Recent news accounts of people who have gone berserk after losing their jobs highlight the fact that a new phenomenon has developed. Some call it “recession rage,” as if we were experiencing just a simple economic downturn that is sure to fade away just as quickly as it arrived. Instead, I call the newfangled phenomenon, “Depression Fury,” due to the inescapable conclusion that we have crossed over into the true face of Depression: widespread shantytowns, massive unemployment, and extreme public anger and hopelessness – with no foreseeable end in sight.
The other day, young Richard Poplawski, who had recently lost his job, gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, wounding two others.
Jiverly Voong, who shot thirteen people to death before killing himself in upstate New York, had become despondent because he was laid off from his job at an assembly plant. To add to his misery, his wife and children had left him – leaving him with nothing.
As Gerald Celente from Trends Research says, “When people lose everything, and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”
If there were ever any doubt that we have a bona fide depression on our hands, that uncertainty has evaporated. Says Money and Markets’ Martin D. Weiss, PhD, “We are already in a depression. Based on the government’s own admission, we have high, double-digit unemployment. That clinches it.”
Reports Weiss, “Even the government’s broadest measure of unemployment — now at 15.6 percent — is grossly understated.” Weiss insists the true unemployment numbers are shockingly high: 19.8%!
Jumping Out of Windows
During the Great Depression, unemployment numbers were at least 25%, and we are rapidly approaching that point. History reminds us that people who lose their jobs, savings, and investments literally jump out of windows. As much as we don’t like to imagine such desperation, it happens; and we may see more people “losing it” as the depression sinks us all into a deeper morass.
With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Americans, especially the poor, became desperate to feed their families. Says Nps.gov, “Many sank into despair and shame after they could not find jobs. The suicide rates increased from 14 to 17 per 100,000.”
In contrast, since the 1950s, suicide rates in the United States have remained relatively stable, ranging between 10 and 13 per 100,000 each year.
With the new depression now underway, it is anyone’s guess as to how high the suicide numbers will rise. Mental-health hotlines are jammed across the country as people are feeling the stress of stacks of unpaid bills and relentless phone calls from creditors. Already, we have seen suicide cases such as the unemployed California money manager who wiped out his family and himself after he lost his fortune, and the woman who fatally shot herself in the chest because authorities were in the process of taking possession of her Tennessee home.
To add to the bad news, according to emedicine.medscape.com, most suicides occur in the spring – not a good harbinger for the months to come.
Raising Fists and Guns
Cleveland.com reports that during the Great Depression, “several thousand Clevelanders raised their voices and fists in protest of the foreclosures, unemployment and economic ruin sweeping the nation — problems not unlike today.”
In 1933, people had suffered just about as much as they could bear. Cleveland.com: “At the height of the Great Depression, thousands took to the streets . . . to protest an eviction, sometimes violently. Now, 75 years later, many of the Depression-era woes that spawned the demonstration have returned. History is repeating itself, but this time with barely a whimper.” So far, I might add.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, serious violent crime levels have declined since 1993, and “homicide rates recently declined to levels last seen in the mid-1960s.”
If violent crime has been waning over time, not so for other types of criminal behavior. In a 2008 NPR interview, San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne explained the crime trends in his city: “Domestic violence, alcohol-related crime, white-collar crime is starting to increase. Identity theft, mortgage fraud, senior abuse, too — people taking advantage of seniors, trying to get to their money.”
Can we expect more violent crime as the economy continues to plummet? Unfortunately, the answer may be yes. In a journal article, “A Comparison of Changes in Police and General Homicides: 1930–1998,” by Kaminski and Marvell, the authors state: “The researchers pointed out that the harder the economic times and the greater the economic uncertainty, the higher the murder rates were for both police officers and the general public. Following that trend, the highest police homicide rate was in the 1930s during the Great Depression. In contrast, when the economy was booming in 1998, the rate for police homicides was more than 80 percent lower than in 1930.”
From where I sit, “Depression Fury” has only just begun. Let’s hope that the country can pull itself out of the economic quagmire before more people with nothing to lose decide to take out their economic frustrations on innocent victims – or themselves.
KATHY SANBORN is an author, journalist, and recording artist with a new CD, Peaceful Sounds, now a top seller on CDBaby. Listen to clips of her songs, including “Forever War,” and buy the album now at http://cdbaby.com/cd/kathysanborn.