Econocide – The Hidden Death of America

05 Jun

A startling series on TomGram, by Nick Turse brings to light the human toll of the economic meltdown.

Dramatic Rise in Economic Suicide

Dramatic Rise in Economic Suicide

After David B. Kellermann, the chief financial officer of beleaguered mortgage giant Freddie Mac, tied a noose and hanged himself in the basement of his Vienna, Virginia, home, the New York Times made it a front-page story. The stresses of the job in economic tough times, its reporters implied, had driven him to this extreme act.

“Binghamton Shooter” Jiverly Wong also garnered front-page headlines nationwide and set off a cable news frenzy when, “bitter over job loss,” he massacred 13 people at an immigration center in upstate New York. Similarly, coverage was brisk after Pittsburgh resident Richard Poplawski, “upset about recently losing a job,” shot four local police officers, killing three of them.

But where was the front-page treatment when, in January, Betty Lipply, a 72-year-old resident of East Palestine, Ohio, “who feared she’d lose her home to foreclosure hanged herself to death” shortly after “receiving her second summons and foreclosure complaint from her mortgage lender”? And where was the up-to-the-minute cable news reporting on the two California dairy farmers who “killed themselves… out of despair over finances, according to associates”?

Mass Murder, Mass Media, and Missing Stories

Last summer, in the pages of the Nation magazine, Barbara Ehrenreich called attention to people turning to “the suicide solution” in response to the burgeoning financial crisis. Months later, major news outlets started to examine the same phenomenon. Last fall, a TomDispatch report on suicides and a range of other extreme acts — including self-inflicted injury, murder, arson, and armed self-defense — in response to foreclosures, evictions, bankruptcies, and layoffs, was followed, months later, by mainstream media attention to the notion of “econo-cide” — prompted, in large part, by a spate of familicides (murder/suicides in which both parents and their children die).

While it’s impossible to know the myriad factors, including deeply personal ones, that contribute to people resorting to drastic measures, violent or otherwise, many press reports suggest that the global economic crisis has played no small part in a range of extreme acts.

An analysis by TomDispatch of national, regional, and local news reports in 2008 and early 2009 indicates that a silent, nationwide epidemic of drastic measures may be underway. News of such acts linked to economic woes — from armed robberies to pay the rent to financially-motivated suicides — has filtered out of cities and towns in no less than 30 states, many of which have seen multiple incidents. And since only a fraction of such acts ever receives media coverage, what is being reported, even if mostly in local newspapers, qualifies as startling…

Just the other day, one of my nephews came by to borrow $50. He’s in High School, and just quit a part time job working at a local store where he had been putting  in 20 hours a week, to work at a store which paid him $2.50 more an hour. He has an account at Bank of America, where he deposits his check . With a little help from Mom and Dad, he had bought a used Motor Scooter, a little Vespa looking thing he tools around to work and back on. He makes a monthly payment of $82.32 on the bike, through auto withdrawal. The reason he needed the money was that his account was overdrawn by $210.  He was afraid to tell his parents…

On the computer he showed me his statement. after the job swap, he had deposited his check as usual. The Bank decided to hold the check for 7 days. Thinking he had money in the account, he used his ATM Card for the usual – a $6.28 lunch at Subway, a $1.06 Slurpee at 7-11, $3.13 Gas for his Scooter…

The account had $73.40 in it before the automatic payment. Despite the charges arriving the same date – Bank of America took the largest amount first, putting the account in arrears, while holding the paycheck. The result was a $35 overdraft fee for each and every purchase. With the new paycheck eventually clearing…

He was still $50 overdrawn.

I gave him $100, thinking…

There are a lot of folks out there trying to squeeze a dime right now to make the mortgage payments, the tuition payments for the kids, or even to pay the heat and electric bills because someone in the house has lost a job…

What’s the impact of this sort of nefarious bank theft on those folks?

$35 for a lousy $1.06 Slurpee?

Isn’t that sort of slimy fee grubbing theft just cascading these folks further off the edge?

I used to work in the electronic banking industry, so I know there is no reason a bank should be holding a check for 7 days. No reason other than to steal by creating fees though artificial overdrafts.

Congress needs to take a lot closer look at banks – and not just the credit card industry. And the Justice Department needs to look at putting some of these crooks in jail.


Posted by on June 5, 2009 in News


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “Econocide – The Hidden Death of America

  1. brotherbrown

    June 5, 2009 at 11:01 PM

    It is an insidious quirk the banks use to take advantage of people. I see your anecdote, and raise you one: how about imposing an annual overdraft protection fee that creates a negative balance, followed by a few small transactions, resulting in the $39.00 overdraft fee per transaction. For a 5 dollar purchase, the bank is taxing you 800%. 4,000% for a $1.00 transaction. It ought to be reviewed.

    I wonder, in the face of econocide, why I can never get traction when I decry the ready availability of handguns, rifles, shotguns, and military replicas, the weapons of choice in this recent spate? The reality of the violence of this society should give us pause, instead there seems to be run on guns and a shortage of ammo.


  2. btx3

    June 6, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde are the bank anymore. They are preying on exactly the folks who can’t fight back, and who have the least to lose. Playing games with deposits, and when they are credited, while maximizing the fees they collect through nefarious means would be, in any other industry…


    Were we really a country of laws, right about now some of these banks would be looking at a RICO conviction.

    The last time we had the sort of economic situation we have now, folks who robbed banks, like Dillinger – were considered folk heroes. They were considered folk heroes because the people felt the banks were crooked.

    We well might be going back to that before this is over.

    Insofar as the suicides, again the banks have gotten way too clever. With the advent of electronic systems, the so called credit score can be the death knell for many consumers – preventing them from getting jobs and closing the door on any way to recover. With 4 million homes in foreclosure in this country – that is a bunch of folks who can no longer get credit, can’t get jobs, will pay higher premiums for everything from car insurance to the gas bill…

    Making the road back virtually insurmountable.


  3. brotherbrown

    June 6, 2009 at 10:17 AM

    Military suicides are also up.


  4. btx3

    June 6, 2009 at 1:05 PM

    Yeah – but that may be caused by some of the chemicals in the weapons. Lot of that is not only carcinogenic, but may have other effects on the body.



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