Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

life expectancy

Earlier today, I referred to a recent study about inequality and life expectancy in the United States.

The chart above is from that study, “The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014,” published by (and now available for free in) the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The upper panels, which illustrate race- and ethnicity-adjusted life expectancies for men and women by income quartile for each year from 2001 through 2014, show that there was a much larger increase in life expectancy for higher income groups during the 2000s. (For men, the mean annual increase in life expectancy from 2001 through 2014 was 0.20 years in the highest income quartile compared with only 0.08 years in the lowest income quartile. For women, the comparable changes were 0.23 years in the highest quartile and only 0.10 years in the lowest quartile.)

The lower panels, which illustrate the annual increase in race-adjusted life expectancy by income ventiles, show the large discrepancies in the annual increases in longevity between men and women at the top and bottom of the distribution of income. (The annual increase in longevity was 0.18 years for men, which translates to an increase of 2.34 years from 2001 to 2014, and 0.22 years for women, an increase of 2.91 years from 2001 to 2014 in the top 5 percent of the income distribution. In the bottom 5 percent of the income distribution, the average annual increase in longevity was 0.02 years, an increase of only 0.32 years from 2001 to 2014 for men and 0.003 years, an increase of 0.04 years from 2001 to 2014 for women.)

According to the authors, here are the two main conclusions of this portion of their study (citations omitted):

The first major conclusion is that life expectancy increased continuously with income. There was no dividing line above or below which higher income was not associated with higher life expectancy. Between the top 1% and bottom 1% of the income distribution, life expectancy differed by 15 years for men and 10 years for women.

These differences are placed in perspective by comparing life expectancies at selected percentiles of the income distribution (among those with positive income) in the United States with mean life expectancies in other countries. For example, men in the bottom 1% of the income distribution at the age of 40 years in the United States have life expectancies similar to the mean life expectancy for 40-year-old men in Sudan and Pakistan, assuming that life expectancies in those countries are accurate. Men in the United States in the top 1% of the income distribution have higher life expectancies than the mean life expectancy for men in all countries at age 40 years. . .

The second major conclusion is that inequality in life expectancy increased in recent years. Between 2001 and 2014, individuals in the top 5% of the income distribution gained around 3 years of life expectancy, whereas individuals in the bottom 5% experienced no gains. As a benchmark for this magnitude, the NCHS estimates that eliminating all cancer deaths would increase life expectancy at birth by 3.2 years.

You read that right: U.S. men in the bottom 1 percent of the income distribution have life expectancies similar to the mean life expectancy for men in Sudan and Pakistan! And the gap between those at the top and bottom is growing!

What we have then is technical chart with a very important political message: now more than ever, we need a radically different way of organizing economic and social life in the United States—unless, of course, we want to remain at the level of Sudan and Pakistan.

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Special mention

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If “all warfare is based on deception” (Sun Tzu), the biggest deception concerns the costs of warfare.

That’s why the work done by the folks at costsofwar.org is so important. They have attempted to estimate the human, economics, and sociopolitical costs of the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Here are some of their findings:

  • While we know how many US soldiers have died in the wars (just over 6000), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars.  New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall.  Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
  • At least 138,000 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
  • The armed conflict in Pakistan, which the U.S. helps the Pakistani military fight by funding, equipping and training them, has taken as many lives as the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
  • Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 236,000.
  • Indirect deaths from the wars, including those related to malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure, and environmental degradation, may far outnumber deaths from combat. While these deaths are difficult to count due to factors such as lack of comparable baseline mortality figures, a 2008 survey by The Geneva Declaration Secretariat estimates that assuming a ratio of four indirect deaths to one direct death in contemporary conflicts would not be unreasonable.
  • Millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions.  The current number of war refugees and displaced persons — 7,800,000 — is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Kentucky fleeing their homes.
  • The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
  • The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed.  For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.
  • As with former US wars, the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war.
  • The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases, and those effects have been underappreciated.

The folks at the Costs of War project also admit that “there are many costs of these wars that we have not yet been able to quantify and assess.” Unfortunately, they’ve received absolutely no help from mainstream economists who, through their lack of attention to the costs of war, perpetuate the deception that warfare is cheap.

The United States is involved in four wars right now: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan. What are the costs?

As it turns out, there’s no easy way of calculating the costs of all these wars, at least in terms of publicly available government statistics. Public appropriations for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been $1.3 trillion. But that’s only the beginning.

Fortunately, others—but not, for the most part, mainstream economists—have done those calculations: Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, who concluded the wars will cost more than $3 trillion; and the Costs of War project by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, which arrives at $4 trillion and rising.

Christian Dorsey contrasts the lack of transparency of the costs of war with the accounting of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, “which has an entire website that gives laypersons, policy wonks and researchers customized looks at how virtually every dollar of ARRA funds were allocated and spent.”

This lack of transparency weakens our democracy by not allowing Americans to hold our elected officials accountable for decisions they make to engage in conflict. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has introduced The Cost of War Act, a bill that takes only 91 words to direct the Department of Defense to publish, on a public website, the cost of our current wars. The value of such an action—especially if the end result is as robust as Recovery.gov—would be to force this Congress to have an adult conversation about priorities, spending, deficits and debt. Right now, the only sunlight on federal spending shines on the non-defense, discretionary side, which is dwarfed by defense spending–all of which is discretionary. Exposing it all to the same level of scrutiny would lead to better debate among our policymakers.

It is also would lead to better debate among the citizenry, who are the ones suffering the effects of the money spent on all four wars—and not spent on creating jobs, lowering poverty, and improving social services.

Costs of war

Posted: 29 June 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Käthe Kollwitz, "Nie wieder Krieg" (No More War) (1924)

Measuring the costs of war should have been conducted by mainstream economists. But they haven’t done it. So, the task has fallen to the Costs of War project by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, a multidisciplinary team led by political scientist Neta C. Crawford and anthropologist Catherine Lutz.*

Mainstream economists often defend what they do, and their superiority over other social sciences, on the basis of their quantitative methodology and rigorous empirical methodology. But they’ve been absent from the debate concerning the costs of the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only exception is an analysis of the “Economic Consequences of a War in Iraq” [pdf] conducted by William D. Nordhaus in 2002. That’s it.

Instead, the responsibility has fallen to others—most famously, the 2008 book The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz (which they updated here).

And now the Costs of War project. Here are some of their key findings:

  • While we know how many US soldiers have died in the wars (just over 6000), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars.  New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall.  Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
  • At least 137,000 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
  • The armed conflict in Pakistan, which the U.S. helps the Pakistani military fight by funding, equipping and training them, has taken as many lives as the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
  • Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 225,000.
  • Millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions.  The current number of war refugees and displaced persons — 7,800,000 — is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Kentucky fleeing their homes.
  • The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
  • The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed.  For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.
  • As with former US wars, the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war.
  • The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases, and those effects have been underappreciated.
  • While it was promised that the US invasions would bring democracy to both countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan with US support, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war.
  • Serious and compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq.  Some of those alternatives are still available to the U.S.

The authors of the report acknowledge the constraints of their analysis. With their limited resources, they focused on U.S. spending, U.S. and allied deaths, and the human toll in the major war zones.

There is still much more to analyze and understand. Unfortunately, they’re not going to get any help from mainstream economists.

* There are, in fact, a number of economists working on the project. They include Anita Dancs, Ryan D. Edwards, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, James Heintz, and Bassam Yousif. At least a couple of them received their doctorates from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I don’t know whether the others consider their work to be mainstream or heterodox. The fact remains, mainstream economists have the quantitative skills to measure the costs of war but, for the most part, they’ve neglected the topic.

The question is, why? Maybe they were scared off after Larry Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council (2001–2002) and assistant to the president on economic policy, who played a leading role in formulating President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut plan, was fired after he estimated the cost of the Iraq war could reach $200 billion.

Taliban land reform?

Posted: 28 July 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,
Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, one of the largest landowners in Pakistan and head of the Bhutto tribe, poses in front of portraits of his forefathers at his estate in Mirpur Bhutto

Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, one of the largest landowners in Pakistan and head of the Bhutto tribe, poses in front of portraits of his forefathers at his estate in Mirpur Bhutto

What’s missing from most analyses of Pakistan is a class analysis, especially the role of feudal lords and peasants. Clearly, feudal class exploitation and the growth of rural poverty have created the conditions for the Taliban, which according to the NYT is engaging in its own project of land confiscation and redistribution.

The authors, Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, can’t help but refer to the “wealthy landowners” as “the economic pillar of the rural society.” But their article does offer valuable snippets about the class structure of rural Pakistan, the landlords’ use of private militias to protect their holdings, and the Taliban’s project of redistributing land to the landless peasants.

Pakistan

Here’s Tariq Ali on “Obama, Pakistan, and U.S. Empire”:

P.S. Ah, the wonders of a computer archive! (It’s amazing what one finds when searching through one’s files.)  I just noticed that the same NYT reporters published almost the exact same story back on 16 April: “Taliban Exploits Class Rifts in Pakistan.” Then it was “exploits” class rifts, now it’s “foment” a class struggle—as if class struggle didn’t already exist throughout Pakistan. . .