For the second year in row, life expectancy in the United States has declined. Americans can now expect to live an average of 76.1 years. While Bob Anderson of the CDC doesn’t think you can call it a trend with just two data points, this is the first multi-year decline in over half a century. If life expectancy declines for a third year, it will be the first time that’s occurred, since the Spanish Influenza epidemic over a century ago , one of the most deadly pandemics in history. Anytime a trend of this nature appears, it should be an immediate cause for concern, and, in turn causes us to reflect on what sort of policy may be at the root of this backward movement.
So, what is causing this multi-year decline even as medical science marches forward and more Americans gain access to health insurance coverage? The answer lies in the troubling increase of opioid use and the rise in overdoses that come with increased opioid access and consumption. These overdoses have been steadily rising for years, but were offset by better medical treatments for more common causes of death, such as cardiac events. This problem, disproportionately affecting poor, rural areas has recently outpaced other gains, causing the drop in overall longevity.
There are some lawsuits involving these drug manufacturers. It’s a reasonable assumption that the DEA would investigate cases of single doctors or areas that were consuming disproportionate amounts of these highly addictive narcotics. In some cases there are more prescriptions than people in these communities. This is a situation where one would normally expect law enforcement to step in. The DEA is assigned to investigate and regulate this type of abuse, at least they were, before a law, sponsored by Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn hamstrung the agency, a decision she continues to defend.
The new law makes it quite difficult, if not impossible, for the DEA to stop suspicious narcotic shipments from the distributors, according to DEA documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative lawyer, as well as the Justice Department. That had allowed the agency to quickly freeze shipments intended for illegal distribution.
Why would Blackburn want to prevent law enforcement officials from doing their jobs? Perhaps there are $162,850 reasons. That’s how much drug makers gave her the year before she passed this bill. She received another $1.1 million from the healthcare industry overall.
That is what the lives of thousands of Tennesseans are worth to Ms. Blackburn. Now that Blackburn is running for the US Senate seat vacated by Senator Corker, Tennesseans need to be asking themselves whether she can be trusted as a representative of not only her own district, but all of Tennessee’s citizens. Will she look out for the interests of her constituents, or simply watch out for her wealthy donors at the cost of her constituents lives?
If you want to know what crony capitalism looks like, this is a classic example. The cost of politics as usual, from establishment politicians such as Blackburn, is a matter of life or death.