In the wake of 9/11, when about 3,000 civilians were killed on U.S. soil despite $billions spent on defense, a series of failures was revealed. Various agencies had the information to identify and stop the attack, but failed to cooperate. Despite a huge military posted all over the world, there were only two military airplanes defending the entire East Coast of the United States, only one of which was armed. And the non-military agencies tasked with defending the U.S., such as the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Agency, and Immigration and Naturalization Service, were distributed among a variety of federal departments, with little emphasis on any of them and no coordination between them. To remedy this 22 agencies were removed from other Departments and integrated into a new Department of Homeland Security.
Today, we face the equivalent of 9/11 in every part of the country every year. Life expectancy is falling, due to the cumulative disadvantage foisted on later born generations by those who came before, an opioid epidemic, and rising suicide. Life expectancy is set to fall for the third consecutive year for the first time in 100 years.
But this crisis has been building for two decades, its scope not understood until a couple of economists, with expertise not in vital statistics but rather in value added taxes, brought it to public attention.
The belated realization of what is happening is a failure for this country’s policy wonks and journalists every bit as large as 9/11 was for our intelligence agencies and military. And a similar response is required.