Financial suggestions from an old fart (a reprise)

Recognizing there are many places for financial advice, as an old fart, I thought I would offer some specific examples on ways to save money. Some of these are in reaction to various conversations I have had with my children, nieces and nephews, but regardless of age, it does not hurt to validate your thinking from time to time. Please take these for what they are worth, examples of lessons learned, pitfalls avoided and plans executed when I was prescient enough to listen to someone else beforehand. NOTE: I am not a financial advisor, so please do not interpret this as coming from such.

  • Don’t have too many credit cards. I have one debit and two credit cards – you will pile up too much debt otherwise and expose yourself to identity theft with too many. Pay down your largest interest rate first and close it out. Don’t just cut up the card, cancel it as identity theft can still occur – trust me on this.
  • If you are working and have access to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, for God’s sake use it. If there is a match, find a way to contribute up to the maximum match percentage. You will retire from some place and the cash provides cushion if you are laid off (company’s do that and it has happened to people who are better at their jobs than you are). You are throwing money away otherwise.
  • Do not play the lottery. I repeat, do not play the lottery. You might as well throw the money out the window. Lotteries are a regressive tax – it means people who can least afford to pay taxes, contribute to the lottery. Use the money instead in the 401(k) or 403(b) plan.
  • Avoid online fantasy team and sports betting. You are playing against an audience using multi-variable regression tools for their predictions. A very small percentage of people win the bulk of the money, with everyone else in the red. If you do play, set a small budget.
  • Avoid payday lending. In the bible, usury is a sin. In Dante’s Inferno, there is a level of Hell for payday lenders of the day. These guys are a step away from legbreakers. You will go into a death spiral of debt if you succumb.
  • If you can’t get a job, try volunteering for a charity group. The networking is good as people will see your energies on showcase in a good way. Plus, the psychic income is rich. By working, you will avoid depressive thoughts and can use your energy in a positive way. Some non-profits may be able to figure out a way to get you some income. Plus, you can see ways to tap services if needed.
  • If you have some money to invest – think dividend paying stocks with low P/E (price to earnings) ratios. Take the price per share of the stock and divide it by the earnings per share. If 20 or under, it may be worth the effort. These companies may also have Dividend or Customer Purchase plans you can access online. This means you buy the stock without a sales charge driectly from the company.
  • You do not need to own the newest gadget or thing. Companies do this to get you to buy something. I am not impressed by who owns what. Most people are not. If people are more impressed by your gadgets than you, then you may want to hang around a different crowd.
  • Be smart with your fast food purchases. Do not buy the drinks there as the margins are huge on liquid. Get out of your car and go inside. You are wasting a ton of gas waiting in line and it may be faster if the line outside is long. Read the calorie chart – the Affordable Care Act is requiring disclosure. This will help you be less of a train wreck later on. And, please do not supersize as you will become what you eat – supersized.
  • Better yet, eat more meals at home and yes, eat the leftovers. The savings are huge. I will never die of food poisoning in my own house, so I usually have to be quick with the leftovers before my wife tosses them.
  • Avoid eye level purchases in stores, especially if you are woman. Not to be sexist, but the highest margin items in a grocery store are at the eye level of a 5’5″ woman. Also avoid out-of-place stuff at the end of an aisle or by the cashier. The stuff by the cashier is lethal. While we are at it, do not go inside a convenience store when you pump gas unless it is to use the restroom. Their margins are huge inside on purchases.
  • Reduce water usage by not running water while you shave, brush your teeth, etc. Also, get a lower flush toilet or put a small enclosed container of rocks in the tank as this will reduce the water usage. Use the energy saver setting on dishwashers.
  • Shut off electrical devices overnight. This will save energy plus it will slow the deterioration of modems, routers, computers, etc. And, it will reduce a fire hazard.
  • Go generic on all prescriptions (some generics are the same pill). Use the store brand ibuprofen, decongestants, etc. as they work just as well. Not all pills are the same as one of my sons breaks out in a rash with one generic, but the brand is fine, so use trial and error.
  • Get a second and third opinion on surgeries or diagnosis. Especially, back surgeries. Sometime surgeries can do more harm than good. If you need one, make sure you get all the answers to your questions and have exhausted other options.
  • Walk to errands. Take a couple of shopping bags and walk to the store. You will be healthier, plus you will buy less because you cannot carry it all back.
  • Don’t drink so much. I don’t drink anymore, but have drunk enough for a lifetime before I quit fifteen years ago. You would be amazed at how much you save, plus the better health pays dividends. My last straw was a friend who died at age 59 because of alcoholism. I can tell most people drink more than they tell people. So, find ways to cut it back. Trust me, I know.

That is all I have for now. I hope this was useful. I am sorry about the preaching on the last item, but that is a big-ticket savings item. I welcome other ideas as I want to learn how to save more as well. Please provide additional suggestions below.

Mental health spending on the rise

From a recent article in Benefits Pro, which is a recurring newsletter for benefit professionals:

“Overall spending on mental health services increased from 6.8% to 8.2% between 2013 and 2020, according to a new study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Approximately 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experience mental illness each year, and these rates have been rising,’ Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Benefits Research and co-author of the study, says in a statement. ‘Over 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues nationally and in the workplace. With increases in both the number of individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders and use of health care services, higher spending is of great concern to plan sponsors of health benefit programs.'”

This trend has been supported by other sources of information, especially as it relates to the impact from the pandemic. When I traveled around with a Behavioral Psychologist who would help our corporate clients set-up mental health programs around depression and obesity management, mental wellness help-lines, etc., she would cite a statistic that 1 in 5 adults would have some form of depression in their lifetime. That is now a dated statistic, as the above surveys cites 1 in 5 per year.

Her main thrust is people who are battling depression to any degree should get counseling. She hated to see anti-depression medicine prescribed by general practitioners, as that just helped with the depression not get at the cause and management. If you know of anyone who is experiencing depression, please encourage them to seek counseling.

There is no shame in getting help from someone qualified to give it. This also goes for other disorders that someone might be dealing with – substance abuse, anxiety, paranoia, OCD, schizoid personality disorder, PTSD, etc. It is not uncommon for someone to have multiple diagnoses. And, I include PTSD, as one need not be in battle to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, as homeless mothers and kids or victims of domestic violence will tend to have PTSD issues as well.

A few straightforward suggestions to fight poverty (a reprise)

The following is a reprise of a post I wrote three years ago. After the pandemic and its lingering tentacles, along with increased apartment prices due to a housing boom fueled even more by investors buying up property, it is even more of a concern today. I welcome your ideas and thoughts.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

The above quote comes from the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. Its subtitle is also telling – “Poverty and Profit in the American City.” The dilemma is we have a poverty problem that stretches from urban to rural America. Yet, it manifests itself daily in the eviction courts of American cities and towns, whether it is from apartments, houses or mobile homes.

The book speaks of how fragile the rental community is regardless of race, yet the black community tends to have a higher rate of exposure to evictions in urban areas. Unexpected expenses, transportation problems, and tragedies can push people paying a very high portion of their rent over the edge and out the door. Ideally, 30% of family income should be toward housing and utilities. Too many of these folks are paying well above that percentage.

It should be noted that there are other drivers of fragility. Some have opioid and other dependencies. Some are fragile due to too many children that stretch the budgets of even the best planners. Some are in downward spirals with unsupportive landlords. And, many of those unexpected expenses that arise are healthcare related.

What are some suggestions to remedy these issues? Based on my experience as a volunteer Board member helping working homeless families and my reading, I would like to throw out some ideas for consideration.

First, we need to talk more about it. America has a huge disparity in distribution of wealth which is not talked about enough by leaders. Where and to whom one is born are greater predictors of success as the American Dream  has waned for too many.

Second, we need to fund more family planning efforts not less. There is a high correlation between poverty and large families. When family planning is funded and birth control access and education are increased, poverty declines, system health care costs decline and abortions decline.

Third, more mechanisms to reduce evictions need to be in place and funded. Crisis assistance funds show success in helping keeping the electricity on and, when funded, reducing the number of evictions. Stopping homelessness (or fragility) before it starts can make a huge difference and will have a positive echo effect.

Fourth, we must invest in impoverished  areas making them more suitable for families both with opportunity and resources. In their absence, crime and other poor influences fill the void.

Fifth, while I have concerns about the new Tax law (passed in early 2018) with its impact on debt and heavy emphasis on the wealthy and corporations, a huge opportunity was missed when we could have added an increase in the minimum wage tying it to automatic increases due to wage inflation. I worry that less money than expected by the law’s drafters will end up in the hands of workers.

Sixth, we must address our opioid crisis in America. And, we must look at our rising numbers needing mental health counseling. To be frank, cutting access to healthcare and mental care insurance benefits are not the answer. We should actually be expanding access where it does not exist. We must stabilize access and cost of healthcare, yet opposite measures have been taken in the past few years under the guise of political gain.

Seventh, too many go hungry in the United States, especially children. That may be one of our greatest tragedies as a nation. We must address food deserts where grocers choose not to go. Too many are living off horrible fast food or nothing at all. Food co-ops would be a big help to those areas, but they need help funding the build-out.

There are many more ideas, but these will help. On the investing front, many locations have seen success with using historical tax credits leveraging private money. There is a concept called ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) which shores up or repurposes a deteriorated asset creating jobs and revitalizing areas.

But, first we need to talk about this real and pervasive problem.

Nickel and Dimed in America – a tribute to Barbara Ehrenreich (may she RIP)

Yesterday, I learned that Barbara Ehrenreich passed away at the age of 81. From the Associated Press,

“Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, activist and self-described ‘myth buster’ who in such notable works as ‘Nickel and Dimed’ and ‘Bait and Switch’ challenged conventional thinking about class, religion and the very idea of an American dream, has died at age 81…A prolific author who regularly turned out books and newspaper and magazine articles, Ehrenreich honed an accessible prose style that brought her a wide readership for otherwise unsettling and unsentimental ideas. She disdained individualism, organized religion, unregulated economics and what Norman Vincent Peale famously called ‘the power of positive thinking.’”

I wrote the following post nine years ago about the need to increase the minimum wage. Fortunately, many states and cities did this very thing to get folks closer to a living wage.

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The walkout this week by restaurant workers to protest poor wages is indicative of a major problem we have in this country. We have a poverty problem in this country with far too many people living in poverty or paycheck to paycheck. As I have noted in earlier posts, the disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” has grown wider at the same time our socio-economic class mobility has greatly diminished. Where we are born and to whom we are born are now greater indicators of success than they used to be. To compound the problem, those who are in the upper income echelons are having a more difficult time appreciating the challenges faced by those who are not. More on this later.

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed (in America),” she chronicled her efforts and those of her co-workers, in trying to live on minimum or near-minimum wage jobs. Her conclusion is these jobs perpetuate poverty. She notes a variety of factors which include not being able to afford healthcare, not being able to save, poor food habits as fast food was the cheapest and most convenient food, being a slave to the work schedulers, being tied to mass transportation schedules due to gas prices, and having to work more than one job. She also noted in the restaurant jobs, people having to work when they are sick, because they needed the pay. Getting by was the best you could hope for. Getting ahead was quite difficult as you were treated like a commodity. I would add this contention is supported by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley’s book “The Rich and the Rest of Us.” A summary of the key findings in the book can be gleaned from the attached post.  https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/the-rich-and-the-rest-of-us-a-must-read/

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. In some places, the state or local minimum wage is higher (Illinois, California have $8.00; Arizona is $7.47 and the city of San Francisco is $9.79, e.g.). Yet, a living wage is higher in these locations. A living wage varies by geography and is based on the cost of living to provide shelter, food, healthcare and basic necessities. Attached is a link to a MIT website that will allow you to see the calculation of living wage by area. http://livingwage.mit.edu/.

Per this MIT website, in my home county in North Carolina, a living wage is now $10.02 for a single adult and $19.68 for a one parent, one child family. In other higher cost of living areas, the living wage can be a few dollars more. As of this writing, President Obama has proposed an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00. While not enough, the increase is a tangible step forward. Per a Gallup Poll in March 2013, this proposal is supported by 70% of Americans. The result is even higher for women, Democrats, moderates, non-whites, adults who earn less than $24,000 per annum, and young adults. 2/3 of Americans who are seniors, Independents, and earners between $24,000 and $60,000 support the change. It is only beneath 67% for men, Republicans conservatives,and upper middle class earners and above.

Those who decry this change cite that we will end up with fewer jobs as a result. I have seen data on both sides of this argument. To me, there is a huge cost of turnover in retail and restaurant jobs due to lost productivity of the staff, but also of the department and store manager. The manager has to spend more time back-filling a job or making sure people are on the floor, than focusing on customer service and selling merchandise. Any measure a retail company can do to reduce this churn shows up in better productivity. Per the attached link, Costco seems to believe this, as they pay their people far more than the minimum and are doing quite well. http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/06/news/economy/costco-fast-food-strikes/index.html.

We have a problem in this country, which will only get worse, if we do not remedy it. This is a key reason I have been a staunch supporter of Obamacare. While imperfect, it does speak to the healthcare insurance needs of those who are now uninsured. And, many of those who cannot afford insurance are working in retail and restaurants. Yet, we must pay people better. Will it cause the number of jobs to go down? My guess is for some employers it might, but for many it won’t. In my consulting work with retail and restaurant employers, I have observed the employers who treat their employees as commodities will never have the productivity and customer service of those who treat their employees as key in their ability to sell products and serve customers. These latter companies work back from how can we serve the customer better.

And, when you hear someone who is doing more than fine financially state that increasing the minimum wage is a poor investment of money, please respond the better off people are, the less they will depend on those so-called hand-outs the well off seem to hate. I do not like to use the term hand-outs, as helping people survive in tough times is an appropriate investment of resources, yet for an audience that tends to use this term freely, it is an argument that might resonate. Plus, the more we all have to spend, the better off the economy will be. Let’s increase the minimum wage. It is time.

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Thank you Barbara Ehrenreich – you made us think and sit-up and take notice.

Medicaid expansion – letter to the editor

When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, a key element was for people who made less than 133% of the poverty limit based on their family size. This group would pay no premiums through a state-by-state expansion of Medicaid. The federal government said it would reimburse each state for 90% of that cost.

At this point in 2022, there are twelve holdout states that have not expanded Medicaid. That leaves 2 million Americans with access to no healthcare coverage. The holdout states include my home state of North Carolina and big states like Texas, Florida and Georgia (see link below to a NPR article).

North Carolina was close to passing Medicaid expansion, but the effort stalled once again. Here is a letter I sent to my newspaper that they graciously printed this morning.

NC and Medicaid

As a retired benefits consultant and former benefits manager for a Fortune 500 company, I was hopeful that the N.C. General Assembly would at long last pass an expansion of Medicaid to fully comply with the Affordable Care Act. Failing to do this has harmed N.C. residents. Our economy has been impacted and some rural hospitals have either closed or are in financial trouble, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan healthcare advisor.

As former GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich noted when Ohio expanded Medicaid years ago, it was a no-brainer with the federal funding the state has realized for years now. Please move forward on Medicaid expansion.

We have heard of food deserts in largely rural states which impact people in need more than others. But, we also have healthcare deserts as well. Taking only one data point, it is not a surprise to learn that maternal mortality rates in these states are worse than in other states and first-world countries. Note, this is mother’s dying in childbirth. That is a sad state of affairs, especially for a country who claims exceptionalism.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/07/01/1011502538/12-holdout-states-havent-expanded-medicaid-leaving-2-million-people-in-limbo

Veterans get screwed again

I am so very tired of politicians playing zero-sum games where they must make the other side lose, so they can get a political win. What uniformly happens is we the people get screwed. Just recently a bipartisan bill to help veterans with health care that passed in Senate by a large margin was slightly amended by the House and returned to the Senate for an expected passing.

Yet, enough Republicans decided to switch their vote and the veterans got screwed. Comedian Jon Stewart, who had led this cause along with a successful, but arduous 9/11 restitution cause a few years ago, has led a reaction that calls the Republican Senate members out for their bait and switch tactics.

Per the New York Times article this weekend, called “Jon Stewart blasts GOP after Senate blocks burn pit bill for Veterans” by Callie Patteson:

“Comedian Jon Stewart doubled down Friday on a viral rant ripping Republican senators who voted against advancing a bill that would boost benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Forty-one Republican senators voted against cloture Wednesday on the Honoring our PACT Act, accusing Democrats of using the measure to hide a ‘budget gimmick’ that would permit $400 billion in spending unrelated to veterans’ health care. 

During an interview with Fox News Friday, the former ‘Daily Show’ host insisted the bill was no different from the version that passed the Senate 84-14 in June.

‘This bill is purely based on toxic exposure health care and benefits to veterans,’ said Stewart, who urged viewers to look up the text for themselves.”

Maybe the GOP is scared that other things are getting passed which make Democrats look good. I just don’t know. I do know this is not the first time veterans have gotten screwed by politicians. The VA Healthcare system was in dire straits a few years ago with a huge need for more doctors, specialists, etc. Senator John McCain led a bipartisan effort to meet a planned request for a $64 billion bill to hire more doctors and get more resources. It was defeated and created an outrage from Veterans’ groups.

Then a debacle of backlog on appointments occurred in Phoenix a few months later and members of Congress asked how could you let this happen? A few more months later, $16 billion in funding was passed. Note this is 1/4 of the total requested and six months after being requested. The veterans again got screwed.

And, it should be noted only recently was funding provided for compensation for poisoning Marines and their families with toxic water systems at Camp Lejeune in NC. It took decades to admit there was a problem and more time to get the restitution. Decades is not an exaggeration.

I get tired of people who like to tout how hawkish they are but won’t help veterans when they get home. Politicians are OK funding battles but not the aftermath. They will say thank you for your service, but you are on your own when you get back. I fully recognize that Democrats are not perfect, but the GOP makes a great deal about being pro-military. To be honest, with respect to its troops, I do not see it. Neither should the veterans.

https://nypost.com/2022/07/29/jon-stewart-blasts-gop-after-senate-blocks-veteran-burn-pit-bill/

Texas Republicans want to deny STD and HIV screenings under ACA

In an article in Politico by Alice Miranda Ollstein called Obamacare back in court as Texans challenge coverage for STDs and HIV care,” yet one more try to gut certain preceived, unsavory provisions will be headed toward the Supreme Court. A few paragraphs are below, with a link to the article at the end:

“This challenge, filed in March of 2020 by a group of Texas residents and employers and backed by former Trump officials, argues that the ACA’s preventive care mandates violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and that forcing people to pay for plans that cover STD screenings and HIV prevention drugs will ‘facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use….’

‘Ending the requirement that preventive services be free to patients will have negative health and financial consequences for millions,’ warned Katherine Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Biden administration is arguing that the case should be thrown out because the Texans do not have legal standing because they aren’t being harmed by their insurance covering preventive services — a line of argument that has been successful in past defenses of the Affordable Care Act.

They also argue that there’s a clear government interest in preventing the spread of HIV and STDs for the health of the population at large which justifies the policy.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been used like a hammer since it came about to legislate some version of morality that suits a strident set of religious folks. Since many teens are going to have sex whether their minister or parents tell them not to and often it will be unprotected sex, having preventive coverage against STDs and HIV is important. And, with prostitution being the oldest profession and drug use more rampant now that drug companies have hooked people on pain-killers which are more expensive than heroin, exposure exists even to the teen and adult children of the most pious of us.

I have used this example before, but a pretty devout friend noted church parents would be astounded at the level of unleashed promiscuity that goes on even at the most ardent of religious colleges. College students are going to have sex. And, my guess is they will like it and want more. Further, I do not think whether their plan covers STD or HIV prevention will be too much of a factor in that decision. If Rx is a factor, it will likely be around a Plan B pill or daily birth control.

If certain ministers and priests are so concerned with sexual promiscuity, then they may want to govern some of their fellow ministers and priests about their sexual misconduct. While I fully recognize that the significant majority of religious leaders do not do these things, predatory sexual behavior is not good form for a religious leader.

Let’s protect people with health care preventive options. Health care is a private matter and is no business of a minister or even the parents, once the child is legally an adult.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/obamacare-back-court-texans-challenge-110000749.html

Top of mind issues that aren’t

Issues that need to be top of mind aren’t being discussed because we would rather talk about more exaggerated and contrived issues.

The global water crisis lives here, especially in drought prone areas like the Southwest United States, which is running dangerously low on water. Climate change only makes matters worse. And, this is even before we speak of the lead water pipe structures which have their own set of toxic issues as in Flint, Michigan.

Miami is the most at risk city in the world for encroaching sea levels due to climate change, but the governor calls more dramatic solutions liberal based ideas. Miami has built right to the coast and the limestone guarding the largest aquifer is porous. The fact the number of sunny days flooding has increased with sea water coming up through the street drains in Miami Beach should give people pause. Call me crazy, but when you are surrounded on three sides by sea water as Florida is, climate change should be a huge issue.

Toxins in our environment due to manufacturing run off of chemicals or middle of the night storage elsewhere are causing bell weather cancers years later. The water at Camp Lejeune in NC has been killing and making Marines, their spouses and their children sick for decades and yet we are still screwing around with a decision. Thank you for your service, just don’t drink the water. Recent stories on environmental cancers from Teflon and Round-up chemicals also continue to get press.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, biologist, author and speaker (who has testified to Congress and the EU Parliament), spoke at an event I attended. She noted our tests are designed for a 50 year-old man, but we really should be testing for children. Our children have lungs and brains that are not fully developed, they have lesser body weight and are closer to the ground, they mouth breath more and they touch things more and put their hands in their mouths. They are easy targets for toxins to poison them.

I want people to remember her words. She added some hope, though. When we act in a serious manner we can fix things. She used the example of the Rabies vaccine, as she and her son were exposed. Rabies is a horrible way to die and it only takes a bite. But, we long ago created a series of vaccines that prevent Rabies, even if exposed. We learned and acted. She said that is a lesson that we should follow on dealing with other environmental issues – learn and act whether it’s getting rid of arsenic on playground equipment, removing asbestos out of building materials or knowing how to handle PVC pipes in a closed environment.

People matter. Children matter. Short term profits matter less than human life. I would argue companies that aggressively act to fix things will do better with long term profits due to goodwill.* Let’s act like parents and grandparents in governing what is needed. Let’s shine a spotlight on legislators and business leaders who do not.

*Years ago, Dow Chemical had a huge chemical spill in India. Because of their reputation as a good community citizen and by acting quickly to fix things, the long-term profits of the company did not suffer. The same held true with Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol after product tampering incidents killed some people. They acted quickly to fix things and we now have tamper identifying bottles.

Mental health issues rise for adolescents, teens and young adults

A key article for all to see appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday called “Mental health crises on the rise among US teenagers. What parents can watch for” by Laura Brache. Here are the first couple of sections, with a link below.

“’A national emergency.’

That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls a recent increase in mental health crises among children and teens in the United States. ‘It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced in doing this for 20 years,’ said Gary Maslow, a child and adolescent psychologist at Duke University. Maslow joined fellow Duke pediatric psychologist Nathan Copeland and professor Sharika Hill in a virtual discussion Wednesday to help parents and caregivers help children and teens facing anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

YOUTH SUICIDE IN 2019

More kids died by suicide in 2019 ‘than at any point in American history,’ said Copeland. In fact, suicide was the second leading cause of death among youth that year. ‘Among the 10 to 24 age group, suicide accounted for nearly 25% of all death among kids,’ he said. ‘And among … individuals 15 to 24, suicide accounted for more deaths than the next seven core medical causes combined.’ Those causes include accidents, congenital issues, homicide, and cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘The worst outcome is children dying by suicide,’ Maslow said. “That is happening, but that is the tip of the iceberg.” Just as in many facets of health care, Black youth were among the most impacted by suicide in 2019. ‘Where we were seeing things like systemic racism and how it was impacting Black youth, we were seeing that [suicide] rate increase faster for Black youth than for any other demographic,’ Copeland said. In Durham, Maslow added, Hispanic youth are also ‘presenting at much higher rates that we’ve seen before.’

PEDIATRIC MENTAL ILLNESS IS COMMON

Nearly 1 in 5 youth will experience pediatric mental illness during their childhood, Copeland said. People in this group often go undiagnosed and untreated for years, he said. It can take five to 11 years for a child to get treatment for mental health and behavioral issues from the moment they start experiencing symptoms. ‘For a kid that’s a significant 11 years,’ he said. ‘That’s a long period of time that a kid has been experiencing mental illness.’ What’s more, only 20% of youth experiencing mental illness end up receiving the potentially life-saving care that they need. Academic pressure and school in general also fuel “peer victimization” and bullying, Copeland said. ‘In Durham, what we frequently see or what we have seen is that when school starts, compared to when kids are on break, there is a 60% increase in rates of pediatric mental health emergency department visits,’ he said. Copeland said, before the pandemic, ‘mental illness was the most common cause of drop out in school of any disability group.’”

I encourage you to read the full article via the link below. And, note this is before the pandemic made the situation even worse. This is a key reason why guns need to be better governed and locked away. Homes with guns have a higher rate of suicide than homes without one. One impulsive decision and it is over.

There should be less stigma to getting help. We all may need it at some point.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/health-wellness/article263427108.html#storylink=cpy

A herbicide lives inside of us

A very alarming article called “‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples” by Carey Gillam in The Guardian is must reading for us all. The article can be linked to below, but here are the first few paragraphs that sound the bell.

“More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a US health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer, a finding scientists have called ‘disturbing and concerning’.

The report by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the US population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children ranging from six to 18.

Academics and private researchers have been noting high levels of the herbicide glyphosate in analyses of human urine samples for years. But the CDC has only recently started examining the extent of human exposure to glyphosate in the US, and its work comes at a time of mounting concerns and controversy over how pesticides in food and water impact human and environmental health.

‘I expect that the realization that most of us have glyphosate in our urine will be disturbing to many people,’ said Lianne Sheppard, professor at the University of Washington’s department of environmental and occupational health sciences. Thanks to the new research, ‘we know that a large fraction of the population has it in urine. Many people will be thinking about whether that includes them.’

Sheppard co-authored a 2019 analysis that found glyphosate exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and also co-authored a 2019 scientific paper that reviewed 19 studies documenting glyphosate in human urine.

If you are a homeowner in the US and abroad, you have likely used a weedkiller, even Roundup, on those pesky weeds. We have. So, that would likely mean we are candidates to be in the 80% category of the above statistic not the 20% one.

This disturbing statistic reminds me of the movie “Dark Waters” where the factories that made Teflon existed, the workers and their families and citizens that lived close by had high degrees of cancers and other abnormalities. Yet, the other statistic cited by this true story, is the chemicals in Teflon are forever chemicals. And, a substantial percentage of humans likely have these chemicals in their bodies from use of the product.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, biologist and bladder cancer survivor noted in her books and speeches to Congress and the European Parliament that we do not emphasize enough the environmental causes of cancer. When we do, they make movies out of the hard fight to expose the Dupont’s, Monsanto’s and Pacific Gas and Electric’s of the world for poisoning our environment. She also notes, we need to test more for the impact on kids (as done in this urine sampling). Kids’ lungs and brains are not fully developed until they become adults, they put hand to mouth more after touching things, they mouth breathe more, and they are lower to the ground. As these toxins spread onto things, the kids become infected faster and more frequently than an average adult. It should be noted that for the longest while, outdoor playground equipment was treated with an insecticide that was made of arsenic.

We must insist companies follow the “precautionary principle” meaning if they know of a problem, they need to stop and test it before going on. They cannot cover it up which is an even worse crime. People died because of these chemicals. People died because of the cover-ups.

Per a website called organiconsumers.org the following blurb can be found:

“Monsanto has falsified data on Roundup’s safety, and marketed it to parks departments and consumers as ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘biodegradable,’ to encourage its use it on roadsides, playgrounds, golf courses, schoolyards, lawns and home gardens. A French court ruled those marketing claims amounted to false advertising.”

This finding is supported by this piece from the Sierraclub.org:

“The internal communications made clear that Monsanto—the company that created saccharine and went on to develop DDT and Agent Orange—was not only aware that independent scientific studies had found that its blockbuster weed killer, Roundup, and the primary ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, were probably carcinogenic and harmful to human health, but the company had also tried to bury the findings.”

In another blaring example of this, per “Dark Waters,” Dupont moved pregnant women off the Teflon line as they knew of the danger but did not tell them why. And, they did not tell the public what they knew. And, after the largest data-driven sampling was conducted proving the risk to the public, Dupont reneged on its offer to help people if the study found them at fault. Then Dupont lost every individual lawsuit for millions of dollars until they realized they needed to settle.

So, if you have these chemicals in your body, do some research on what, if anything, you can do about it. For the future, avoid the weedkillers, use masks when handling chemicals and throw out all of your Teflon plated cookware. And, per Steingraber, bladder cancer is a bell weather cancer. If someone you know he gets it, the cause is usually environmental related. If you don’t follow-up, you are risking your and your family’s lives.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jul/09/weedkiller-glyphosate-cdc-study-urine-samples