Why Politics Matters

Do you know folks who think political decisions don’t affect them? Who think voting is a waste of time? Among all of the other reasons they’re wrong, it turns out that a state’s political environment affects how long its residents live.

That was the astonishing conclusion of a study reported by Inc.The study ranked life expectancy in all 50 states, and came to some truly eye-opening conclusions. Among them: residents of Mississippi have the same life expectancy as residents of Bangladesh.

This truly is a fascinating study, pulling together reams of data to create “the most comprehensive state-by-state health assessment ever undertaken,” according to a press release. (The study itself was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.) It’s unusual because most big studies examine the United States as a whole, and yet there’s a vast disparity of health and longevity among the states.

The report itself focused primarily on the data, rather than on differences in the public policies of the various states, but the following excerpt from the Discussion section is illuminating on that score.

Mortality reversals in 21 states for adults ages 20 to 55 years are strongly linked to the burden of substance use disorders, cirrhosis, and self-harm, and this study shows that the trends for some of these conditions differ considerably across different states. Case and Deaton have called some of these conditions “deaths of despair” and argued that they are linked to the social and economic status of white US adults.

States differ widely in their support of interventions to curb substance and alcohol abuse, and in the availability of programs addressing those dependencies. As far as the statistics on “self-harm,” the language is guarded, but clear: “self-harm” is suicide, and most people who kill themselves use a gun.

The availability of guns is a huge public health issue, and medical and public-health professionals have been arguing for a public health approach to gun violence more  forcefully in recent years. The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association have both issued statements calling gun violence a public-health problem, and advocating more research. (The “Dickey Amendment,” passed by Congress in 1996, effectively prohibited the CDC from even studying the issue.)

The larger “take away” from the data is economic. States where the percentages of low-income Americans are highest have higher incidences of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide. It shouldn’t come as a shock that Mississippi, where citizens have poor health outcomes also has an economy that ranks in the bottom of American states.

The environment also plays a part: states that do a better job of controlling hazards like lead and coal ash, for example, reduce illnesses and deaths from avoidable environmental pollutants.

All of these influences on lifespan–the economic health of a state, the efficacy of local environmental protection, the easy availability of guns–are direct outcomes of the  public policies supported by state and local lawmakers. (It will not shock anyone who follows these issues that the states with the worst outcomes tend to be reliably Republican.)

If the disaster that is Donald Trump hasn’t brought home the importance of voting, perhaps explaining to the disengaged that local political policies have a demonstrable effect on our lifespans and those of our families and friends will do the trick.


  1. People in Minnesota live the longest in the United States: 78.7 years old on average. Mississippi ranked 51st (the study includes Washington, D.C.). Live expectancy there is just 71.8 years.Jun 11, 2018.. It’s the water, stupid.

  2. “If the disaster that is Donald Trump hasn’t brought home the importance of voting, perhaps explaining to the disengaged that local political policies have a demonstrable effect on our lifespans and those of our families and friends will do the trick.”

    This is why the November 6th mid-year elections are vital; more vital for each individual state and the entire nation…let us not forget the possessions and territories which also vote. Trump is merely the head of the snake; the entire body is dangerous and must be killed…in the political sense. I am not advocating violence but I do not see how this country can avoid internal violence and bloodshed in our streets if the current administration is not ousted. To do that it takes state level changes which demands voters to vote; and more importantly to know who and what they are voting for. Information is our greatest weapon and we have information within our reach on many levels. Our vote is not only our Constitutional right and our privilege; it is our Constitutional responsibility if we intend to remain the UNITED States of America. EVERY VOTE DOES COUNT! Rule of Law must be preserved and returned as the guiding factor and support of this country.

    “The report itself focused primarily on the data, rather than on differences in the public policies of the various states,…”

    With the power being wielded by the evangelicals in today’s totally controlling Republican administration I must ask; was religion a factor considered in this study? The Constitution states in the 1st Amendment; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”. The current administration has not ESTABLISHED a religion but has used established religion of their individual choice to enact laws “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” by those who are not in agreement. They have MISused the term “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” to mean they can force their religion on this country – Pence has made a frightening start in the state of Indiana with his personal RFRA, anti-abortion and lack of protection of LGBTQ rights as American citizens and stated during his campaign for the Vice Presidency he intends to take HIS laws to the federal level.


  3. Straight ticket pullers voting against their own self-interests are still voting, so “not voting” isn’t the problem.

    I’ve mentioned before but Indiana requires that welfare recipients be asked if they’d like to register to vote. I’d love to know how many actually vote and then which lever they pull.

    Throughout the South and Midwest, Red States vote for Republicans despite this being against their best interests. McConnell is from Kentucky for God’s sake. Last I checked, there aren’t an abundance of rich people located in Kentucky.

    There are two core problems…we don’t have a democracy or representative republic because of all the monies in government. The other problem is where the money is coming from or what the Donors get in return for their contributions.

    I refer to it as bribes and so do most intelligent people. Former Justice Scalia called it “Free Speech” with no evidence of quid pro quo. Turns out he was owned by the Koch brothers so his ruling was bogus.

    Healthcare for all would benefit everyone in Kentucky, not just the poor on state/federal welfare, so why do they vote for candidates who oppose the ACA, which is a far cry from universal healthcare?

    They’ve been led to believe by the media they watch and the people they converse with that universal health care is free for black people who don’t work. This ignites their bigot spark.

    “I’m not paying higher taxes so lazy black people can have free healthcare.”


    Sadly, ignorant people are easy to manipulate.

    Just read Adolph Hitler’s, Mein Kampf. It’s a great book about propaganda or manipulating undereducated masses. It’s also a lesson on oppression.

    Just because the masses are easily manipulated doesn’t mean we should take advantage of them. In the USA, that is the fundamental operating principle of our society and economic structure.

    Profits over people.

  4. Some people spend their whole lives studying the cumulative knowledge of mankind in some field and applying it to our betterment.

    Some people spend their whole lives blowing up possums with machine guns just for the fun of it.

    Both get one vote.

    Remember that.

  5. Todd; your first sentence shows how out of touch you are with the reality of today’s political situation in red states and the entire country.

    VOTE BLUE…VOTE ALL BLUE! We can strengthen the weak links only if their numbers are added to election results.

  6. A book published last year goes into these kinds of details for Louisiana. “Strangers in their own land,” points out that the voters vote for men who are in the pockets of large industrial organizations, so environmental laws are either absent or not enforced. And taxes are routinely lowered to stimulate more industry, so about one half of the state’s budget comes from Washington. Thinking of the voters again, I am reminded of the Stockholm Syndrome.

  7. i work in a field where,the voter,is,,never there..mentally. you could hope they would take a look at,their self,and others around them,and see, the most important issue is, self preservation,of our democracy. no, they all rail on trivial crap and loathing something. trump has been a god from heaven to them,and nothing,i should put it,NOTHING else matters,he will save us,from pelosi,clinton and the liberals!!!! well, i guess stagnate wages,lose of any life preservers when wall street desides they dont like something,and future generations of thier own,will just have to rely on good ol republican propaganda,and im sure that will feed them…
    when asked about how they vote,seems it doesnt matter,as long as trump is there.i,wonder how they will handle corprate america running this nation as a goverment.. when its ,clock in,read the sign,and shut up, go home and passafy your needs on some electronic media and tell your self,im free….thanks trump,his mob,and the followers who have dismissed our nation as some sort of looser… when in fact,your the loosers

  8. P.S. So we have the “new bad guy” PETER M. ZURIS who attacked my validity and the “old good guy” PETE all one in the same. Which one will stay? Pretty clever don’t you all think?


    For those of you who might not be aware of the ARCHIVES: Click “Articles, papers and excerpts from books written by Sheila Kennedy,” at the top, right hand corner, of the HOME PAGE of SheilaKennedy.net.

  10. I am old enough to recall a similar report when I was in my teens. There are a host of factors that contribute, obviously, but the underlying common factor is degree of poverty. Mississippi has ALWAYS been poor. Ohio, having been abandoned by the auto industry, is now a poorer state and its life expectancy is pretty close to that of Viet Nam. Our brand of capitalism seems to be the harsh taskmaster of who gets to live longer and who doesn’t. I think political party affiliation is more an artifact (Idaho is bright red, yet has long life) than a cause for long life. It is capitalism and its money-grubbing adherents that drive poverty to a greater extent.

    It’s also notable that the voter turnout for elections that are closest to one’s wallet have the lowest numbers. The presidency is at least 5 levels of government away from one’s wallet, yet the most local elections have the lowest turnout. I guess being screwed by your neighbor isn’t sexy enough to get one’s ass off one’s couch and get it to the voting booth.

  11. HR 676, Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act is a solution to the issue of access to Health Care. Coverage from birth to death, everyone in nobody out. One heath care card valid in every state. HR 676 now has 123 Co-Sponsors – all Democrats. Absent from the list is Nancy Pelosi the so -called “Leader” of the House Democrats. Conclusion – Health Care for everyone is not important to Nancy Pelosi.

    S.1804 – Medicare for All Act of 2017, was introduced Bernie Sanders, it has 16 Co-Sponsors all Democrats. Our Counterfeit Democrat Joe Donnelly is NOT a Co-Sponsor, neither is Chuck Schumer, the Democrats “Leader” in the Senate.

    Vernon said – “I am old enough to recall a similar report when I was in my teens. There are a host of factors that contribute, obviously, but the underlying common factor is degree of poverty. ”

    Here in the USA if you are in poverty or close to it – No Heath Care for you, unless you can jump through hoops the various states have devised to be eligible for Medicaid or some version of it.

    Here in Indiana, if you drive around a bit, you pass by Doctor’s offices, Hospitals and various other medical establishments. If you are poor, uninsured or under-insured all you can do is look through the window. The Democratic Party’s Corporate Leadership is profoundly indifferent to this situation.

  12. Our problem is twofold: ignorance and apathy. Only about 50% of eligible citizens bother to vote.

    Worldwide 22 countries have compulsory voting law. Of those 22, eleven fine voters who do not vote. In Australia (one example) compulsory voting with a fine for non-voters works. Prior to enactment in 1924 Aussies voted at a rate of 52-78%. After the fine was introduced voting jumped to 91-96%.

    Of course that leaves us with ignorance, and that is a tougher row to hoe. Upending SCOTUS’ Citizen’s United decision giving corporations “citizenship, enacting campaign finance laws limiting donations, or better yet, having all elections paid for by the government ala France: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/campaign-finance/france.php , Limiting the length of campaigns (France/Canada and others) would greatly help, but ignornace? Fixing that is well above my pay grade, Help!

  13. Wray,

    Thanks for corroborating a chapter on the “28th Amendment” in my book, “Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism”. I’d add that if we make voting required, we should make election day a national holiday.

  14. Vernon:

    ” I’d add that if we make voting required, we should make election day a national holiday.”

    You are certainly right. It is almost inconceivable that it isn’t already the case.

    I’ll check out your book. Thanks for the reference.

  15. Sheila – Perhaps American citizens living in Mississippi would live longer than Bangladeshis if our politics were better than those of Bangladesh, but we (and Mississippi as a red state) have decided that our tax money is better spent on the eternal enrichment of the already rich rather than on the health and education of us taxpaying Americans and the crumbling infrastructure we inhabit, and given the power of money in buying propaganda for distribution to an unenthusiastic polity, I am not sure 100% voting would change anything (though I would vote to give it a try). Perhaps capitalism, propaganda, and even Republicans are not the real problems but only symptomatic – perhaps the real problems are ignorance and a gullible disinterest in matters civic.

  16. One commenter above said “Straight ticket pullers voting against their own self-interests are still voting, so “not voting” isn’t the problem.” It’s been pointed out elsewhere that GOP voters do in fact vote their self interest, it’s just that that they define their self-interest quite differently from liberals.

    Conservatives (reactionaries, neo-feudalists, choose your term) find it baffling that liberals insist on treating everyone, – even people they don’t like – with respect – why not just beat them until morale improves?They have been convinced that liberals will give away their hard-earned cash to people who don’t deserve it and bankrupt businesses by interfering with the Holy God of Money by preventing them from charging “those” people whatever the (unregulated) market will bear. They insist that science, assuming it has a purpose at all, should have no role in formulating public policy. They have no concept of a “public good”, only private interest. They believe that they have a right to control the life arc of half the population by constraining a woman’s reproductive choices.

    They don’t/can’t see that these positions objectively increase the collective misery of the people in the country they claim to love (but most of whose people they detest), but they DO satisfy the selfish emotional part of their psyche.

    Since the liberal position on every one of these things is anathema to contemporary conservatism, it’s no surprise conservatives vote against them.

  17. Actually Marv there’s no magic. I contacted Sheila to tell her that in the past the name, email, website boxes below the posting box always stayed filled in for me but then stopped. She and her son said it seemed unique to me. I’ve been experimenting with ways to get that real convenience back (with little luck) and some experiments come up with my old info and some with my real name. They’re both me.

    Anyone have any ideas or have had similar experience?

    I use the Chrome browser typically on IOS but the problem seems to effect all browsers.

  18. Pete; the comment section on my screen stopped providing the filled in boxes weeks ago. I thought it was my AOL or old hard drive problems; got a new hard drive, no AOL problems but boxes still blank. The option box to keep them filled in is also gone.

  19. A sad look at this was when MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had his show with Michael Moore in Flint, Michigan. Several of the local participants stated that they didn’t vote because the candidates “didn’t excite” them. They also said they were going to follow that logic in the upcoming election – and we wonder how officials got elected who thought nothing of poisoning Flint’s water.

    Sometimes I think that the non-voting fools deserve they poisoned air and water, a court system to supports the rich and believes that their personal religious convictions should be imposed on everyone, and a country that believes that we should cater to the rich because it is the “natural order”. However, I don’t deserve to live in that kind of country.

    My hope is that for every non-voting fool, many other angered citizens are following the words of Joe Hill, “Don’t mourn, organize!”
    Let’s see what November brings.

  20. Len; President Obama said last week as he encouraged us to vote on November 6th; “Don’t be looking for a Messiah.” Good advice!


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