Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 25, 2016--They're Dying of A Broken Heart

Thinking hard about the results of Angus Deaton's and Anne Case's study of death rates among white people, Bill Clinton, noting the dramatic rise in the suicide rate and increases in alcohol and drug abuse among young, undereducated low-income men, especially men, the former president said--

"It's not simply that people are losing jobs. Jobs were part of their cultural world. It's bigger than just this coal job doesn't exist anymore. It's that part of a way of life is disappearing."

He continued--

"You know what they're really dying of? They're dying of a broken heart."

He not only understands that pain. He feels that pain.

Some have made fun of Clinton's feeling people's pain--thinking it insincere and self-serving--but his enduring popularity, particularly among these displaced white people, suggests that they believe him. And as a result, he has wide support across the political spectrum. Perhaps more than any other politician.

If we want to build working connections between otherwise polarized constituencies, for the upcoming Clinton administration, a focus on men, proverbial "angry white men," as well as men of color, is both a good and smart idea.

To glimpse the scope of that need, from the Sunday New York Times, here is something by Susan Chira, senior correspondent and editor on gender issues--
  • More than a fifth of American men--20 million people--between 20 and 65 had no paid work last year.
  • Seven million men between 25 and 55 are no longer looking for work. Twice as many black as white.
  • There are 20 million men with felony records who are essentially unemployable in anything other than menial jobs.
  • Half the non-working men report they have serious health problems.
  • Only 42 percent of college graduates are men.
  • It is estimated that by midcentury, about a third of men between 25 and 54 who do not have college educations will be out of work.
  • And, their suicide rate is soaring.
During the current campaign, we continue to hear from Hillary Clinton about the ongoing needs of women, children, and families.

These are real issues and deserve continued attention.

What we hear about men as a cohort tends to be negative. Through winks and nods, Donald Trump's approach is to pander to displaced-feeling men who, when they hear "make America great again," in dog-whsitle terms this means to them a time when white men were dominant and the wife stayed home to take care of the household and children.

Hillary's approach to male issues has been one-off--by making college more affordable, by growing the economy, everyone, including men, will benefit.

It may be that this will prove to be insufficient.

Just as when we perceived gaps between men's and women's aspirations and achievement, we instituted affirmative approaches to narrow those differences in the schools and work places. And to a large extent it worked. For example, 58 percent of college graduates are women.

We may need something equivalent for left-behind men.

Who better than a female, feminist president to take the initiative to address this new, even dangerous inequality. Not only would it be unexpected, it would wonderfully disrupt expectations. The concern among many is that her administration will be all about women and children just as there was fear that Obama's would be about black people.

If Hillary Clinton aspires to be a transformative president and genuinely wants to heal one of the most significant breeches in our social fabric, paying attention to those men dying of broken hearts would be an ideal place to begin.

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