Tuesday Edition


Lockdowns helped suppress the spread of COVID-19, but they came with hidden consequences we’re just now discovering. (PBS)

Source: CDC

A new CDC study found the annual average of deaths from excessive alcohol use reached nearly 138,000 between 2016 and 2017. From 2020 to 2021, the annual average rose to more than 178,000 deaths. Excessive drinking-related deaths jumped roughly 35% for females and 27% for males over five years.

Expanded access to alcohol through home delivery services and to-go cups during the pandemic contributed to the rise. Officials believe isolation and stress also played a role. While U.S. deaths from excessive drinking have been on the rise for two decades, the pandemic made the problem worse.

While the pandemic is over, increased alcohol mortality could be a long term issue. Experts say without intervention, such as raising alcohol taxes, death rates may remain high.

It’s not just deaths from alcohol. Lockdowns erased two decades of progress in math and reading for American schoolchildren. The pandemic also led to a worldwide explosion of mental health disorder reports.


While criminal justice reform was all the rage in 2020 after George Floyd’s death and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it looks like a backlash is brewing. (NYT)

Amid an overdose crisis, Oregon lawmakers voted Friday to roll back portions of Measure 110, an initiative that decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs.

A new bill introduces a misdemeanor charge for drug possession. Offenders could get up to 30 days in jail for violating probation or up to 180 days if probation’s revoked. Under Measure 110, people caught in possession of drugs are issued a $100 fine that can be waived if they undergo a health screening.


Since drug decriminalization took effect in February 2021, overdoses have soared. Oregon saw fentanyl deaths skyrocket by 1,500% from 2022 to 2023, higher than any other state.

Still, many Oregon progressives say homeless people and the mentally ill are being blamed for a problem that should be treated with more public resources.

State Sen. James Manning, a Democrat who voted against recriminalization: "We cannot lock people up for self harm."

The U.S. is trending against what some people might call “soft on crime” policies. A majority of voters in progressive San Francisco support new ballot measures that would give police more autonomy and require drug testing for welfare recipients. New York City is facing blowback over bail reform. Since 2020, Americans’ belief that the justice system isn’t “tough enough” on criminals has spiked.


A recent study published in the American Journal of Political Science backs up claims from both left and right-wing populists that our elites are out of touch and may help explain why Americans are so dissatisfied with their political leaders.

On average, elites overestimate public support for policies they favor by 10 to 12% and underestimate support for policies they oppose by similar margins. The study included political elites and unelected elites, such as journalists and lobbyists.

The researchers’ key finding was that these misperceptions weren’t driven by partisan bias. Instead, they learned elites tend to project their own preferences onto the public. This challenges previous research that elites lean conservative in their estimates of public opinion.

The study’s authors on the dangers of having out of touch elites: “Elites who misperceive public opinion may advocate or pursue the policies that they themselves favor, regardless of how unpopular they might be. Public opinion cannot act as a countervailing force against economically self-interested elites if they falsely believe the people think what they think.”

Americans seem pretty disillusioned with elites and the political system. Distrust of government is at near-record levels. Meanwhile, the public’s ethics ratings of journalists, members of Congress and even doctors have declined in recent years.


Inflation may be stabilizing, but we’re still feeling its knock-on effects in unexpected ways. Case in point: food stamps. (The Center Square)

The cost of healthy meals for a family of four in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program increased 31% in just three years, according to the latest Department of Agriculture data.

  • The cost for a family of four's meals went from $675 a month in 2021 to $975.90 in 2023.

  • In November, SNAP spent $7.9 billion on food stamps.

Just because inflation cools, doesn’t mean its effects don’t linger. A 2023 Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland study on the long-term consequences of inflation found it led to less investment by consumers, workers having to negotiate pay raises more frequently and increased time spent dealing with higher prices.

A Gallup poll from January found 63% of Americans said inflation was still causing financial hardship for them or their families. That’s the highest level since Gallup began tracking the issue in November 2021.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom about marriages in the media and culture, but divorce rates have fallen pretty drastically over the past two decades. (Kevin Drum)

According to the National Center for Marriage and Family Research, the divorce rate hit a record low in 2020 and 2021 (14 per 1,000 married women). Since then, it’s risen slightly to 14.5 divorces per 1,000 married women.

Political blogger Kevin Drum: “Marriage rates have dropped substantially since the '70s, which probably explains part of the low divorce rate. When people get married only if they really want to, they're less likely to eventually get divorced.”

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