An American Shame that Both Candidates Ignore
The silence is deafening.
Life expectancy in many ways is the measure of civilization. It rises as a society conquers deadly epidemics like smallpox or the plague. It rises as mothers giving birth receive adequate health care and nutrition. It rises as children are well fed and grow up in safe neighborhoods and stable families. It rises as adults earn enough to feed their families and afford health care for them. It rises as seniors gain dignity and adequate care at the end of a life of working. And, of course, it rises as medical science advances.
I remember the shock at the precipitous decline in Russian life expectancy with the collapse of the
Poverty is at record levels in the U.S. -- now more than 48 million people. Wages are falling for working families. Health care, paid sick leave, adequate retirement pensions -- all have been cut drastically.
In many of our urban areas, junk food abounds, but fresh vegetables and fruit are scarce and expensive. Too many poor children go to schools without playgrounds or gyms. Obesity afflicts too many. In the ghettos and barrios of despair, drugs and violence threaten lives. But as we've seen, the drug epidemic extends even into rural areas scarred by meth addictions.
Life expectancy is a meter of our character, of what kind of society we are.
Yet this subject remains almost invisible on the campaign trail. President Obama has focused his message, sensibly enough, on reviving a broad middle class that has been sinking over the last decades. Republican
The contrast with our great leaders is stark.
In the coming presidential debates, we're likely to see a lot of "gotcha questions" and sound-bite answers. But surely some focus should be on the spread of poverty and the shocking decline in life expectancy. Jesus said our character is measured by how we treat the least of these. The debates should probe how the candidates will deal with the most vulnerable among us.
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An American Shame that Both Candidates Ignore | Politics
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