There’s a new disease this year along with the winter flu. It is called Secession Fever.
Secession Fever has reached epidemic stage across the south. As of Monday, there were more than 25,000 cases in each of eight southern states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas. A ninth, Arkansas, had over 23,500. Collectively, these states had almost 402,000 cases, and the number was still growing.
Secession Fever is a self-reportable disease. People who have it signed a petition on the White House website. Secession Fever is characterized by the irrational belief that the federal government does more harm than good, and that states would be better off if they seceded from the Union.
So what if these nine states did secede and form a new Southern Confederacy? Would their citizens be better off? Some data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Central Intelligence Agency suggest not.
In forming the Southern Confederacy, approximately 86 million people would find themselves living in the 14th most populous country in the world, just behind Vietnam. (The rest of the United States would drop from 3rd to 4th in population, trading places with Indonesia.)
They would find themselves worse off than they think they are.
The percentage of people living in poverty in the Southern Confederacy would be 17 percent, comparable to that in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Turkey. Meanwhile, the percentage living in poverty in the remaining United States would drop to 14 percent, comparable to the rate in the United Kingdom.
Life expectancy in the Southern Confederacy would also take a hit. It would decline immediately to 77.7 years, 61st in the world and comparable to life expectancy in Libya. In the remaining United States, it would be almost 79 years.
That’s not all. The health status of Southern Confederacy citizens would decline, too.
One in five residents in the Southern Confederacy would be uninsured, versus only 14 percent in the remaining United States.
Even that high percentage would grow dramatically without the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. Without the federal share of Medicaid dollars, the percentage of uninsured in the Southern Confederacy would grow by at least 9 percent more, to close to 30 percent. And without Medicare providing insurance for 16 percent of its population, the Southern Confederacy’s uninsured rate would approach 50 percent, killing off nearly every hospital and long term care provider.
Infant mortality would go up, too.
For every one million births, 1100 more babies would die in the Southern Confederacy than in the remaining United States. The infant mortality rate in the Southern Confederacy would be 7.5 per thousand – comparable to that found in Chile.
Disease prevention would also take a hit.
The percentage of overweight adults in the Southern Confederacy would be over 65 percent, pushing ever higher the prevalence of diseases like diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension.
Public health would suffer, too. The AIDS rate would grow, and the proportion of people infected with HIV in the Southern Confederacy would be similar to that found in Somalia.
Mental health services would not be spared, either.
Nationally, we currently spend around $120 per capita on mental health services. But in the Southern Confederacy, state mental health spending would be half that – just $61 per year.
It isn’t that people in the Southern Confederacy have better mental health status and need fewer services. Just over one-third report being in poor mental health, just as in the rest of the country. They’re just more likely to be ignored, neglected, or maltreated.
If there were ever a compelling argument for why we need a strong federal government, life in the Southern Confederacy is it.
Aspiring to the health standards of Somalia, Chile, Libya, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Turkey – all nations with much to offer, to be sure – is hardly the stuff of “American Exceptionalism.” But these nations turn out to be the real role models for those with Secession Fever.
These harsh health conditions reflect the realities of life in these southern states today. We can argue that we can do better than this, but not if we can’t accept this reality – people are worse off in these states than in the rest of the United States.
Those with Secession Fever – and the political leaders who have fanned the flames of anti-federal sentiment for years – must be living in an alternate universe.
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