Poverty causing people to snap, commit violence.

Cross-posted from www.Progressive-Independence.org

I was perusing a certain kind of ideological web site when I came upon the following article by Nicole Colson.

ONE AFTER another over the last month, the reports of terrible incidents of violence kept coming:

— A Vietnamese immigrant in Binghamton, N.Y., increasingly paranoid about police and upset after losing his job, kills 13 people at a center for immigrants before committing suicide.

— An Alabama man who had struggled to keep a job kills 10 people in a shooting spree before committing suicide.

— A Pittsburgh man, recently unemployed and afraid that the government would ban guns, opens fire on police responding to a domestic disturbance call, killing three.

These are just some of the recent eruptions of violence to make the headlines in U.S. newspapers. In the 30-day period between March 10 and April 10, there were at least nine multiple shootings across the U.S., claiming the lives of at least 58 people.

The individual motives and stories differ widely, but there’s a common thread among these incidents–the worsening economic crisis is becoming a factor in pushing some people who are already on the edge over it.

It seems nearly everyone is concerned with the ever-shrinking middle class, but almost no one is willing to discuss the social class those middlings are being tossed into: the POOR.  The platform, speaking for the poor, that John Edwards ran on during last year’s presidential election primaries resulted in his marginalization and eventual banishment from the public discourse as the elite weeded out those candidates who dare point out the disease of poverty.  But just because the messengers were silenced does not mean the larger problem went away; it continues to fester, with disastrous social consequences.

Ms. Colson continues:

Although families can provide a source of comfort in a hostile world, they can also be the place where anger and alienation are first expressed. As Jennifer Roesch explained in the International Socialist Review:

The institution of the nuclear family as an economic unit is central to meeting the needs of capitalism. Under the current system, employers pay workers a wage, but take no responsibility for most of the social costs of maintaining the current generation of workers–or for raising the next generation of workers into adulthood. Rather than these responsibilities being shared collectively by society as a whole through government programs–paid for by taxing the profits of the private enterprises that employ workers–they are shouldered by individual families.

That means that even in the best of times, many working-class families struggle with providing the basics–food, clothing, shelter, health care, etc. Add home foreclosures and layoffs to the mix, and the situation easily becomes volatile, leading to tragedy.

The article cites many examples, but this one stands out in my mind as being among the worst.

In January, Ervin and Ana Lupoe were fired from their jobs at Kaiser Permanente hospital in Los Angeles after it was discovered they had misrepresented their employment to an outside agency in order to obtain cheaper child care.

After sending a message to a local TV station, Ervin shot his wife and five children and then turned the gun on himself. In the letter faxed to KABC-TV, Ervin–whose family was drowning in debt and losing their home–said that after being fired, an administrator told the couple, “You should not even had bothered to come to work today, you should have blown your brains out.” As Ervin’s letter explained:

So after a horrendous ordeal, my wife felt it better to end our lives, and why leave our children in someone else’s hands. In addition, it seems Kaiser Permanente wants us to kill ourselves and take our family with us. They did nothing to the manager who stated such, and did not attempt to assist us in the matter, knowing we have no job and five children under 8 years with no place to go. So here we are.

This was the fifth mass death of a Southern California family by murder or suicide in the span of a year.

Imagine being told by your employer that he wants you dead, because you dared try to get health insurance for your family and the company decided to accuse you of lying to get it.  As Michael Moore so eloquently pointed out in his film, SiCKO, health insurance companies will go to any length, and use the flimsiest of excuses, to deny patients coverage.  I’ve little doubt in my mind that Kaiser Permanente trumped up or falsified outright the accusation that Mr. and Mrs. Lupoe had somehow tried to cheat the insurance giant.  Imagine being told, literally, to kill yourself – essentially told that you’re so low on the evolutionary rung that you are considered worthless, unworthy even of life itself.  This, after losing your sole means of income, faced with the unbearable horror of having to face all the consequences of poverty: hunger, inability to get even the most basic of health care, even homelessness.  Who wouldn’t snap under that kind of pressure?

As it turns out, the number of people who wouldn’t is slowly dwindling.  According to the article, as unemployment and poverty increase, domestic violence goes up as people are left with fewer economic options.  They turn to alcohol, drugs, and either become abusive or escalate already present abusive behavior.  This next bit is close to home, since I live in Ohio and come from an abusive family.

Even more troubling is the fact that at the very moment when people need more help, states are cutting back on essential social services and programs in order to save money–including domestic violence resources, child care subsidies, respite care for children and the elderly, and counselors and social workers for families in crisis.

“Ohio and other states face large cutbacks in child welfare investigations, which may mean more injured children and more taken into foster care,” the New York Times reported. “Arizona has one of the nation’s highest deficits in relation to its budget. As revenues sank late last year, forcing across-the-board cuts this spring, the child protection agency stopped investigating every report of potential abuse or neglect, and sharply reduced counseling of families deemed at risk of violence.”

Even more disturbing is the increased trend of buying guns and ammunition.

One frightening sign of both the tensions running through U.S. society and the likelihood that more tragedies lie ahead is a reported increase in the sales of guns. The Christian Science Monitor described a “gun-and-ammunition buying spree–a national arming-up effort that began before last year’s election of President Obama and continues unabated.”

But the solution, Ms. Colson, writes, isn’t in curbing gun sales or jacking up the number of police (the latter of which has become an increasingly fascistic and violent institution itself, for reasons I’ll explain in a later entry).  It’s in alleviating the direct cause of violence and despair, namely, poverty.

I suggest reading the full article to get better understanding of what’s going on and who is being affected by the machinations of the wealthy class, but when you get right down to it, there really is only one great solution to the ongoing problems we now face: a new, improved, expanded, and permanent New Deal.


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  1. quite a unit to build an amoral inhuman world……..

    since I am a memeber of the poor I know no one in government speaks for me……

  2. Obama tred with his usual cautious opportunistic and political savvy to only talk about the middle class.  But, as you point out, John Edwards and I will add Dennis Kucinich, who speak of the poor, were eliminated…

    as the elite weeded out those candidates who dare point out the disease of poverty.  But just because the messengers were silenced does not mean the larger problem went away; it continues to fester, with disastrous social consequences.

    As I live in California, a 76 year old disabled senior, I am facing, among other things thanks to Schwartzengoober, a possible blind, deaf, toothless old age.  I’m looking for a way to make a statement, take an action which will highlight the vast injustice, not just of my situation, but of the whole, entire rotten system.

    I’m thinking of civil disobedience now, because now it might make some difference.  I’ve mostly been opposed to CD as it is used by TPTB to exhaust the time, energy, money and resources of the activist community.  I have seen it as self defeating.  

    But for me, on tanked oxygen and requiring an electrically powered abuterol breathing treatment every 6 hours, arrest and being denied my necessary treatments just might be “game over” for me.  This is doubly so if they violate my 1st Amendment right to dissent through the use of tear gas or other respiratory inhibiting agents.  Just might be worth the try.  Don’t know.  Just trying to think of something to do to say NO to all this and to highlight the travesty of the status quo.

    Just say NO!

  3. I have personally been exposed to the violence of this culture and many more folks will lose it and strike out as they become marginalized………..

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