, it certainly is a slow and subtle homicide.


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