Pema Levy reports that our fearless attorney general is unhappy with the state of America:
In his address Friday, Barr thundered against what he described as a “moral upheaval.” “Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground,” he said. “Along with the wreckage of the family we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence and the deadly drug epidemic.”
Let’s check this out for young people. There’s no question that single-parent families are on the rise, but three-quarters of all kids still live in two-parent families. What’s more, it’s worth pointing out that the US is not a huge outlier on this front:
Teen suicides are up in recent years, but nowhere near a record:
Illicit drug use is way down in virtually every category:
And of course violent crime is way down too:
Self-reported rates of depression among teens is up in recent years, but it’s unclear if these numbers are accurate.
I’d add to this that teen pregnancy is down, graduation rates are up, school bullying is down, and test scores are up in both reading and math.
Now, this is just teens, and Barr was presumably talking about the population in general. However, if teens are doing pretty well, that speaks well both for how we’re raising our kids and how society is affecting bad behaviors.
Obviously not everything is peaches and cream. The opioid epidemic may be receding, but it’s a serious problem. And although the Case/Deaton “deaths of despair” thesis may be overstated, it’s still a problem too.
That said, it seems likely that the real problems we have are mostly centered not on the loss of religion, as Barr suggests, or on bad morals in general. The real problems are mostly centered on sluggish or nonexistent wage growth among the working and middle classes. That’s a problem that Barr’s party doesn’t like to admit because it might get in the way of their project to direct as much money to the rich as possible.
Bottom line: Barr needs to look at himself in a mirror.