Some days — in fact, most days — it seems as though an epidemic of stupidity has gripped the nation.
That’s especially true when it comes to our elected leaders at the federal level, who waste time tilting at windmills when they should be focusing on the nation’s very real problems. This generally has absolutely nothing to do with which party you pledge allegiance to.
For example, President Trump is threatening to shut down the federal government unless Congress agrees to fund a wall along the U.S./Mexico border, with uncertain cost estimates and so many other segments of our society in great need.
Among those pressing needs are soaring suicide and drug-overdose deaths. The combination is having a negative effect on Americans’ average life expectancy.
You would think, with all the advances in medical science and treatment procedures, that life expectancy in the United States would be getting higher, which it has been doing for decades.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control points out that life expectancy decreased in 2015, stayed about level in 2016, but then started falling again last year.
What this means is that the nation was in the longest period of a more or less consistently declining life expectancy since the early 1900s, a period during which World War I and the worst flu pandemic in history combined to kill nearly 1 million Americans. Life expectancy topped out at 39 years in 1918.
Among America’s 10 leading causes of death, only the cancer death rate fell last year. There were increases, some dramatic, in suicide, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, flu/pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries. The death rate from heart disease had been trending downward as medical science advanced, but that too has become static.
There are a litany of reasons for this turn of events. Financial struggles, a widening income gap and a toxic political climate are hounding many Americans. People are increasingly feeling helpless and hopeless, which leads to drug use, overdose and/or suicide.
The drug-overdose deaths problem equates to opioid addiction. Last year more than 70,000 died in one of the deadliest drug overdose epidemics in U.S. history.
That’s sad, but the soaring suicide rate is catastrophic, an epidemic of its own. Nearly 50,000 Americans killed themselves last year, too many of them relatively young, who should have been looking forward to a long, promising life.
The CDC did not look into the issue of increasing deaths involving gun violence, but intuitively the threat of being involved in a mass shooting is weighing on many Americans’ minds. We will guess you’ve thought about it. How could you not?
Where is the leadership we expect from our elected officials? It starts at the top, with our president, but everyone elected to high office is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of every American citizen, and there is no exemption for members of either major political party. Premature death is not part of the partisan divide.
In a perfect world, we would all be living better lives, thanks to medical science — and political science. Unfortunately, taxpayers are being cheated by the latter, in which bitter, partisan stalemating and posturing are causing a truly great nation almost unendurable pain and suffering.
We’ve written about this problem with regard to the neglect a long line of presidential administrations and Congresses have shown our military veterans, but the standoff in Washington appears to be bringing almost everyone down.
America’s problems can be resolved, but it will require lawmakers of both parties agreeing to cooperate.