Monday, August 5, 2013

Conservatives Are Driving Thousands of Americans to Attempt Suicide


We've explored the many ways Conservatives kill their own people, but by suicide?  Thom Hartmann, writing at Alternet.org, tells us how in his article, "The Corporate Right-Wing Agenda Is Driving Thousands of Americans to Attempt SuicideThe very same austerity policies that Republicans in Washington are constantly pushing on us are the same policies that are driving Americans to kill themselves.":

"August 3, 2013 | Virginia’s suicide rate is now the highest it’s been in the last 13 years; Virginians are now three times more likely to die from suicide than they are from homicide.

"And Virginia is not alone.

"Over the past decade, our nation’s suicide rate has been steadily climbing, rising a staggering 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 700,000 emergency room visits in 2010 alone for self-inflicted injuries.

"The fact is, America’s suicide rate is on the rise, and Conservative economic policies are to blame.

"In a study released in May, Professors David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu of Oxford University in England found that suicide rates in both the U.S. and U.K. increase when working class wages and wealth decline.

"The study calculates, for example, that there were 4,750 'excess' suicides during the recession period in the U.S., compared with suicide rates before the recession.

"Stuckler and Basu conclude their report by saying that, 'what we’ve learned is that the real danger to public health is not recession per se, but austerity.'

"That’s right. The very same austerity policies that Republicans in Washington are constantly pushing on us are the same policies that are driving Americans to kill themselves.

"And these findings are nothing new.

"Australian research shows that suicides increase under Conservative governments.

"Australian scientists found that suicides in that country increased markedly when a Conservative government was in power. And, they found similar results for the U.K.

"The team of Australian scientists analyzed suicide statistics for the New South Wales area of Australia between 1901, when the Australian federal government was established, and 1998.

"They then looked at which political parties had control in both state and federal governments in New South Wales, which have consistently been under either Labour (like the Democratic Party in the U.S.) or Conservative control.

"And surprise, the scientists found that the highest rates of suicide occurred when Conservative state and federal governments were in power.

"And then here’s another smoking gun: When Conservative-backed austerity policies began to ravage Greece in 2010, the suicide rate shot up by 18 percent.

"In Athens alone, the suicide rate soared 25 percent.

"Before austerity came to Greece, that nation had the lowest suicide rate in the entire European Union.

"In other European nations hit with austerity, the results are the same.

"In Italy, for example, the suicide rate has also increased thanks to devastating austerity policies.


"So, if Conservative-backed austerity policies are driving suicides here in the U.S. and around the world, and we’ve known this for over a decade, what can be done to reverse this trend?

"Going back to the study by Stuckler and Basu, they found that to stop the epidemic of austerity-driven suicides, we must invest more in our economy and country, not less.

"They show that, during the Great Depression, each $100 per capita of 'relief' spending from FDR’s New Deal ($1800 in today’s dollars) led to 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.

"Stuckler also highlights the case of Iceland. In 2008, Iceland experienced arguably the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of a nation’s economy. Three of its major banks failed, its debt soared, the umemployment rate skyrocketed, and the nation’s currency completely collapsed.

"Despite all of this, rather than take the Conservative approach that we took here in America, bailing out the banks and slashing funding to crucial government programs, Iceland decided to say no to austerity, and rejected major cuts to its social safety net programs.

"As a result, there was no significant increase in suicides during Iceland’s economic collapse.

"You’d think that the clear correlation between austerity and suicide rates in Europe would wake Republicans up, and encourage them to stop inflicting the same despicable and devastating policies on Americans. In their continuing service to the billionaire class, Republicans continue to slash away at social safety net programs, and continue pushing the Reaganomics policies that have devastated America’s working class.

"Remember, when Republicans talk about how bad the economy is, they’re bragging.

"Conservative economic policies, from austerity to sequester to Reaganomics, kill people.

"Now that the science is in, and irrefutable, it’s time to wake Americans up to this deadly con game."


The article by Stuckler and Basu at the New York Times, "How Austerity Kills:"

"Early last month, a triple suicide was reported in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche, Italy. A married couple, Anna Maria Sopranzi, 68, and Romeo Dionisi, 62, had been struggling to live on her monthly pension of around 500 euros (about $650), and had fallen behind on rent.
"Because the Italian government’s austerity budget had raised the retirement age, Mr. Dionisi, a former construction worker, became one of Italy’s esodati (exiled ones) — older workers plunged into poverty without a safety net. On April 5, he and his wife left a note on a neighbor’s car asking for forgiveness, then hanged themselves in a storage closet at home. When Ms. Sopranzi’s brother, Giuseppe Sopranzi, 73, heard the news, he drowned himself in the Adriatic.

"The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century. People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.

"In the United States, the suicide rate, which had slowly risen since 2000, jumped during and after the 2007-9 recession. In a new book, we estimate that 4,750 “excess” suicides — that is, deaths above what pre-existing trends would predict — occurred from 2007 to 2010. Rates of such suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses. Deaths from suicide overtook deaths from car crashes in 2009.

"If suicides were an unavoidable consequence of economic downturns, this would just be another story about the human toll of the Great Recession. But it isn’t so. Countries that slashed health and social protection budgets, like Greece, Italy and Spain, have seen starkly worse health outcomes than nations like Germany, Iceland and Sweden, which maintained their social safety nets and opted for stimulus over austerity. (Germany preaches the virtues of austerity — for others.)

"As scholars of public health and political economy, we have watched aghast as politicians endlessly debate debts and deficits with little regard for the human costs of their decisions. Over the past decade, we mined huge data sets from across the globe to understand how economic shocks — from the Great Depression to the end of the Soviet Union to the Asian financial crisis to the Great Recession — affect our health. What we’ve found is that people do not inevitably get sick or die because the economy has faltered. Fiscal policy, it turns out, can be a matter of life or death.

"At one extreme is Greece, which is in the middle of a public health disaster. The national health budget has been cut by 40 percent since 2008, partly to meet deficit-reduction targets set by the so-called troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — as part of a 2010 austerity package. Some 35,000 doctors, nurses and other health workers have lost their jobs. Hospital admissions have soared after Greeks avoided getting routine and preventive treatment because of long wait times and rising drug costs. Infant mortality rose by 40 percent. New H.I.V. infections more than doubled, a result of rising intravenous drug use — as the budget for needle-exchange programs was cut. After mosquito-spraying programs were slashed in southern Greece, malaria cases were reported in significant numbers for the first time since the early 1970s.

"In contrast, Iceland avoided a public health disaster even though it experienced, in 2008, the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of its economy. After three main commercial banks failed, total debt soared, unemployment increased ninefold, and the value of its currency, the krona, collapsed. Iceland became the first European country to seek an I.M.F. bailout since 1976. But instead of bailing out the banks and slashing budgets, as the I.M.F. demanded, Iceland’s politicians took a radical step: they put austerity to a vote. In two referendums, in 2010 and 2011, Icelanders voted overwhelmingly to pay off foreign creditors gradually, rather than all at once through austerity. Iceland’s economy has largely recovered, while Greece’s teeters on collapse. No one lost health care coverage or access to medication, even as the price of imported drugs rose. There was no significant increase in suicide. Last year, the first U.N. World Happiness Report ranked Iceland as one of the world’s happiest nations.

"Skeptics will point to structural differences between Greece and Iceland. Greece’s membership in the euro zone made currency devaluation impossible, and it had less political room to reject I.M.F. calls for austerity. But the contrast supports our thesis that an economic crisis does not necessarily have to involve a public health crisis.


"Somewhere between these extremes is the United States. Initially, the 2009 stimulus package shored up the safety net. But there are warning signs — beyond the higher suicide rate — that health trends are worsening. Prescriptions for antidepressants have soared. Three-quarters of a million people (particularly out-of-work young men) have turned to binge drinking. Over five million Americans lost access to health care in the recession because they lost their jobs (and either could not afford to extend their insurance under the Cobra law or exhausted their eligibility). Preventive medical visits dropped as people delayed medical care and ended up in emergency rooms. (President Obama’s health care law expands coverage, but only gradually.)

"The $85 billion 'sequester' that began on March 1 will cut nutrition subsidies for approximately 600,000 pregnant women, newborns and infants by year’s end. Public housing budgets will be cut by nearly $2 billion this year, even while 1.4 million homes are in foreclosure. Even the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s main defense against epidemics like last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak, is being cut, by $293 million this year.

"To test our hypothesis that austerity is deadly, we’ve analyzed data from other regions and eras. After the Soviet Union dissolved, in 1991, Russia’s economy collapsed. Poverty soared and life expectancy dropped, particularly among young, working-age men. But this did not occur everywhere in the former Soviet sphere. Russia, Kazakhstan and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) — which adopted economic “shock therapy” programs advocated by economists like Jeffrey D. Sachs and Lawrence H. Summers — experienced the worst rises in suicides, heart attacks and alcohol-related deaths.

"Countries like Belarus, Poland and Slovenia took a different, gradualist approach, advocated by economists like Joseph E. Stiglitz and the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. These countries privatized their state-controlled economies in stages and saw much better health outcomes than nearby countries that opted for mass privatizations and layoffs, which caused severe economic and social disruptions.

"Like the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian financial crisis offers case studies — in effect, a natural experiment — worth examining. Thailand and Indonesia, which submitted to harsh austerity plans imposed by the I.M.F., experienced mass hunger and sharp increases in deaths from infectious disease, while Malaysia, which resisted the I.M.F.’s advice, maintained the health of its citizens. In 2012, the I.M.F. formally apologized for its handling of the crisis, estimating that the damage from its recommendations may have been three times greater than previously assumed.

"America’s experience of the Depression is also instructive. During the Depression, mortality rates in the United States fell by about 10 percent. The suicide rate actually soared between 1929, when the stock market crashed, and 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president. But the increase in suicides was more than offset by the “epidemiological transition” — improvements in hygiene that reduced deaths from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza — and by a sharp drop in fatal traffic accidents, as Americans could not afford to drive. Comparing historical data across states, we estimate 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.


"OUR research suggests that investing $1 in public health programs can yield as much as $3 in economic growth. Public health investment not only saves lives in a recession, but can help spur economic recovery. These findings suggest that three principles should guide responses to economic crises.

"First, do no harm: if austerity were tested like a medication in a clinical trial, it would have been stopped long ago, given its deadly side effects. Each nation should establish a nonpartisan, independent Office of Health Responsibility, staffed by epidemiologists and economists, to evaluate the health effects of fiscal and monetary policies.

"Second, treat joblessness like the pandemic it is. Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking. Politicians in Finland and Sweden helped prevent depression and suicides during recessions by investing in “active labor-market programs” that targeted the newly unemployed and helped them find jobs quickly, with net economic benefits.

"Finally, expand investments in public health when times are bad. The cliché that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure happens to be true. It is far more expensive to control an epidemic than to prevent one. New York City spent $1 billion in the mid-1990s to control an outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The drug-resistant strain resulted from the city’s failure to ensure that low-income tuberculosis patients completed their regimen of inexpensive generic medications.

"One need not be an economic ideologue — we certainly aren’t — to recognize that the price of austerity can be calculated in human lives. We are not exonerating poor policy decisions of the past or calling for universal debt forgiveness. It’s up to policy makers in America and Europe to figure out the right mix of fiscal and monetary policy. What we have found is that austerity — severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending — is not only self-defeating, but fatal."

And from the Australian study, an article at BBC.co.uk, "More suicides under Conservative rule:"

"The suicide rate increases under Conservative governments, research suggests.

"Australian scientists found the suicide rate in the country increased significantly when a Conservative government was in power.

"And an analysis of figures in the UK seems to suggest a similar trend.

"The Australian team analysed suicide statistics for New South Wales between 1901, when the federal government was established, and 1998.

"Click here to see suicide rates under British prime ministers

"They then looked at the political regimes dominating both state and federal governments in New South Wales, which have consistently been under either Labour or Conservative control.

"The researchers took into account periods of drought and World War II, because of their economic and psychological impact.

"Suicide rates were higher during periods of drought and lower during WWII.

"But after adjusting for these factors, the figures clearly showed the highest rates of suicide occurred when both Conservative state and federal governments were in power.

The suicide rate increased under Margaret Thatcher

"Men at risk

"Conversely, the lowest rates occurred when state and federal governments were both Labour.

"Middle aged and older people were most at risk.

"When the Conservatives ruled both state and federal governments, men were 17% more likely to commit suicide than when Labour was in power. Women were 40% more likely to kill themselves.

"Suicide rates were higher under post-war than pre-war Conservative governments.

"The authors argue that Conservative rule traditionally implies a less interventionist and more market-orientated policy than Labour rule.

"This may make people feel more detached from society, they added.

"The researchers concede that ideological distinctions between Conservative and Labour politicians have become more blurred over the past 20 years.

"But they say public perceptions that their policies differ may still remain intact.

"Lead researcher Professor Richard Taylor, of the University of Sydney, told BBC News Online: "We think that it may be because material conditions in lower socio-economic groups may be relatively better under labour because of government programmes, and there may be a perception of greater hope by these groups under labour.

"'There is a strong relationship between socio-economic status and suicide.'

"The research is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"British situation

"In one of a series of accompanying editorials, Dr Mary Shaw and colleagues from the University of Bristol say the same patterns were evident in England and Wales between 1901 and 2000.

"Rates have been lower under Labour governments and soared under the last Conservative regime, which began in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher.

"They fell under 'the more moderate' John Major and after a slight rise when Tony Blair came to power, have since fallen again.

"Interestingly, the authors point out that although suicide rates tend to increase when unemployment is high, they were also above average during the 1950s when Britain "never had it so good," but was ruled by the Conservative party.

"Overall, they say, the figures suggest that 35,000 people would not have died had the Conservatives not been in power, equivalent to one suicide for every day of the 20th century or two for every day that the Conservatives ruled.

"The UK Conservative Party refused to comment on the research.

The rate dipped under moderate John Major

"Suicide rates per million 1901-1998 England and Wales by prime minister

Period/Suicide rate/Main prime minister in power

"1901-1905 101 Balfour (Conservative)
1906-1910 102 Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal)
1911-1915 96 Asquith (Liberal)
1916-1920 85 Lloyd-George (Liberal)
1921-1925 101 Baldwin (Conservative)
1926-1930 123 Baldwin (Conservative)
1931-1935 135 MacDonald (National coalition)
1936-1940 124 Chamberlain (Conservative)
1941-1945 92 Churchill (Conservative)
1946-1950 106 Atlee (Labour)
1951-1955 107 Churchill (Conservative)
1956-1960 116 Eden (Conservative)
1961-1965 137 Macmillan (Conservative)
1966-1970 118 Wilson (Labour)
1971-1975 101 Heath (Conservative)
1976-1980 112 Callaghan (Labour)
1981-1985 121 Thatcher (Conservative)
1986-1990 118 Thatcher (Conservative)
1991-1995 110 Major (Conservative)
1996-1998 103 Blair (Labour)"

"Poor policy decisions," a phrase exemplifying the passive voice, is hardly the true reason for so many deaths.  The true cause of these preventable deaths is the deliberate theft of economic hope for the Conservatives' own countrymen.

As Hartmann says, ""Remember, when Republicans talk about how bad the economy is, they’re bragging.  Conservative economic policies, from austerity to sequester to Reaganomics, kill people.  Now that the science is in, and irrefutable, it’s time to wake Americans up to this deadly con game."

It's past time to criminalize Conservatism.



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Wendell Sonny Lawson: (while out in the ocean) Oh, God! Let me live, and I
promise to obey every one of the Ten Commandments. I shall not kill... I shall not
commit adultery... I shall not... I... uh... (apparently forgetting the remaining eight
Commandments]...I'll learn the Ten Commandments, and then I'll obey every
(*******) one of them!

The End, Burt Reynolds


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