Our Miserable 21st Century

From work to income to health to social mobility, the year 2000 marked the beginning of what has become a distressing era for the United States

the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society).

.. one recent New York Times business-section article cluelessly insisted before the inauguration, that “Mr. Trump will inherit an economy that is fundamentally solid.” But this is patent nonsense. By now it should be painfully obvious that the U.S. economy has been in the grip of deep dysfunction since the dawn of the new century.

.. We are witnessing an ominous and growing divergence between three trends that should ordinarily move in tandem: wealth, output, and employment.

Depending upon which of these three indicators you choose, America looks to be heading up, down, or more or less nowhere.

.. Between early 2000 and late 2016, the estimated net worth of American households and nonprofit institutions more than doubled, from $44 trillion to $90 trillion. (SEE FIGURE 1.)

.. for every unemployed American man between 25 and 55 years of age, there are another three who are neither working nor looking for work.

.. After World War II, work rates for prime women surged, and continued to rise—until the year 2000. Since then, they too have declined. Current work rates for prime-age women are back to where they were a generation ago, in the late 1980s.

.. In our era of no more than indifferent economic growth, 21st–century America has somehow managed to produce markedly more wealth for its wealthholders even as it provided markedly less work for its workers. And trends for paid hours of work look even worse than the work rates themselves.

.. On the nonmaterial front, it is likewise clear that many things in our society are going wrong and yet seem beyond our powers to correct.

.. Which “Cold War babies” among us would have predicted we’d live to see the day when life expectancy in East Germany was higher than in the United States, as is the case today?

.. Health has been deteriorating for a significant swath of white America in our new century, thanks in large part to drug and alcohol abuse. All this sounds a little too close for comfort to the story of modern Russia, with its devastating vodka- and drug-binging health setbacks.

.. journalist Sam Quinones notes in passing that “in one three-month period” just a few years ago, according to the Ohio Department of Health, “fully 11 percent of all Ohioans were prescribed opiates.

.. nearly half of all prime working-age male labor-force dropouts—an army now totaling roughly 7 million men—currently take pain medication on a daily basis.

.. In our mind’s eye we can now picture many millions of un-working men in the prime of life, out of work and not looking for jobs, sitting in front of screens—stoned.

.. But how did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap.

.. For a three-dollar Medicaid co-pay, therefore, addicts got pills priced at thousands of dollars, with the difference paid for by U.S. and state taxpayers. A user could turn around and sell those pills, obtained for that three-dollar co-pay, for as much as ten thousand dollars on the street.

.. (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent).

.. for un-working Anglos (non-Hispanic white men not in the labor force) of prime working age, the share enrolled in Medicaid was 48 percent.

Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population ..

.. (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013.

.. researchers estimates that the cohort of current and former felons in America very nearly reached 20 million by the year 2010.

.. The funny thing is, people inside the bubble are forever talking about “economic inequality,” that wonderful seminar construct, and forever virtue-signaling about how personally opposed they are to it. By contrast, “economic insecurity” is akin to a phrase from an unknown language.

.. The abstraction of “inequality” doesn’t matter a lot to ordinary Americans. The reality of economic insecurity does.

Impaired Driving: Get the Facts

Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes.1 The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.

  • .. In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.1
  • Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.1
  • Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.1
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.3 That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.4

Rod Dreher on David Brooks and Morality

In 1830, in this country, it was totally acceptable to go to work, drink all day, drink afterwards, go home and beat your wife. By 1840, that was completely unacceptable. There was an awakening, and people said no, we don’t tolerate that.

.. The central insight of traditionalist conservatism was articulated by Russell Kirk: “At heart, all political problems are moral and religious problems.”

.. Brooks says when he talks about things like this in places like suburban Connecticut, the women in the audience love it, but the men get antsy, tell him that he’s making them uncomfortable, and that they would rather talk about Chris Christie’s prospects.

Samantha Bee Prepares to Break Up Late-Night TV’s Boys Club

Lizz Winstead, who created “The Daily Show” with Madeleine Smithberg, said that despite the success of shows like “Broad City” and “Inside Amy Schumer,” “there’s still an undercurrent, at networks and studios, that anything that comes from a lens of quote-unquote other will not be accepted by white male viewers.”

Ms. Winstead, who is a founder of the comedic activism site Lady Parts Justice, said that people in decision-making roles still needed to go through “a full cycle in their careers” of working with people of differing backgrounds.

.. The “Full Frontal” producers used a blind submissions process to hire new writers, meaning that they did not know the names or backgrounds of the people whose material they were reading.

.. Speaking from her corner office, she said: “Maybe I should be more panicky about it, but I actually feel pretty mellow. I’m really confident.”

Then again, she added, “If you look down this row of offices, there is a bottle of alcohol in every single desk.”