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Nate Jackson / July 21, 2021

Life Expectancy Decline Was Far More Than COVID

Drugs, suicides, and murders all played a big part, and much of this was driven by politics.

We recently noted that there was a 20% increase in American deaths in 2020. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that U.S. life expectancy dropped by a year and a half in 2020 — the biggest single-year decline since World War II.

The coronavirus pandemic most certainly played the dominant role in this change, but it’s a lot more complicated than merely people dying of a novel virus. In fact, a large factor was the policies implemented to address the virus.

Widespread lockdowns led to economic devastation and social isolation. That in turn contributed to a 30% spike in overdose deaths in 2020, as well as a big rise in suicides — including a drastic increase in attempts by teenagers.

Then there were policies like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order to put COVID-infected individuals in nursing homes, which led to thousands of deaths. Would those folks have died in 2020 anyway without the governor’s order? We’ll never know.

But that brings up an interesting point about COVID itself. The median age of death from coronavirus was older than life expectancy. Our national policy should have been focused on taking care of these more vulnerable among us rather than locking everyone down and causing more harm.

“We didn’t do a particularly good job of protecting [the elderly],” said veteran journalist Brit Hume recently. “We’ve had a high death toll disproportionately among the elderly. And what we did to deal with that is instead of quarantining the elderly and making the most strenuous possible efforts to protect them, we quarantined the healthy as well, shut down the economy, shut down the schools, you know, and with incalculable damage to children, to their education, to their mental health and all the rest of it. And, of course, the toll from that in terms of, you know, mental health issues and failed education and all the rest of it, we won’t know for some years, but we know it’s serious. So this was about as badly handled as any is any public policy issue I can remember.”

Meanwhile, the news media was obliged to highlight the racial component in the life expectancy report. According to CNBC, “Hispanics saw the biggest drop in life expectancy last year, followed by Black Americans.” But there’s also another fact: “Hispanic Americans usually have a longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic Black or white folks.”

The CDC says 90% of the decline for Hispanics was due to COVID-19, while the virus accounts for just 59% of the decline among blacks.

As it turns out, another reason for the decline in life expectancy was the fact that the murder rate spiked by an estimated 25%. Who were the victims of this increase? Often urban blacks killed by other urban blacks following the grossly politicized death of George Floyd. So if there’s a racial element here, it’s not an interracial one. In other words, it’s certainly not “systemic racism” among whites.

Whatever might be said of the decline in life expectancy among Americans, it’s undeniable that political decisions and gamesmanship played an outsized role.

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