American Suicide & What Trump Isn’t Doing About It

It’s an epidemic with life-and-death significance for a pivotal portion of Trump’s base, but the president has paid no attention to the way it is afflicting U.S. civilians, writes Rajan Menon.

By Rajan Melon

We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That’s odd given the magnitude of the problem.

In 2017, 47,173 Americans killed themselves. In that single year, in other words, the suicide count was nearly seven times greater than the number of American soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars between 2001 and 2018.

A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes. What’s more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually — the suicide rate — has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides, even though the murder rate gets so much more attention.

In other words, we’re talking about a national epidemic of self-inflicted deaths.

Suicide prevention sign and phone on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, 2006. (Guillaume Paumier, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Worrisome Numbers

Anyone who has lost a close relative or friend to suicide or has worked on a suicide hotline (as I have) knows that statistics transform the individual, the personal, and indeed the mysterious aspects of that violent act — Why this person?  Why now? Why in this manner? — into depersonalized abstractions. Still, to grasp how serious the suicide epidemic has become, numbers are a necessity.

According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control study, between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate increased in every state in the union except Nevada, which already had a remarkably high rate.  In 30 states, it jumped by 25 percent or more; in 17, by at least a third.  Nationally, it increased 33percent.  In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6 percent), New Hampshire (48.3 percent), Kansas (45 percent), Idaho (43 percent).

Alas, the news only gets grimmer.

Since 2008, suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth.  The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally, it ranks 27th.

More importantly, the trend in the United States doesn’t align with what’s happening elsewhere in the developed world. The World Health Organization, for instance, reports that Great Britain, Canada, and China all have notably lower suicide rates than the U.S., as do all but six countries in the European Union. (Japan’s is only slightly lower.)

World Bank statistics show that, worldwide, the suicide rate fell from 12.8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 10.6 in 2016.  It’s been falling in ChinaJapan (where it has declined steadily for nearly a decade and is at its lowest point in 37 years), most of Europe, and even countries like South Korea and Russia that have a significantly higher suicide rate than the United States. In Russia, for instance, it has dropped by nearly 26 percent from a high point of 42 per 100,000 in 1994 to 31 in 2019.

We know a fair amount about the patterns of suicide in the United States.  In 2017, the rate was highest for men between the ages of 45 and 64 (30 per 100,000) and those 75 and older (39.7 per 100,000).

The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country.

There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women — almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last.

Education is also a factor.  The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves.  Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets. 

The Economics of Stress

Sign on bridge in Fremont, Washington. (Cumulus Clouds, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This surge in the suicide rate has taken place in years during which the working class has experienced greater economic hardship and psychological stress.  Increased competition from abroad and outsourcing, the results of globalization, have contributed to job loss, particularly in economic sectors like manufacturing, steel, and mining that had long been mainstays of employment for such workers. The jobs still available often paid less and provided fewer benefits.

Technological change, including computerization, robotics, and the coming of artificial intelligence, has similarly begun to displace labor in significant ways, leaving Americans without college degrees, especially those 50 and older, in far more difficult straits when it comes to finding new jobs that pay well. The lack of anything resembling an industrial policy of a sort that exists in Europe has made these dislocations even more painful for American workers, while a sharp decline in private-sector union membership — down from nearly 17 percent in 1983 to 6.4 percent today — has reduced their ability to press for higher wages through collective bargaining.

Furthermore, the inflation-adjusted median wage has barely budged over the last four decades (even as CEO salaries have soared).  And a decline in worker productivity doesn’t explain it: between 1973 and 2017 productivity increased by 77 percent, while a worker’s average hourly wage only rose by 12.4 percent. Wage stagnation has made it harder for working-class Americans to get by, let alone have a lifestyle comparable to that of their parents or grandparents.

The gap in earnings between those at the top and bottom of American society has also increased — a lot. Since 1979, the wages of Americans in the 10th percentile increased by a pitiful 1.2 percent. Those in the 50th percentile did a bit better, making a gain of 6 percent. By contrast, those in the 90th percentile increased by 34.3 percent and those near the peak of the wage pyramid — the top 1 percent and especially the rarefied 0.1 percent — made far more substantial gains.  


 (Democracy Chronicles via Flickr)

And mind you, we’re just talking about wages, not other forms of income such as large stock dividends, expensive homes, or eyepopping inheritances.  The share of net national wealth held by the richest 0.1 percent increased from 10 percent in the 1980s to 20 percent in 2016.  By contrast, the share of the bottom 90 percent shrank in those same decades from about 35 percent to 20 percent.  As for the top 1 percent, by 2016 its share had increased to almost 39percent.

The precise relationship between economic inequality and suicide rates remains unclear, and suicide certainly can’t simply be reduced to wealth disparities or financial stress. Still, strikingly, in contrast to the United States, suicide rates are noticeably lower and have been declining in western European countries where income inequalities are far less pronounced, publicly funded healthcare is regarded as a right (not demonized as a pathway to serfdom), social safety nets far more extensive, and apprenticeships and worker retraining programs more widespread.

Evidence from the United StatesBrazilJapan, and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. If so, the good news is that progressive economic policies — should Democrats ever retake the White House and the Senate — could make a positive difference.  A study based on state-by-state variations in the U.S. found that simply boosting the minimum wage and Earned Income Tax Credit by 10 percent appreciably reduces the suicide rate among people without college degrees.

(Paul Sableman via Flickr)

The Race Enigma

One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling.  Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher.  It increased from 11.3 per 100,000 in 2000 to 15.85 per 100,000 in 2017; for African Americans in those years the rates were 5.52 per 100,000 and 6.61 per 100,000. Black men are 10 times more likely to be homicide victims than white men, but the latter are two-and-half times more likely to kill themselves.

The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide’s disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled deaths of despair — those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it’s hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter.

According to a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the white working class accounted for 45 percent of all income earned in the United States in 1990, but only 27 percent in 2016.  In those same years, its share of national wealth plummeted, from 45 percent to 22 percent.  And as inflation-adjusted wages have decreased for men without college degrees, many white workers seem to have lost hope of success of any sort.  Paradoxically, the sense of failure and the accompanying stress may be greater for white workers precisely because they traditionally were much better off economically than their African American and Hispanic counterparts.

In addition, the fraying of communities knit together by employment in once-robust factories and mines has increased social isolation among them, and the evidence that it — along with opioid addiction and alcohol abuse — increases the risk of suicide is strong. On top of that, a significantly higher proportion of whites than blacks and Hispanics own firearms, and suicide rates are markedly higher in states where gun ownership is more widespread.

Guns are the means by which half of all U.S. suicides are committed. 

Trump’s Faux Populism

The large increase in suicide within the white working class began a couple of decades before Donald Trump’s election. Still, it’s reasonable to ask what he’s tried to do about it, particularly since votes from these Americans helped propel him to the White House. In 2016, he received 64 percent of the votes of whites without college degrees; Hillary Clinton, only 28 percent.  Nationwide, he beat Clinton in counties where deaths of despair rose significantly between 2000 and 2015.

White workers will remain crucial to Trump’s chances of winning in 2020.  Yet while he has spoken about, and initiated steps aimed at reducing, the high suicide rate among veterans, his speeches and tweets have never highlighted the national suicide epidemic or its inordinate impact on white workers. More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse.

Soldiers in North Carolina participate in “Run for Remembrance” as part of Suicide Prevention Month, September 2016. (U.S. Army/ Timothy L. Hale)

The real benefits from the December 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act championed by the president and congressional Republicans flowed to those on the top steps of the economic ladder.  By 2027, when the Act’s provisions will run out, the wealthiest Americans are expected to have captured 81.8 percent of the gains.  And that’s not counting the windfall they received from recent changes in taxes on inheritances. Trump and the GOP doubled the annual amount exempt from estate taxes — wealth bequeathed to heirs — through 2025 from $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million (or $22.4 million per couple). And who benefits most from this act of generosity?  Not workers, that’s for sure, but every household with an estate worth $22 million or more will.

As for job retraining provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the president proposed cutting that program by 40percent in his 2019 budget, later settling for keeping it at 2017 levels. Future cuts seem in the cards as long as Trump is in the White House. The Congressional Budget Office projects that his tax cuts alone will produce even bigger budget deficits in the years to come. (The shortfall last year was $779 billion and it is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020.) Inevitably, the president and congressional Republicans will then demand additional reductions in spending for social programs.

Trump on “USA Thank You Tour” in Hershey, Pennsylvania, after winning election, Dec. 15, 2016. (Michael Vadon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This is all the more likely because Trump and those Republicans also slashed corporate taxes from 35percent to 21 percent — an estimated $1.4 trillion in savings for corporations over the next decade. And unlike the income tax cut, the corporate tax has no end date. The president assured his base that the big bucks those companies had stashed abroad would start flowing home and produce a wave of job creation — all without adding to the deficit. As it happens, however, most of that repatriated cash has been used for corporate stock buy-backs, which totaled more than $800 billion last year.  That, in turn, boosted share prices, but didn’t exactly rain money down on workers. No surprise, of course, since the wealthiest 10percent of Americans own at least 84 percent of all stocks and the bottom 60percent have less than 2 percent of them. 

And the president’s corporate tax cut hasn’t produced the tsunami of job-generating investments he predicted either. Indeed, in its aftermath, more than 80 percent of American companies stated that their plans for investment and hiring hadn’t changed. As a result, the monthly increase in jobs has proven unremarkable compared to President Obama’s second term, when the economic recovery that Trump largely inherited began. Yes, the economy did grow 2.3 percent in 2017 and 2.9 percent in 2018 (though not 3.1 percent as the president claimed). There wasn’t, however, any “unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before” as he insisted in this year’s State of the Union Address.

Anyway, what matters for workers struggling to get by is growth in real wages, and there’s nothing to celebrate on that front: between 2017 and mid-2018 they actually declined by 1.63 percent for white workers and 2.5 percent for African Americans, while they rose for Hispanics by a measly 0.37 percent.  And though Trump insists that his beloved tariff hikes are going to help workers, they will actually raise the prices of goods, hurting the working class and other low-income Americans the most

Then there are the obstacles those susceptible to suicide face in receiving insurance-provided mental-health care. If you’re a white worker without medical coverage or have a policy with a deductible and co-payments that are high and your income, while low, is too high to qualify for Medicaid, Trump and the GOP haven’t done anything for you. Never mind the president’s tweet proclaiming that “the Republican Party Will Become ‘The Party of Healthcare!’” 

Let me amend that: actually, they have done something. It’s just not what you’d call helpful. The percentage of uninsured adults, which fell from 18percent in 2013 to 10.9 percent at the end of 2016, thanks in no small measure to Obamacare, had risen to 13.7 percent by the end of last year.

The bottom line? On a problem that literally has life-and-death significance for a pivotal portion of his base, Trump has been AWOL. In fact, to the extent that economic strain contributes to the alarming suicide rate among white workers, his policies are only likely to exacerbate what is already a national crisis of epidemic proportions.

Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. His latest book is The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.”

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55 comments for “American Suicide & What Trump Isn’t Doing About It

  1. Deserttrek
    July 11, 2019 at 16:46

    more blame Trump idiocy
    grow up

  2. Vonu
    July 11, 2019 at 12:12

    I’d wage a petrodollar that most of the problem is caused by people feeling like their rights are of no value and they will be better off not waiting until the gestapo comes to the door.

  3. July 10, 2019 at 19:20

    My comments disappeared and seem to have bounced, now invisible, sent to the void or something. Not going to retype it all so here’s a summary:

  4. July 10, 2019 at 18:33

    The Consortium News comments system is acting bizarrely again. It is stuttering and skipping like an old vinyl record. Technical difficulties.

    Support our troops? What a joke.

    Donald Trump destroyed the Veterans Adminstration’s medical services by handing it over to his Mar-a-Largo buddies for money. Trump is a parasite leading the vampire squid in a blood sucking frenzy of our military service men. McClatchy did a big investigation on it:

    • Vonu
      July 11, 2019 at 12:13

      Treason is defined in the Constitution at Article 3, Section 3, as consisting “only in levying War against (the United States), or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
      All members of the American military take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (and to) bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
      When the military is committed to foreign actions without a declaration of war by Congress, as required by Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 11 of the Constitution, that is a violation of the Constitution, arguably the action of domestic enemies.
      When a member of the military participates in an unconstitutional foreign military deployment, s/he violates both the Constitution and his/her oath to “support and defend” it, giving “aid and comfort” to it’s “domestic enemies,” committing treason by the definition given by the Constitution.

  5. Mary Gourdoux
    July 10, 2019 at 18:21

    Excellent article. But I don’t share your faith in the Democratic Party to bring about changes that will benefit the working class. Both parties are beholden to corporations.

  6. Larry
    July 10, 2019 at 17:40

    Government is the biggest, most dangerous criminal organization on teh planet. It must be abolished now. The idea that governmetn should be doing something about suicide or anything else is both very stupid and toxic.

    This article is complete garbage.

    • Gregory Ghica
      July 11, 2019 at 01:19

      You are correct. This guy is full of statistics and data to prove that the world is coming to an end. Not only on the subject, but in everything he writes. However, he never has a solution to any problem. Just academic BS to justify his monthly salary..

      Prof. Gregory Ghica

  7. bardamu
    July 10, 2019 at 05:00

    Actually, the relationship between wealth and income inequality and suicide is not very unclear at all, at least to the point of determining that they correspond. It has been researched and thoroughly documented.

    There’s a 17 minute discussion here:

    • Zhu
      July 9, 2019 at 05:59

      “Put not your faith in princes, in a sonof man there is no hope.” They’re all bad, including Trump

  8. July 8, 2019 at 16:07

    Our government abandoned us when they decided to close public mental health facilities and privatize everything. The idea was to make a buck of the mental illness rather than help our fellow man. The result coming was obvious from the beginning. Veterans with PTSD, schitzophrenics with altered states, autistic folks, elderly dementia patients, so on and so on endlessly have no health insurance because they have no money because they have no jobs because their mental conditions make it such no one will hire them to work.

    Surprise! But at least your stock at Purdue went up like gangbusters off OxyContin, now didn’t it?

  9. Robert Mayer
    July 8, 2019 at 15:30

    Tnx CN, Rajan… I find education stats most germain as the point (old school at least) of ed was2 give young people Critical Thinking Skills (which I contend decreases belief in GOP fanti-pol tec).
    As4 drug od death… my (educated) belief is Accidental (which makes purer drugs: Big Pharma or Guido’s Lab)?
    No surprise Women have Inherently more accute Critical Thinking skills.

  10. SteveK9
    July 8, 2019 at 15:23

    Our civilization is deteriorating. As noted above, it would take a book to describe all the ways in which this is occurring. If it were even possible for a single person, the President, to begin to reverse this trend, that person is not Donald Trump. I actually think some of Trump’s instincts are good and would be helpful, but he is too stupid to make much happen. To really have an impact the President would need to be someone extraordinary, with high intelligence, experience, a strong will, a clear vision of the future … you know, someone like Vladimir Putin, literally ‘the man who saved Russia’.

    • July 9, 2019 at 04:48

      Vladimir Putin is The Man. I listen to him to refresh my soul. Here is a person of, dare I say it?, integrity. If that is hard to believe, try listening to his speeches and interviews. His simple intelligence is enough to make it worthwhile.

  11. Anonymot
    July 8, 2019 at 13:44

    This is a real problem that is far deeper than Trump & Obama or Republican/Democrat. It has been predicted by numerous people who are too much trouble for the powers that be to hear. It’s been coming on for decades. It’s solutions require real leadership and we’ve not tasted that since I don’t remember when.

    Here are just 2 of the numerous causes: unfillfilled promises that were really believed, for example that you will have a comfortable life in the middle class model even if you can’t earn a middle class wage; there will be Peace to replace Fear. The real list goes on by the scores.

    Those political promises came from every politician of every stripe at all levels. Listen, if you can stand it, to the phony baloney being spouted by the Democrats at the moment. It’s insane, false and unattainable promises, pretty and hopeful as they can be, but people do beleve it. Oh, yes, everyone throws in a sentence with the word peace in it. Only Tulsi Gabbard makes it a major issue of her campaign (yet keeps realistic domestic plans very present!) The media has buried her, because war makes better headlines, sells more ads.

    In our reduced to zero educational machine no one learns things that will sustain them when they retire, so they play golf, shuttleboard and watch the tube. Since we’ve taught them to love crap food, they get sicker & sicker as they age into deep boredom and one day they pull the trigger.

    Our mobility has torn up the family of kin and divorce and separation the intimate family.

    Dope from marijuana to the top is ready to take your mind off it until it, too, doesn’t do the trick. Bang!

    This subject needs a book, not a few sentences and only a voiceless few can read anything more complex than twitter. It is now not worth talking about, because it’s into territory beyond reversible. It wasn’t too long ago that some President could think about the foundation’s rotting, but not any more. Now it’s just about how to get out of the various forms of pain. Suicide included.

  12. DH Fabian
    July 8, 2019 at 13:13

    We’ve talked many times about the problem, a quarter-century in the making, and it just doesn’t seem to get through to our more fortunate. Not everyone can work (health, etc.), and viable jobs aren’t available for all. In the 1990s, we ended basic poverty relief for those those left jobless. Our jobless poor have been relegated to non-human status., stripped of the most basic human rights (UN’s UDHR) to food and shelter. Not even considered humans. Most low wage workers are a single job loss from losing everything, with no way back up. The rent comes due, and you’re out. Once you no longer have a home address, phone, etc, you can’t get a job if any come along. All that’s ahead is a life of deprivation, humiliation, and the struggle for just enough to keep going.Things aren’t going to get better. Are you starting to catch on?

  13. Apropos
    July 8, 2019 at 12:42

    Wake up Rajan Menon! Why do you not mention the obvious correlation between the American penchant for prescribed psychotropic drugs and suicide and/or homicide. Both are published side-effects and invariably, it is possible to discover a psychotropic drug history in most of these cases.

    • DH Fabian
      July 8, 2019 at 13:18

      Because those correlations are weak, at best. In general, psychotropic drugs enable people with psychiatric disorders to function normally, having chance at a productive life. There are widespread misconceptions about these drugs, but there is no question that they have saved many lives.

  14. Arthur
    July 8, 2019 at 12:12

    Where in the Constitution is the president charged with preventing suicide?

  15. Barbara Humphrey
    July 8, 2019 at 11:57

    I truly believe that one factor impacting suicide is idleness. So much of our identity is defined by where we work and what we do. When people are idle, how do they answer? For people who work multiple jobs and raising families, having idle time seems like a fantasy. But when you have no reason to get up in the morning, nothing productive to do with your time, you lose self worth. Therefore, I do not believe in an annual minimum income for all. I believe in jobs for all at a living wage. To attain that, the upper income Americans (yea that 1%) must be taxed more, which would also result in a reduction in wealth inequity. And I also believe in universal health care, including mental healthcare. I would love to see idleness and inability to access health and mental care used as variables when studying suicide.

    • July 11, 2019 at 10:58

      Mental illness follows one around whether at work or not. Example, soldier goes to war, exposed to violence rape, murder, chemicals, who know what. Partakes in killing.

      Comes home with PTSD and guilt and morality shattered in a state of anomie. Can’t do his/her job because killing folks back home isn’t a paid job. All the rules are different.

      It is a classic syndrome. War-anomie-suicide. Hoplesness is nothing new nor specific to Americans…

  16. Some guy
    July 8, 2019 at 11:33

    It’s nice to read a humanistic article on a topic like this, especially in 2019, when the country’s practically gone robot towards all things pain and suffering.

    As someone who got trolled by a…let’s just say…a mother with an on-again/off-again relationship with reality who thought it would be funny to pretend I was attempting suicide by supposedly trying to starve myself while visiting her (literally, I just didn’t eat for a few hours after they invited me to visit them), I can tell you that the way this country deals with such things is a joke. Carting someone off to a psych ward and subjecting them to imprisonment without due process and further dehumanization at the very least (and by far and wide, drugs with severe side effects) is no way to encourage people to deal with difficult things.

    Perhaps if this behaved a bit more like the author of this article rather than holding a witch trial over everything, more individuals would have somewhere to turn to when they were in pain.

  17. July 8, 2019 at 10:42

    “Don’t just pick on Trump.”

    Exactly right. These conditions were present before Trump took office and will remain when he is gone. Trump is a reflection of our collective narcissism, monomaniac obsession with money and status. He didn’t cause it. He personifies it.

    Which is why all Trump will do is whatever benefits himself in terms of status, money, and power. He isn’t going to help anyone else, at least not intentionally. Our neoliberal Reaganomics trickle-down Voodoo Economics problem is a curse laid upon us in the ’80s. Trump is neither the witchdoctor nor the witch. Trump is but a manifestation of Plutus or Mammon or Urizen or Mara… this god goes by many names. The point is the god doesn’t listen to anything other than his own greed and wants.

    • DH Fabian
      July 8, 2019 at 13:27

      Yes. But it is Democrats who played the lead role in the de-humanizing of the masses of poor. Consider that as the overall life expectancy of the US poor fell below that of every developed nation, liberals maintained a pep rally for the middle/working class. We are outraged at the government for taking children from the current wave of refugees, but remained silent for over 20 years as government did the same thing to American families who lost their jobs and fell into poverty. (Bill Clinton’s welfare “reform” gave social service agencies the power to “take indefinite custody” of poor children, on the grounds of “failure to adequately provide.”)

  18. Don Bacon
    July 8, 2019 at 09:44

    It is a terrible problem, one which has taken my only grandson and one of my two male nephews. Besides the reasons given, some say that social media is a factor. Some people get left outside the net.
    But don’t just pick on Trump. The US is a nominal democracy with government by the people, right? And we do have a Congress that should do more than waste billions of dollars on endless wars and expensive fighter jets that don’t function properly.
    We do need action on suicide.

    • July 8, 2019 at 12:51

      The reality is that you do not live in a democracy. The President is elected by the Electoral College. That is an appointed group and can disregard the popular vote, as they have done with the election of Trump and GW Bush. Another point. If you have a job, which 107 million Americans don`t have and have given up looking for, you spend most of your life in an environment in which you are dictated to. Definitely not a democracy. The best way to run the economy is if workers form Co. -ops That is the factories and other workplaces are owned by the workers. That is a true democracy. I strongly recomment that readers look up Richard Wolff on Youtube. He explains much better than I can exactly how a socialized society works and how capitalism does not work, except for a tiny sliver of the `population at the top of the paramid.

      I thank my lucky stars that i am not an American and do not have to live in your disfunctional society, if I had to live there I would probably elect suicide rather than live in such inequality, like the thousands of others have.

  19. K Lee
    July 8, 2019 at 09:04

    Excerpt from podcast The IMF and World Bank: Partners In Backwardness

    BONNIE FAULKNER: If a country takes out an IMF loan, they’re obviously going to take it out in dollars. Why can’t they take the dollars and convert them into domestic currency to support local infrastructure costs?

    MICHAEL HUDSON: You don’t need a dollar loan to do that. Now were getting in to MMT. Any country can create its own currency. There’s no reason to borrow in dollars to create your own currency. You can print it yourself or create it on your computers.

    BONNIE FAULKNER: Well, exactly. So why don’t these countries simply print up their own domestic currency?

    MICHAEL HUDSON: Their leaders don’t want to be assassinated. More immediately, if you look at the people in charge of foreign central banks, almost all have been educated in the United States and essentially brainwashed. It’s the mentality of foreign central bankers. The people who are promoted are those who feel personally loyal to the United States, because they that that’s how to get ahead. Essentially, they’re opportunists working against the interests of their own country. You won’t have socialist central bankers as long as central banks are dominated by the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements.

    BONNIE FAULKNER: So we’re back to the main point: The control is by political means, and they control the politics and the power structure in these countries so that they don’t rebel.

    MICHAEL HUDSON: That’s right. When you have a dysfunctional economic theory that is destructive instead of productive, this is never an accident. It is always a result of junk economics and dependency economics being sponsored. I’ve talked to people at the U.S. Treasury and asked why they all end up following the United States. Treasury officials have told me: “We simply buy them off. They do it for the money.” So you don’t need to kill them. All you need to do is find people corrupt enough and opportunist enough to see where the money is, and you buy them off.

    • DW Bartoo
      July 8, 2019 at 10:23

      Much appreciate this link, K Lee.

      Hudson makes very clear the role played by the World Bank and the IMF in furthering U$ hegemony, financially as well as militarily.

  20. July 8, 2019 at 08:47

    Those of us who were paying attention knew this before Trump was elected.

    White male American men are dying out from the self-inflicted wounds of opiate addiction, alcoholism, obesity, rage, and gunshot wounds to the head. Think Rush Limbaugh as the poster child, gobbling down Oxycontin, yelling at the TV, drinking Jack Daniels, except these people don’t make $85 million a year like Rush.

    Donald Trump talks about these people out loud, as opposed to folks like the Clintons who label these folks “deplorables” and sweep them from our collective concern. This is what got Trump elected.

    Of course the problem is Trump doesn’t know how to fix anything. There is nothing decent or good about him. He doesn’t even try. Instead, his talent is to manufacture drama endlessly. So he created a cliché WWF Wrasslin’ heel vs. face storyline pitting himself as leader of the Deplorables vs. Hillbillary/ Obama tagteam.

    The wrasslin’ trope doesn’t fix any of our problems in reality, it just gives folks something to yell about on the TV. Walls and demononizing immigrants won’t fix it, as Jack Daniels, Smith & Wesson, and Vicodin are all made in American factories by Americans for Americans.

    This is our current situation: unless something major changes – such as the economy tanks -Trump is going to run to reelection on the same scam in 2020 because the rubes bought it bigly in 2016 and continue to watch the show on Twitter and FoxNews. Until the reality TV clown show gets bad ratings and is mercifully canceled, this is what we will have.

    Rage, schadenfreude, and it is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. In our political kabuki theater.

    That’s all you’re going to get and you’ll be told to like it by El Presidente the authoritarian wannabe gangster. Then he’ll mutter something about Obama and HillBillary with the bait’n’switch and Pavlov’s dogs will salivate as we all go down the toilet together.

    Are you not entertained? I’m not. It was boring from the pilot episode back in the ’80s.

    • Steve
      July 9, 2019 at 09:34

      Trump is basically the white Obama.

      They both got elected by race-pandering to their own demographic group, then failed to deliver on the promised hope and change and MAGA. Trump is more reviled because openly pandering to white people is considered beyond the pale (pun intended), while openly pandering to people of color is just business as usual.

    • July 10, 2019 at 18:38

      Trump is the white Trump. He’s a solipsist who helps himself and only himself at the gravy trough. Donald Trump sold out our military servicemen to three oligarchs named Perlmutter, Moskowitz, and Sherman from his country club.

      Trump sold us out. Trump sold out the veterans. All the whataboutism in the world doesn’t change the fact Trump took our returning military veterans’ suicide problems and poured kerosene on it in return for money and favors. Trump is a grifter.

  21. TomG
    July 8, 2019 at 08:27

    While veterans account for about 6% of the population, their suicides account for 16% of all suicides in this country. When one looks at the trends it’s plain enough that however AWOL Trump may be on this (and every other humanitarian concern), he is more correlation than causation. We are a culture of violence and it should not surprise us that that violence will find its way into our own psyche as the only solution.

  22. michael
    July 8, 2019 at 07:22

    While the author makes some good points, the article is marred by his partisanship:
    “Evidence from the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. If so, the good news is that progressive economic policies — should Democrats ever retake the White House and the Senate — could make a positive difference.”
    He fails to point out that Clinton built up the Chinese economy at the expense of America’s, following essentially the same policies as Reagan and Bush I, NAFTA and off-shoring jobs and giving away American technology. He increased incarceration to the highest in the world. He wasted the Peace dividend at the fall of the Soviet Union. Clinton eliminated ‘welfare as we know it’. He eliminated Glass Steagall and turned the banks into casinos over night, thus sowing the seeds for the Great Recession starting in 2008. He concentrated the MSM into the hands of six owners. Clinton was more pernicious than the GOP, as he was able to churn through horrible Republican legislation with bipartisan support, which would never had happened with a Republican President.
    Obama was even worse. He made most of Bush II’s temporary income tax cuts permanent. He chose to support Wall Street with a $29 TRILLION bailout, rather than making a similar effort for the ten million people who lost their homes. When Obama controlled both the House and Senate in 2009, he gave the insurance companies Romneycare instead of providing the universal health care all other OECD nations have (at half the cost, with better medical outcomes). He jailed more whistleblowers than all other Presidents combined; he turned two wars into seven, killing, maiming and displacing millions.
    Most germane to this article on suicide and income equality, one only has to examine the graphs on google to see it happened in a totally bipartisan manner in the years since 1980: there are no dips in inequality indices during the sixteen years of Clinton’s and Obama’s reign. Trump may make things worse, but he was elected largely because of the vast increases in income inequality and globalization to rape cheap labor; most of the graphs end in 2015 or 2016 (when this author seems to think things were wonderful) before Trump took office. There is essentially no difference in leadership of Republicans and Democrats since Reagan.

    • Skip Scott
      July 8, 2019 at 07:55

      That was the one criticism I have of this article as well. The Democrats, ever since Bill Clinton, are no more a party for the “workers” than the Republicans. It will take systemic change, not just the election of “corporate sponsored warmonger from column B”, for us to get any real improvements.

    • DW Bartoo
      July 8, 2019 at 10:29

      Spot on comment, michael.

      Partisan perspective renders even thoughtful analysis to dubious usefulness, especially if that analysis conveniently ignores historic fact which, in this case, is the lived experience of so very many.

      • Jill
        July 8, 2019 at 11:41

        I agree. I noticed that propaganda for Democrats as well and found it offensive. Democrats had the house/senate and presidency but the writer is clear that suicide rates were going up at that time. I notice a lot of this inserted propaganda in so called left wing sites. It is insidious and not appreciated.

        Otherwise there are many excellent observations in this article. We are an isolated people and we have so many myths about anyone can make it, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, etc. We don’t understand that these are well placed lies. Because not having money, not “making it” is so shameful in our society, people don’t realize that there are many other people in the same situation. If we realized that, it would be dangerous to the powerful as people would unite against economic injustice. Instead it’s just individualized shame.

        We ask people to live in a society which is fundamentally antithetical to living a good life. This effects all of us, even the most wealthy among us. Kindness is considered weak and/or “uncool”. What kind of nation teaches that? A war, death cult society. That is what we have. It is truly a miracle that people still do remain kind towards one another.

        Trump, like other “leaders” (to include sainted Democrats) buy into the same social system as everyone else. They can’t help anyone because they would have to break out of this death cult themselves first. That won’t happen because they “benefit” from the death cult.

        We must keep trying to value ourselves,others and this earth as a force for life.

      • July 8, 2019 at 11:48

        Very true. The idea that the Democrats will change the trajectory we’ve been on for a long time is cruel, false hope. It makes this article little more than a bunch of statistics that can be manipulated to prove whatever one wants them to.

      • old geezer
        July 8, 2019 at 12:15

        Complete Agreement With All Of The Above

    • Sadiq
      July 8, 2019 at 12:48

      I guess it might be a hint to Bernie and for Bernie or alike.
      As for the historical role of Democrats during the past three decades, you are absolutely right micheal.

    • ML
      July 8, 2019 at 17:06

      Michael, good post. And so true. Though I was a Democrat most of my voting life, I see through their perfidy now and have ever since being conned by Obama. More study led me to the conclusion that in reality, Democrats never really were for the uplift of the working classes like they were purported to be. It was mostly playacting. FDR wanted the great Henry Wallace as his VP again and got nixed by the corporate wing of the party. Dems have always be a sly bunch of conners. Republicans are wolves so I’d never cast a vote for them, but Dems are wolves in sheep’s clothing and I voted Green last time out of shear desperation and disgust. I voted my conscience and my conscience won’t allow me to vote for not one more war pig ever again. Thank you for your post.

    • Litchfield
      July 8, 2019 at 19:45

      Absolutely correct.
      Most annoying is the continuing reverence for Obama. Scales have somewhat dropped from eyes re Bill Clinton, but not enough.
      But Obama’s “black magic” still casts a spell over thinkers who really should know better, such as the author of this piece.
      The biggest lie is Obamacare. It is not sustainable. Obama totally betrayed the American people with his failure to shepherd Medicare for All into a reality when the Dems held the House, Senate, and Exec. branch. He really blew it.
      After engineering the bailout of the banks.
      I hate Obama more than any other president because of the rank hypocrisy and ego that he represents more than any other.
      He hugely damaged the Dem. Party. Even more than Bill Clinton. He is a total fraud.

      • ML
        July 9, 2019 at 00:22

        Agree, Litchfield. Because he deceived so callously and coldly, I’d say he’s a real SOB that one. Talk about FAKE…

    • July 8, 2019 at 21:56

      thank you michael…well said and to the point!

  23. July 8, 2019 at 06:47

    A very interesting article. I don’t understand how hiking the estate exemption tax limit benefits households with assets above $22 million. Surely it benefits households wiuth assets between $11 million and $22 million, as they will pay zero taxes? Of course it also benefits households with assets above $22 million, but the main benefit – of zero taxes – is in the bracket between $11 million and $22 million. It would be usful to know the profile of such households in terms of ethnicity, home language, education, value of property assets, value of stocks and bonds owned, etc.

  24. Zhu
    July 8, 2019 at 05:41

    I wouldn’t count on Democrats helping working people much. Dems have become GOP-lite or “Liberal” Republicans. They seem concerned with issues high on the pyramid if needs, not low wages, homelessness, food insecurity. Both parties, of course, make constant warfare their highest priority. I think you’ll find that homeless vets , often working people, have a very high suicide rate.

  25. john wilson
    July 8, 2019 at 04:52

    I think suicide is far more complex than the economy and whilst Trump can be blamed for much, I don’t think the complexities of suicide can be entirely laid at his door. You can take all the economic measures you like, but if someone is intent on taking their own life because of say family matters, illness etc etc, all the money in the world won’t prevent it. Its more about people caring and as one can see, the Americans don’t really care about anyone, if they did they wouldn’t bombing and destroying the homes of families in other people’s countries.

  26. Lucius Patrick
    July 8, 2019 at 00:45

    Hit job. “More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse.” Yes, the Trump economy is just not getting people back to work, is it…

    • Jeff Harrison
      July 8, 2019 at 13:12

      The unemployment rate is the number of people seeking work divided by the number of people working. When the number of people seeking work goes down, the rate goes down. That can happen if people are going back to work or if they simply drop out of the workforce. The real kicker is that the inflation adjusted median income hasn’t budged. So, yeah, the Trump economy sucks. Frankly, it sucks just like the Obama economy sucked, the Shrub economy sucked, Slick Willie’s economy sucked, and on into the past.

    • July 8, 2019 at 13:13

      Surely you do not buy into the current employment / unemployment numbers put out by one branch of the Ministry of Propaganda do you? These numbers do not take into consideration the number of people who have given up looking for work. The real unemployment number in the USA is 107 million Americans. That is one third of the population can`t find work and have given up trying to find work. So the fact of the matter is that no the Trump Economy is not putting Americans back to work, it is just chasing people off the employment rolls so that they are not counted.

    • ML
      July 8, 2019 at 17:11

      You make the same mistake the author of this piece makes- you are highly partisan and biased because of it. Awaken.

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