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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Widening Longevity Gap Between Rich and Poor Is Cause for Concern, and More

The average low-income American will die more than a decade sooner than their high-income equivalent.

In today’s On the News segment: The widening longevity gap between the rich and the poor is cause for serious concern; marijuana businesses are being flooded with piles of cash; Santa Rosa, California is stepping up the care of their homeless citizens; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. It’s not only the income gap that we should be worried about. According to new research from economists at the Brookings Institute, the widening longevity gap between the rich and the poor is cause for serious concern. Despite major advancements in medicine, education and technology, the average low-income American will die more than a decade sooner than their high-income equivalent. And, that gap has grown substantially in recent years. As the New York Times explained, the average 60-year-old man in the top half of the income spectrum could expect to live just 1.2 years longer than his low-income counterpart in 1960. But, by 2001, that gap had grown to 5.8 years longer, and today that difference in life expectancy has jumped to an astonishing 14 years. For women, that gap went from 4.7 years in 2001, to 13 years today. While the exact causes of this discrepancy are still being investigated, researchers believe that higher rates of smoking among low-income Americans accounts for at least a third of the longevity gap. Other factors like stress levels, food quality and access to high-quality health care certainly contribute to longer lifespans among our nation’s top earners. And, the shorter life expectancy of low-income Americans has left our nation struggling to keep up with other wealthy, developed countries when it comes to average life spans. The wealthiest Americans can expect to live as long as people in Iceland and Japan, where average life spans are the longest. But, Americans in the bottom quarter of the wealth scale will, on average, live about as long as someone in Poland or the Czech Republic. In yet another way, the increasing divide between the rich and the poor in our country should be cause for national outrage. Our paycheck shouldn’t determine our lifespan, but that’s what happens when you have to be rich to afford good food, quality health care and a little leisure time to relax in the US. Last time I checked, the “American Dream” was a dream shared by more than just the wealthy. It’s time to bring back that dream and return the era of shared prosperity that gave Americans the long, full lives that they deserve.

Marijuana businesses are being flooded with piles of cash. According to a recent article in the Guardian, the continued federal ban on banks accepting cash from illegal drug sales is causing major problems for marijuana dispensaries in states that have ended cannabis prohibition. That means that these businesses can’t write checks, make deposits or even pay their taxes without carrying around huge sums of cash. Obviously, that limitation poses a big business risk for tax offices that collect payments and huge personal risk for the employees who actually bring in all that cash. For example, one of those local tax offices in San Francisco, California routinely takes cash payments of more than $100,000. All-cash businesses are prone to more fraud, theft and corruption than businesses that can access our banking system, and it’s time to end the banking prohibition for pot businesses.

During this election cycle, there have been more than one disparaging statement about how Democrats want to turn the US into Europe. Well, according to the actual data, that transformation would be one heck of a positive goal. A new article over at says, “European countries, especially the high-income democracies of Northern Europe, make better use of their wealth in supporting a good life for their citizens.” In other words, many European nations take better care of their citizens by making sure that all the wealth doesn’t go straight to the top. And, that conclusion is pretty much the same regardless of whether you are using a more liberal or more conservative form of measurement. In categories like nutrition, medical care and other basic needs, European nations “are among the best in the world in providing for the basic human needs of their citizens.” And, when it comes to so-called conservative values like national security and crime prevention, it turns out that the European countries are doing a better job than the US as well. If Republicans want to continue to accuse Democrats of “wanting to turn the US into Europe,” perhaps we should simply ask them why they don’t. says that bilingual skills will help job seekers land a new job. But, charter schools like The Success Academy in New York City apparently think that learning a second language is a waste of time. That must be what that school’s CEO Eva Moskowitz was thinking when she dropped language classes and said, “Americans don’t tend to do foreign languages very well.” But, students at the Success Academy can try putting their newest class – chess – on their résumés and see if that helps them find a job. In most developed nations around the world, students learn two or three languages in addition to their native tongue, and Americans will have to compete with those workers in the global business environment. We should be doing everything we can to prepare our students for the jobs of the future, and that means more languages and less board games – and the end of for-profit charter schools once and for all.

And finally… Santa Rosa, California is stepping up the care of their homeless citizens. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, that city is rolling out a new trailer to offer the homeless free 10-minute hot showers and access to a private restroom. The new trailer will also provide great opportunities for social workers to talk to homeless citizens about assistance programs and public housing. Similar projects have popped up in other cities in California and have provided homeless residents with the simple service and basic dignity that so many of us take for granted. Rather than criminalizing homelessness, like so many cities have done throughout the US, Santa Rosa is treating people who don’t have homes like they are actual people. Hopefully, more cities around the US can learn from these examples and we can focus on programs like this that improve the lives of those who need our help the most.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of February 22, 2016 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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