Friday, November 20, 2009

Economic Crisis Is Getting Bloody -- Violent Deaths Are Now Following Evictions, Foreclosures and Job Losses

Despite ever rosier economic predictions and a surging stock market, the body count from the economic crisis is destined only to grow in the weeks and months ahead.

Nick Turse, Alternet -

In 2007, Jason Rodriguez was fired from his position at an Orlando, Florida engineering firm and ended up taking a job as a "sandwich artist" at a Subway restaurant. His salary was cut nearly in half and his debts mounted until, last May, he filed for bankruptcy, listing his assets at just over $4,600 and his liabilities at nearly $90,000. Although he lived only 30 minutes away, according to his former mother-in-law, America Holloway, Rodriguez barely saw his son. When the boy asked why his father didn't visit, Holloway said Rodriguez told him: "'Because I don't have any money. I don't have a job. I don't have anything to eat. When things get better, I'll come see you.'"

Things never got better. On November 6th, the 40-year-old Rodriguez went back to the downtown high-rise office building where he had worked and reportedly opened fire, killing one person and wounding five others at his old firm. Asked to comment following the shooting, a local lawyer who represented Rodriguez in his bankruptcy proceedings, said "That's how it is right now. He's a very typical client. Of people that are suffering through the economy right now, there's nothing extraordinary about him… except that."

In the wake of the massacre at Fort Hood -- which took place a day before the Florida incident -- there has, quite understandably, been a search for answers as to the cause of the shooting that left more than 50 dead or injured. Much less attention, however, has been devoted to uncovering the reasons for the much larger number of men and women -- including those allegedly shot by Jason Rodriguez -- who have fallen victim to violence stemming from the global economic crisis.

An analysis of national, regional, and local news reports from 2008-2009 indicates a largely silent, nationwide epidemic of drastic measures and extreme acts for which the economy seems to have been a catalyst. News of such deeds linked to economic woes -- from armed robberies to pay the rent to financially-motivated suicides to familicides (murder/suicides in which both parents and their children die) in the face of financial ruin -- has filtered out of cities and towns in most U.S. states. Since only a fraction of these acts ever receive media coverage, what is being reported -- most of it in local newspapers -- is startling. And 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 wide range of extreme acts.

Going to Extremes

Earlier this year, for example, "Binghamton Shooter" Jiverly Wong 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. Many others have directed violence inward, sometimes shooting themselves as sheriff's deputies stood at the door with eviction papers, other times engaging in armed standoffs designed to end in a suicide-by-cop killing.

One such case occurred recently when 64-year-old Kurt Aho of Phoenix, Arizona decided to take a stand. Aho had been struggling to find work and was preparing for his daughter and grandson -- who had lost their house to foreclosure -- to move in with him, but on September 29th, his own foreclosed home of 30 years was sold at auction. Vowing that he wouldn't just walk away, Aho cracked open a beer and had drink with neighbor Jeffrey Hobson who recalled, "He said, 'When the cops get here, either I'm gonna die by them or I'm gonna kill myself.'" When the two new owners arrived, Aho promptly shot out the tires of their trucks. He then retrieved a .357 Magnum from his house and chased the pair away. Next came the police who rolled up and ordered Aho to drop his weapon. Instead, the self-employed contractor ignored them and walked into his house to grab a few more beers. Neighbors warned the cops that Aho was suicidal and that he would fire on them if they advanced, but the SWAT team stepped up the confrontation by shooting Aho with rubber bullets. Aho responded by firing his pistol twice, striking the SWAT team's armored vehicle with one of the bullets. With that, a SWAT team member fired on Aho, killing him.