Trump's Policies Resulted In The Unnecessary Deaths Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Americans: Lancet Report

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Topline

Decades of policy failures that the Trump administration exacerbated resulted in more than 450,000 unnecessary American deaths in 2018, with tens of thousands of additional deaths in other years also attributable to President Donald Trump’s actions, according to a report published Thursday from a commission of health experts convened by the British medical journal The Lancet.

Key Facts

The Lancet launched the commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era in April 2017, tasking the group with chronicling the administration’s actions.

The commission’s analysis found that 461,000 fewer Americans would have died in 2018 if the United States’ death rate had been equivalent to those of the other G-7 nations.

The 49-page report also concludes that Trump’s “hostility” to environmental regulations (including the rollback of at least 84 separate environmental and workplace protections) significantly worsened pollution, resulting in more than 22,000 extra deaths in 2019 alone. 

According to the commission, Trump’s “appalling response” to the coronavirus pandemic, which included the politicization and repudiation of science, “expedited the spread of Covid-19” in the U.S.

The Trump administration’s cuts to global health programs and public health agencies greatly hindered the country’s response to the pandemic, the report states, causing “tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.”

Key Background:

The report points out that although Trump’s actions and decisions were harmful, many were merely an expansion of policies that date back more than four decades. “The disturbing truth,” the commission writes, is that many of Trump’s policies “do not represent a radical break with the past but have merely accelerated the decades-long trend.” The report notes that at the time of Trump’s inauguration the health of the U.S. population was already deteriorating, with average life expectancy in America having declined nearly a full year between 2014 and 2018, with minority communities disproportionately impacted. The report claims Trump “stirred up underlying racial animus” prevalent in America to “deflect attention from policies that abet billionaires’ accretion of wealth and power.” For instance, the budget impact resulting from his trillion-dollar tax cut for the wealthy served as a justification for cuts to food and housing subsidies used to combat homelessness and food insecurity for the impoverished. (The number of homeless school-age children increased by 150,000 in the first year of Trump’s presidency.) In addition, although Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act were not successful, he did weaken its coverage, which, according to the report, added 2.3 million people (including 726,000 children) to the 28 million U.S. residents who were uninsured when he took office (that number does not even include individuals dropped by their insurance carriers after losing their job during the pandemic). 

Crucial Quote: 

“Americans’ health was deteriorating even as our economy was booming,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor at the City University of New York and a co-chair of the commission. “This unprecedented decoupling of health from national wealth signals that our society is sick. While the wealthy have thrived, most Americans have lost ground, both economically and medically.”

What To Watch For:

With the Biden administration now in office, the commission advocates widespread reforms that “go beyond simply repairing Trump’s damage.” Their recommendations include repealing the 2017 tax cuts, implementing the Green New Deal, and mobilizing massive amounts of resources to avert climate catastrophe. It calls for reducing the percentage of GDP the U.S. currently spends on its military from 3.4% down to 1.4% and using those newly-created funds to address urgent health, social and environmental problems.

Big Number:

15. The life expectancy of the wealthiest 1% of men in the U.S. is 15 years longer than that of the poorest 1%.

Further Reading:

Public policy and health in the Trump era (Lancet) 

US suffers sharpest rise in poverty rate in more than 50 years (Chicago Tribune)

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