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Vertrauen Sie die Kinderkrippe nie einem Cowboy an, sonst sterben 12'000 Babies pro Jahr

Otto Kolbl

Ronald Reagan as sherif in a western movie. His presidency (1981-1989) was the start of the US disaster in terms of infant mortality. Sources Phil Ebersole (Reagan), WiLPrZ (baby face).

What happens in almost every western movie when a pretty young lady falls in love with the cowboy? He sees the wish for babies in her eyes, gets a panic attack and escapes as fast as he can, riding into the sunset.

What happens if you vote a cowboy into the White House, where he cannot escape from his responsibilities for the more than 3 million babies which are born each year in the US? Many of them will die.

This is basically the unsung history of babies in the US since the American people started voting cowboys into office in 1980. Cowboy the First was called Ronald Reagan.

The chart below shows the situation for 2015. Each country is represented by a dot on the chart; most countries are represented by a grey dot, some have got a colored dot and a label. Oil-rich countries have been excluded from the chart. The x-axis corresponds to GDP per capita purchasing power parity, considered to be the best indicator of the standard of living; this data is provided by organizations like the World Bank and the IMF. The y-axis corresponds to the infant mortality, expressed in the number of babies which die in their first year out of 1000 babies born alive. To sum it up: countries on the left are poor countries; on the right you get the wealthy countries. Countries in the upper part have got a high infant mortality; countries at the bottom have got a low infant mortality. For further explanations, see our article Does your government care about babies?

Relationship between economic development and infant mortality rate
Relationship between economic development and infant mortality rate.

As you might expect, poor countries tend to have a high infant mortality; wealthy countries have got a low infant mortality. The red line represents the average infant mortality across all the countries. What you might not have expected is that the US, despite being wealthier than most other industrialized countries, have got a much higher infant mortality. Actually, when your mouse hovers over the red dot for the US, a tooltip tells you that this country has got an infant mortality which is more than double (232%) the average for a comparable standard of living. This costs the lives of 12,000 babies each year. How did this come about?

Otto Kolbl

George H. W. Bush (US president 1989-1992) and an angry baby. License cc-by-sa-3.0, source: Wikimedia.

The exact mechanisms are complex, but we know exactly when it started. Until 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States, infant mortality was roughly in line with other industrialized countries (111% of the average expected for this GDP level). In order to get precise data for any year in the past from 1950 on, click the button "Change the period" above.

After Reagan took office, the gap widened. Actually, infant mortality in the US did not increase, it even decreased slowly; however, driven by technological progress and by adequate health policies, it decreased much faster in other countries. By 1984 (the end of the Reagans's first term), infant mortality had increased to 128% of average. Until 1988, things did not change much; the deficient healthcare system where hospitals dumped patients with life-threatening emergencies had become a major embarrassment.

Bill 'playboy' Clinton

Bill Clinton (US president 1992-2001) and an angry baby. License cc-by-sa-3.0, source: Wikimedia.

In 1988, US voters replaced the fake Hollywood cowboy by a genuine Texas cowboy with an oil-hardened heart. After four years of George H. W. Bush, the infant mortality was standing at 138% of average. Even if we don't take into consideration GDP levels and just look at infant mortality, the US had slipped back to the level of countries like Italy, Spain and Slovenia. Until 1980 the US had been at the level of the most industrialized countries.

Do Democrat playboys care more about babies than Republican cowboys? Of course not; they are only interested in f…ing their mothers; the fewer babies there are to disturb them with their crying, the better. In 2000, after 8 years of Bill Clinton presidency, infant mortality was standing at 164% of the international average for this level of GDP.

George W. Bush and an angry baby

George W. Bush (US president 2001-2009) and an angry baby. License cc-by-sa-3.0, source: Wikimedia.

Tired of playboys, US voters went for Texas cowboy junior. In 2008, after eight years of George W. Bush's presidency, infant mortality in the US had reached 194% of average. Cuba, Belarus, Poland and Hungary had now an infant mortality which was lower than in the US, despite considerably lower income.

Progressively, some people realized that there was something wrong with the American health care system. Barak Obama came to power with the promise to increase the number of US citizens with health care coverage. Congress passed the law called "Obamacare" in 2010; it is 906 pages long, with tens of thousands of pages in additional regulations. Was it worth the paper it was printed on?

Don't ask the media, the academic world or so-called "human rights organizations". One of the most fundamental UN human rights text, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states explicitly that it is part of the obligations of each state to see to it that infant mortality decreases.

Barak Obama

Barak Obama (US president 2009-2017) and an angry baby. License cc-by-sa-3.0, source: Gabbec.

Have you ever seen any of the actors mentioned above holding a government accountable for being in breach of its obligations because infant mortality has reached unprecedented heights? Neither have I.

Ask the babies, especially those who are not among us anymore, because truth speaks from their mouth: Obama does not care. In 2015, infant mortality in the US has reached 232% of the average for this GDP level; 12,000 babies have to pay it with their lives each year.

Among non-oil-rich countries, the US ranks third (worst), after South Africa (288%) and Pakistan (261%), just before Swaziland (224%) and the Dominican Republic (219%). Now the question becomes more concrete: have you ever heard anybody trying to hold these countries to account because of their dismal human rights record with regards to the right to health? Please help us to further this cause by sharing this article; nobody else will do it.

Just one last question: is there any chance that the next president of the United States will tackle this problem?

Donald Trump and an angry baby
Will the next US president finally care about babies? License cc-3.0-by-sa, sources Otto Kolbl, Michael Vadon (Trump), WiLPrZ (baby face).

The question is not only whom you elect; they are pretty much all the same. The most important thing is to hold them accountable after they get elected.