Showing posts with label suicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suicide. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Suicides and a Jail Death in Anadarko, Oklahoma: Bitter, Angry and Frightened, Oklahomans will not vote for Hillary

Last January, the Washington Post reported on a spate of suicides in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Four people committed suicide over a period of less than two months. All were young, all were racial minorities, and all killed themselves with guns.

And last April, Darius Robinson, an African American father of seven, was killed in his Anadarko jail cell, asphyxiated by jail employees. Jailers say Robinson was trying to escape, but the Oklahoma Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.  A small demonstration was organized a couple months after Robinson's death; about 50 people attended. Robinson, by the way, was not in jail for a violent crime; he was in the slammer for failing to pay child support.

You might think these tragedies would draw the attention of President Obama. Four desperate young people killed themselves with handguns--what a great opportunity for the President to talk about gun control. A black man strangled by his jailers while in police custody--that's as least as shocking as the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore/

Nevertheless, as far as I can determine, Barack Obama has said nothing about these deaths, and Hillary Clinton has said nothing about them. And, to the best of my knowledge, neither Al Sharpton nor Jessie Jackson has shown up in Anadarko.

Why? Because the Oklahomans don't matter. The Democratic political operatives have written off Oklahoma, and well they should. In the Democratic presidential primary, Oklahoma Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders--Bernie Sanders! And  God knows they didn't vote for Bernie because they are socialists. No, Oklahoma Democrats loath Hillary Clinton, and Bernie was their only alternative. And if Oklahoma Democrats loath her, you can imagine what Oklahoma Republicans think.

In truth, Oklahomans are bitter, angry and frightened. Outside a few pockets of urban prosperity--Oklahoma City, metropolitan Tulsa, and Bartlesville--the state is in deep depression. From the Winding Stair Mountains in the east to the short grass country of western Oklahoma, there are no jobs. Anadarko, my home town, may be the epicenter of Oklahoma's desperate condition. Abandoned houses, suicide, alcohol abuse, drug addiction--rural Oklahomans are among the casualties of the new global economy.

Hillary and Barack despise these people, and the Oklahomans know it.  Barack sneeringly dismissed poor white Americans generally when he said they comfort themselves with guns and religion. When Hillary condemned the "basket of deplorables," she was talking about the people I grew up with.

Eighty years ago, John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, a tribute to the strength and courage of the Oklahomans who were driven off their land during the Dust Bowl years and migrated to California in rattletrap cars. "We're the people that live," Ma Joad says in the novel. "They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people."

Do you think Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have read The Grapes of Wrath? Not likely. Do you think they give a damn about contemporary Oklahomans who are suffering now just as much as their ancestors did during the Great Depression? No, of course not.

Image result for darius robinson death
Darius Robinson: "We're the people"



References

Sarah Kaplan.'It has brought us to our knees': Small Okla. town reeling from suicide epidemic. Washington Post, January 25, 2016. It https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/25/it-has-brought-us-to-our-knees-small-okla-town-reeling-from-suicide-epidemic/


Xin Xin Liu. Protesters Gather At Caddo Co. Courthouse After Inmate's Death, new9.com, July 22, 2016. Available at
http://www.news9.com/story/32507009/protest-planned-at-caddo-co-courthouse-after-inmates-death

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Suicide and Student Loans: Is There a Link?

Death rates among white, middle-aged Americans have gone up significantly in recent years. According Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two Princeton economists, death rates for people in the 45 to 54 age group began rising in 1999. For middle-aged white people with a high school diploma or less, the mortality rate rose 22 percent between 1999 and 2013.

Why are relatively young white Americans dying at a higher rate than they did 15 years ago? Case and Deaton say most of the rising mortality rate can be attributed to suicide or deaths related to alcohol or drug abuse.People in this age group are experiencing a lot of stress, including economic stress; and they are turning to alcohol and drugs to deal with it. “What we see here is a group that’s in quite a lot of distress,” said Ms. Case in a Wall Street Journal interview.

As Case and Deaton said in their report:
Although the epidemic of pain, suicide, and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible. After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s, and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents. Growth in real median earnings has been slow for this group, especially those with only a high school education. 
As everyone knows, Americans' accumulated student-loan debt has been going up steadily for the past 20 years. Could there be a  link between student-loan debt and rising mortality rates among middle-aged white Americans?

Deaton and Case did not examine student-loan indebtedness in their study, and any attempt to link student loans to rising death rates would be speculative. Moreover, Case and Deaton found that middle-aged people with college degrees had not experienced higher mortality rates.

Nevertheless, suicide rates for the Baby Boomer generation have gone up dramatically in recent years. According to a report by Katherine Hempstead and Julie Phillips, the suicide rate  for people in the 40-64 age group has gone up 40 percent since 2007.

Hempstead and Philips suggest that economic problems may have contributed to the rising suicide rate among Baby Boomers, and that "adverse effects of economic difficulties on psychological well-being may have been greater for those who did not anticipate them; this may well have been the case for those who were educated and wealthier . . . ."

One thing is certain: Our federal government has constructed a student-loan scheme so heartless that it almost seems to have been designed to plunge millions of Americans into long-term clinical depression.  So isn't it reasonable to conclude there is a connection between crushing student loans and rising suicide rates among middle-aged people?

Let's examine some of the evidence pointing to growing stress among student-loan debtors:
  • As the New York Times recently pointed out, ten million people are in default on their student loans or delinquent on their loan payments.
  • According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, loan balances for a significant number of student-loan debtors actually went up after they entered the repayment phase  of their loans. Why? Because a lot of people have obtained economic-hardship deferments that exempt them from making loan payments due to dire economic circumstances.  But because they are not paying down accruing interest, their loan balances are getting larger, making them more difficult to pay off.
  • The percentage of elderly Americans with unpaid student-loan debt is going up. According to a report from the General Accounting Office, the percentage of people in the 65 through 74 age group with outstanding student loans grew from 1 percent in 2004 to 4 percent in 2010, a four-fold increase   And the amount of student-loan debt owed by elderly people is growing as well.  In fact, the amount of debt held by elderly Americans grew six fold between 2005 and 2013--from $2.8 billion in 2005 to $18.2 billion.
  • The federal government is  garnishing more and more Social Security checks to collect on unpaid student loans.   In 2002, only 31,000 people had Social Security benefits garnished because they had defaulted on their student loans. That number ballooned five fold in just 11 years. In 2013, 155,000 Americans saw their Social Security checks reduced due to unpaid student-loans.
Let's consider that last bullet from a more personal perspective. According to a story posed on Market Watch, the U.S. government is garnishing the Social Security checks of Naomia Davis, an 80 year old woman who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer's Disease. Ms. Davis's only income is her $894 Social Security check, and the feds take $134 of it to pay down on an old student loan.

In short, it is reasonable to conclude that crushing student-loan debt contributes to depression and even suicide among Baby Boomers who are struggling to pay off college loans they took out when they were young.  The student loan crisis is not only eroding Americans' sense of economic well being; it may be literally killing them.



References

Jillian Berman. When your Social Security check disappears because of an old student loan. MarketWatch, June 25, 2015.  Accessible at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-your-social-security-check-disappears-because-of-an-old-student-loan-2015-06-25

Anne  Case and Angus Deaton. Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white
non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.  Accessible at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112.full.pdf

Editorial. Death AmongMiddleAged Whites. New York Times, November 5, 2015.

Editorial. Why Student Debtors Go Unrescued. New York Times, October , 2015. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/opinion/why-student-debtors-go-unrescued.html?_r=0

General Accounting Office. Older Americans: Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of a Small Percentage of Borrowers. GAO-14-866T. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-866T

Katherine A. Hempstead and Julie A. Phillips. Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged
40–64 Years: The Role of Job and Financial Circumstances.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine 84(5):491-500 (2015). Accessible at: http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(14)00662-X/pdf

Jason Iuliano. An Empirical Assessment of Student Loan Discharge and the Undue Hardship Standard. American Bankruptcy Law Journal 86 (2012), 495.

Gina Kolata. Deaths Rates Rising Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. NewYork Times, November 3, 2015. Accessibe at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html

Betsy McKay. The Death Rate Is Rising for Midle-Aged Whites. Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-death-rate-is-rising-for-middle-aged-whites-1446499495