Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Reverse New Deal: 112 Americans will kill themselves today

(Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

Suicides have been rising in the United States for many years now. For example, in 2010 there were 38,364 suicides. In 2013, the most recent year of data from the CDC, there were 41,149. And some specific groups are becoming more prone to suicide than before, e.g., middle-aged men, younger veterans, and American Indians.

Risk factors for suicide are many, but include unemployment and financial stress. And interestingly, over the past many years, Corporate America has been creating extreme income inequality and right-wing politicians have been trying their best to shred the social safety net - a safety net that is already fairly stingy compared to other developed countries.

So, in a hyper-competitive society, where the economic rules have been rigged in favor of the wealthy few and government assistance is constantly under threat of reduction, is it any wonder that more and more people are deciding that life is no longer worth the pain? Run into the ground by Wall Street, hounded by debt collectors, and neglected by our corrupt government... a lot of people just don't see a light at the end of the tunnel (and, indeed, there may not be one). Even the young experience these feelings. As one American Indian leader told Congress: surrounded by extreme poverty and unemployment, "children carry the outlook that things may not get better for them" ("Native leaders tell senators how to help stop youth suicide," Huffington Post, June 25, 2015.)

(Image courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

What are we doing to stem the rising number of suicides? Not much. You can do the research for yourself, but current efforts basically amount to things that look & sound pretty, but don't cost too much. And that's because the primary goal of our government today is to pamper Corporate America and the super-wealthy - whether they create good-paying jobs or not.

The New Deal had a much better approach: A massive investment in jobs, education, training, and health care for Americans in need. And it worked. A researcher from Oxford University and an epidemiologist from Stanford University found that "every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people." They pointed out that "Roosevelt took bold steps, at a time when debt was 180 percent of GDP, to boost financial relief to the newly unemployed, to save Americans from homelessness... the New Deal helped reduce suicides, reduced tuberculosis and pneumonias, and was in fact the biggest and one of the most effective public health programs on U.S. soil."

So, why aren't we replicating the New Deal experience today? Well, because tens of millions of voters have been duped into believing that the New Deal didn't work, and that only the holy "JOB CREATORS" can save us - even after the "JOB CREATORS" have lowered our wages (to enrich CEOs & wealthy investors), sent our jobs overseas (to enrich CEOs & wealthy investors), and engaged in all manner of fraud & white collar crime (to enrich CEOs & wealthy investors). If the past few years have shown anything, they've shown that a lot of voters have absolutely no limit to the amount of financial crime they're willing to tolerate. For example, many voters are eagerly supporting right-wing political candidates who want to cut back or terminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other watchdog agencies... even after financial institutions have engaged in gargantuan amounts of tax evasion, mortgage & securities fraud, illegal foreclosures on soldiers, money laundering, accounting fraud, illegal debt collection practices, and more. This is akin to eliminating a police department after a rash of muggings, assaults, and burglaries.

When you have an environment like this--corporate greed, a corporate-bought government, and an electorate willing to tolerate it--it's very hard to see how suicides will do anything but rise even more. There are few signs of hope today. Instead, we see a fanatical devotion to the "JOB CREATORS," and cold-blooded ridicule for the unemployed and the working poor. Even Hillary Clinton's message of hope has to be taken with a grain of salt, since she's collecting more Wall Street campaign cash than any other candidate.

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: 112 Americans will kill themselves today.

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