Category Archives: Family

Austerity bites: Greeks sink deeper into poverty


Poverty rate changes in the European Union, 2008-2015. From Reuters.

Poverty rate changes in the European Union, 2008-2015. From Reuters.

When the greed and unprosecuted crimes of Wall Street banksters and their allies in London brought the world to the brink of financial ruin nine years ago, it was the world’s poorer nation who paid — and are continuing to pay — the highest price.

Greece isn’t the only nation in the eurozone to see a poverty increase since the start of the Great Recession, but it’s the only one to see a near-tripling of the number of its citizens in poverty, a direction result of the austerity regime implemented by the austerity regime forced on Europe’s nations with the highest debt levels.

As part of that austerity, the Troika of the Euroippean Central Bank, the European Commission, and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund have mandated massive layoffs of public workers, pay and pension cuts, and the higher costs associated with the privatization and sell off of public transit and power systems.

The Troika has been holding off on its latest bailout loan, demanding yet more austerity measures. But when it comes, most of the money will go right back to lenders on Wall Street, London, and Germany.

More from Reuters:

[R]egardless of who is to blame for the collapse in living standards, poverty figures from the EU statistics agency are startling.

Greece isn’t the poorest member of the EU; poverty rates are higher in Bulgaria and Romania. But Greece isn’t far behind in third place, with Eurostat data showing 22.2 percent of the population were “severely materially deprived” in 2015.

And whereas the figures have dropped sharply in the post-communist Balkan states — by almost a third in Romania’s case — the Greek rate has almost doubled since 2008, the year the global crisis erupted. Overall, the EU level fell from 8.5 percent to 8.1 percent over the period.

>snip<

International organizations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have urged the government to prioritize tackling poverty and inequality.

Unemployment has slipped from a peak of 28 percent of the workforce to 23 percent but the rate remains the highest in the EU. Since the crisis began, the economy has shrunk by a quarter and thousands of businesses have closed for good.

>snip<

Better living standards seem as far away as ever. Over 75 percent of households suffered a significant income reduction last year, a survey by business confederation GSEVEE and Marc pollsters found. A third had at least one unemployed member and 40 percent said they had to cut back on food spending.

And with the latest round of austerity now in negotiation, things can only get worse.

Remember that, just as in the U.S., the employment numbers don’t reflect totals paid in salaries and benefits.

With rising costs for healthcare, transportation, and other necessities, coupled with pay cuts, living standards have been drastically reduced even for those who are working.

But, hey, a banskster’s gotta make a living, right?

Welcome Deanna: esnl becomes a grandpa again


Tiny Deanna smiles from her incubator.

Tiny Deanna smiles from her incubator.

And so eager to join the world that granddaughter Deanna arrived early.

Yep, as our son Derald writes on the birth of his firstborn:

As you know at the beginning of the month Anna was hospitalized when she had a rupture when her water broke. She has been there since and appeared to be staple with her water level returning to normal. The doctors had planned to keep her there until after Presidents Day when they planned to induce labor.

Well last night Anna went into labor unexpectedly and gave birth within about 20 minutes. Deanna is healthy and looks to be fine. She was born much earlier than anticipated (due date was beginning of April). Birthweight of 3lb, 10oz.

She will stay in the NICU for 4-6 weeks, but by all appearances is healthy.She is in an incubator but is doing well and even cries, but I’ve found that my voice has a soothing effect on her. The staff and facilities at the hospital seem top notch which is comforting.

They told me they are going to discharge Anna tomorrow so I have to get cleaning the condo!!

Here’s mommy and daughter, lit by the germ-killing ultraviolets of the incubator:

blog-deanna-mom

And daddy Derald and daughter Deanna:

blog-deanna-dad

And, finally, Derald, after a night that was a lot harder on mommyy:

blof-deanna-sleeping-dad

Lack of health insurance can shatter communities


Lack of health insurance isn’t just bad for the health of individuals and familieies  without it. It can also increase tensions within communities and shatter social cohesion.

From sociologist Tara McKay, Assistant Professor of of Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, writing in The Conversation, an open source academic written for lay readers.

All links in the article are, unfortunately, to paywalled academic journals:

Dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan is projected to increase the nation’s uninsured population by 18 million in the first year after repeal and by 32 million in 2026, according to recent estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). As lawmakers and the American public consider repealing portions of the ACA, it is an important time to reflect on what limiting access to health insurance might mean for Americans and their communities. If a repeal occurs, not only individuals, but also their communities, could be affected.

Whether we like it or not, health insurance affects our lives in significant ways. Sometimes these effects are very direct, determining whether we can afford to see a doctor when we need to. At other times, health insurance affects us in less direct ways by shaping whether providers hire that extra nurse or relocate to a wealthier area of town.

One of the things we’ve paid a lot less attention to is whether the effects of health insurance go beyond things like health and costs to shape other aspects of our social lives. My new study with Stefan Timmermans of UCLA addresses this gap by examining the consequences of uninsurance for cohesion and trust in Los Angeles communities during the 2000s.

Using longitudinal data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A. FANS), we find that people living in communities with lower levels of insurance are less likely to feel connected to and trust their neighbors, even after controlling for several other neighborhood and individual factors that might affect people’s perceptions of and engagement with their communities.

We also test whether broader access to health insurance through a policy like the ACA could strengthen communities over time. This analysis demonstrates that people’s perceptions of their neighbors and communities improve as more people gain access to insurance in their community.

Consequences beyond health care

How does this work?

When large groups of people don’t have health insurance, this places unique financial and organizational strains on individuals, providers and health care markets. Research demonstrates that a lack of access to health insurance negatively affects health, health care access and quality, utilization of preventative services and out-of-pocket costs for the uninsured.

These effects also frequently spill over to the insured, negatively affecting the health and out-of-pocket costs for people living or receiving care alongside large groups of uninsured. Such spillovers come about as providers try to lower their exposure to a large uninsured population by reducing, dropping or redistributing staff and services that are disproportionately used by the uninsured, such as emergency care.

These provider strategies also go on to affect access to health care, quality of care and trust in health care providers for everyone living in a community, not just the uninsured.

Given the particular pressures that uninsurance places on individuals, providers and health care markets, it’s not surprising that we find the consequences of uninsurance go beyond health and health care.

We specifically measured the consequences of living in a community with high levels of uninsurance on residents’ reports of social cohesion, or their feelings of trust, mutual obligation and reciprocity toward their neighbors. Moving from a community where almost everyone has health insurance to one where more than half are uninsured results in a 34 percent decrease in residents’ perceptions of social cohesion in their community, we found.

We tested many possible explanations for this decrease, including differences in the composition of these communities over time, but this result is persistent. There is a social cost for communities that carry a larger burden of uninsured. This 34 percent difference in social cohesion is a substantial difference that has important consequences for other individual and community outcomes pertaining to health, political engagement and more.

New tensions created in communities

There are two primary ways that a lack of health insurance might affect communities.

First, in battles over state and local budgets, attempts to cover the uninsured through the redistribution of new or existing funds may run into political barriers or be forced to compete with other public services such as education and law enforcement. These battles can create competing interests and goals within a community that contribute to the breakdown of social cohesiveness, trust and reciprocity among community members over time.

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Death dominates lives of young African Americans


We’ve long known that life expectancies of black Americans are significantly shorter than those of white Americans, as summarized in this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Life expectancy, by race: United States, 1970–2010

Life expectancy, by race: United States, 1970–2010

But there’s another set of deaths rates given, until now,  little attention.

And these numbers carry profound and multifold impacts, the loss experienced by children as parents and other close family members die.

From the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin:

African-Americans are more likely than whites to experience the loss of a parent during childhood and more likely to be exposed to multiple family member deaths by mid-life, according to a study by the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

It’s a trend that is likely to be damaging to the health of black Americans in the long run, the researchers said. Racial disparities in life expectancy and mortality risk in the United States also suggest that blacks are exposed to more family member deaths earlier and throughout their life than whites.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [$10 for article access], UT Austin researchers examined racial disparities in exposure and timing of family member deaths to uncover an underappreciated layer of racial inequality, which results from reoccurring bereavement that may lead to the intergenerational transmission of black health disadvantages.

“The potentially substantial damage to surviving family members is a largely overlooked area of racial disadvantage,” said Debra Umberson, a sociology professor who is the director of the Population Research Center. “By calling attention to this heightened vulnerability of black Americans, our findings underscore the need to address the potential impact of more frequent and earlier exposure to family member deaths in the process of cumulative disadvantage.”

Using nationally representative datasets of more than 42,000 people, Umberson and her colleagues compared non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white Americans on their exposure to death of biological parents, siblings, children and spouses, as well as the total number of deaths experienced at different ages.

Umberson emphasizes that bereavement following the death of even one close family member has lasting adverse consequences for health. Premature losses are especially devastating.

“If losing a family member is a disadvantage in the present in ways that disrupt the future, racial disparities in these losses over the life course is a tangible manifestation of racial inequality that needs to be systematically documented,” she said.

The study showed that blacks experienced more family member deaths overall than whites. They were twice as likely to experience the death of two or more family members by age 30 and 90 percent more likely to experience four or more deaths by age 65. In stark contrast, whites were 50 percent more likely to never experience a family member death by age 65.

The researchers found overall that blacks were at greater risk of losing a mother from early childhood through young adulthood, a father through their mid-teens, a sibling in their teens and a child by the age of 30. The race-gap diminishes only slightly at ages 70 and up when whites begin to experience more loss, the researchers said.

Specific findings include:

  • In a cohort born in the 1980s,
    • Blacks were three times more likely to lose a mother, more than twice as likely to lose a father and 20 percent more likely to lose a sibling by age 10.
    • Blacks were two and a half times more likely to lose a child by age 30.
  • Among several older cohorts born in the 1900s to the 1960s,
    • Blacks were nearly twice as likely as whites to lose a spouse by age 60.
    • Blacks were 50 percent more likely to lose a sibling between the ages of 50 and 70.
    • Between the ages of 50 and 70 Blacks were three times more likely than whites to lose a child.

“This is the first population-based documentation of earlier and repeated bereavement experiences for Black Americans,” Umberson said. “Death of family members is highly likely to disrupt and strain other family relationships as well as the formation, duration and quality of relationships across the life course, further contributing to a broad range of adverse life outcomes including poor health and lower life expectancy.”

Healthcare plan deductibles hit chronically ill


The current healthcare regime doesn’t look so grand either, when seen from the perspective of those of hit hit by lingering maladies.

We are in that number, afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, a heart attack [maybe two], cancer surgery and its lingering health effects [multiple], and another condition or two [the list of long-term ailments on our healthcare record actually totals nine].

So we can couch for the accuracy of the new report

From the University of Michigan Medical School:

For tens of millions of Americans, the start of a new year means the counter has gone back to zero on their health insurance deductible. If they need health care, they’ll pay for some of it out of their own pockets before their insurance takes over.

As insurance plans with deductibles grow in popularity, a new study takes a national look at what those plans mean for people with common chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, joint problems and heart disease.

The short answer: Those who choose plans with a deductible and have such conditions should be prepared to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars of their own money on their care, beyond what they spend to buy the insurance plan in the first place.

The results, reported in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers from the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System, University of Michigan Medical School, and Penn State University, especially show the impact of high-deductible health plans – which now cover 40 percent of Americans who buy their own health insurance or get it through an employer.

Using data from a national survey of Americans under age 65, the researchers find that having a high-deductible plan makes it more likely that health-related costs will take up more than 10 percent of a chronically ill person’s total income. They also find huge variation between patients who have the same condition in the amount of out-of-pocket spending they had, even for those in low-deductible plans.

Despite these out-of-pocket costs, the study finds that few people with chronic illnesses said that costs or insurance coverage issues had gotten in the way of getting the care or prescriptions they needed.

“Increasingly, these plans have become woven into fabric of health insurance in America, so it’s important to look at the impact of deductibles on people who need care on an ongoing basis,” says senior author Jeffrey Kullgren, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., a research scientist in the VA Center for Clinical Management Research of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and an assistant professor of general medicine at the U-M Medical School. “Not only on how they spend their money on care for their day in, day out health needs, but also how that affects spending in the rest of their lives.”

Changes to the insurance market

The findings are based on data from 2011 through 2013, during a time when many more employers started offering high-deductible health plans.

It was also before individuals who needed to buy their own insurance could do so on the Healthcare.gov Marketplace. Since the launch of the Marketplace, more than 90 percent of people shopping there have chosen high-deductible plans.

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Greek Christmas trees are dying of austerity


If there is one single story that epitomizes neoliberalism and its ruthless agenda, consider this one from the nation hardest hit by the Wall Street-bankster initirated Great Recession and the austerity regime imposed by the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

From Kathimerini:

Demand for real Christmas trees has been declining steadily since the start of the crisis in Greece, and this year the Environment Ministry has approved the felling of around 17,000 fewer firs than last year, figures show.

Last year, 124,976 fir trees were cut down in the country, and in 2014 the number was 153,728. This shows a marked reduction from before the crisis, when the number of Christmas trees harvested came to above 200,000 a year on average.

The majority of the Christmas trees sold (85,935) last year came from cultivated forests around the country and the remainder from private farms.

And see the comments below for more.

Chart of the day: The death of the American Dream


From the report.

From the report.

From The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940, a sobering new analysis from economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University, which concludes:

We find that rates of absolute mobility have fallen from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to 50% for children born in the 1980s. The result that absolute mobility has fallen sharply over the past half century is robust to the choice of price deflator, the definition of income, and accounting for taxes and transfers. In counterfactual simulations, we find that increasing GDP growth rates alone cannot restore absolute mobility to the rates experienced by children born in the 1940s. In contrast, changing the distribution of growth across income groups to the more equal distribution experienced by the 1940 birth cohort would reverse more than 70% of the decline in mobility. These results imply that reviving the “American Dream” of high rates of absolute mobility would require economic growth that is spread more broadly across the income distribution.

More from United Press International:

A new study suggests the “Dream” is fading, citing research that shows 50 percent of people born in the 1980s make more income than their parents, compared to 92 percent of children who were born in the 1940s.

That is, if you consider the definition of “American Dream” to be a person making more than his or her parents made.

In The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940 study conducted by Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley, researchers said absolute income mobility, a rate used to determine the number of children who earn more income than their parents, has “fallen sharply over the past half century.”

The study said income inequality is the primary reason younger people have been left behind despite a growing gross domestic product, the secondary factor being a slower rate of economic growth when compared to that seen after the generation born in the 1940s.