Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said the Obama administration was not to blame for declining life expectancy in its final year, speaking at the Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, on Saturday.
“I would reject the premise of the question that somehow the Obama administration alone was responsible for that trend,” Castro, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama, said at the panel co-sponsored by HuffPost.
HuffPost’s Zach Carter has noted that American life expectancy had actually declined in the final year of the Obama administration, due in part to rising numbers of suicides, opioid overdoses and alcohol-related deaths.
“This is a unique calamity among wealthy technologically sophisticated nations,” Carter said. “We know the Obama administration got a lot of things right. As someone who served in the administration, what went wrong?”
“You’re saying ‘what went wrong’ because the life expectancy of the country went down in the last year of the administration?” Castro asked in response.
Castro then said the trend “underscores how important it is that we go to a system where everybody has access to Medicare,” he said, adding that he also supported raising the minimum wage and paid leave.
“I wouldn’t peg that on any one administration,” he said of declining life expectancy. “I would say that it highlights the need for us to make investments in people ― in the wellbeing of our American community if we want to go in a positive direction in the years to come,” he added.
The forum, co-sponsored by HuffPost, brought together Castro and other 2020 presidential candidates including former Rep. John Delaney (Md.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who were there to discuss rural issues and corporate power.
So far, Castro has struggled to gain a foothold in the race. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, only 1 percent of interviewees picked Castro as their first choice, putting him on par with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.