In a recent discussion of American neoliberalism, Henry Giroux described “the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess — consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance, and often incarceration.”
This is certainly true of poor Americans, especially those who are black or brown. Many of our well-positioned, mostly Republican Congressional leaders have shown through their actions that they don’t care about such people. The resulting neglect is life-threatening for the most vulnerable among us.
1. Denying Health Care: Tens of Thousands of Deaths Every Year
Numerous studies have shown that lack of health coverage can contribute to sickness and early death. Low-income minorities, of course, are least likely to have coverage.
Just having Medicaid greatly improves one’s chances of prolonging life. Yet Congress lets individual states decide the fortunes of their own poor residents. With 22 states opting out of Medicaid this year, over 5 million Americans are without vital health insurance coverage, and women — especially black women — are dying because of the lack of maternal care.
And now it’s getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services.
2. Subsidizing Pollution
The IMF estimates that global subsidies for fossil fuels have reached about $5 trillion per year, with the greatest cost going to the smog-spewing coal industry.
Pollution is killing people. That is well documented by the World Health Organization. But not only is Congress complicit in the outright subsidies of fossil fuel exploration and production, it is also allowing the worst polluters, especially Exxon Mobil and Chevron, to avoid almost all their taxes. We taxpayers may be subsidizing our own early deaths.
3. Tolerating Inequality: The Refusal to Address Wealth Disparity Leads to More Deaths
More and more studies are showing that inequality leads to sickness and physical pain and early death. As the Urban Institute notes, “The greater one’s income, the lower one’s likelihood of disease and premature death.”
But Congress has done nothing to fight inequality.
Income disparities particularly impact women, especially low-income black women, who are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy issues as white women.
4. Supporting Guns: Don’t Listen to Reason, Don’t Listen to the Public, but Listen to the NRA
In the first 204 days of this year, there have been 204 mass shootings (four or more people shot). But Congress does nothing about gun violence, even in the face of evidence that ownership of a gun is correlated to increased likelihood of owner fatalities.
Despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans want background checks, Congress resists, remaining “in thrall” of the NRA, andinsisting that “now is not the time” to take action.
5. Sending Disposable Youth off to War
The most brutal and despicable way to dispose of people is to send them off to war. While this affects all income levels, it disproportionately targets the poorest 30 percent, who lost their lives in Iraq at a rate 65 percent higher than that of the wealthiest 30 percent. And it almost exclusively targets the youngest and most impressionable Americans.
As Andrew Bacevich summarizes, “The casualty gap is ‘an inconvenient truth’ that both parties choose to ignore.”
It seems that the disposing of vulnerable Americans will never cause a fuss in Congress.
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