Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘recession’

Suicide Boom?

Charles Fischer [no relation to your blogger] arrived in New York City in 1890. A well-educated clerk from Stuttgart, Germany, he struggled in America, failing in real estate, in the saloon business, and finally in china plate decorating. He divorced and lost touch with his only child. Fischer wrote his mother, “I cannot stand this much longer. If I don’t get work within two weeks I will have to go out on the street and work as a laborer.” At 10:00 pm on a Saturday evening in 1896, he entered his small rented room on East 3rd Street, sealed up every crack, and turned on the gas without lighting it.[1]

Fischer’s suicide puts into historical context news reports from this past week of a “startling” (to quote the PBS Newshour) rise in suicides among the middle-aged over the last ten years. (Actually, it’s not such new news; essentially the same story was reported three years ago.) Fischer’s case illustrates that suicides often come in waves – his was one of many committed by immigrants in late 19th-century American cities. It also illustrates the role of technology – gas became a common tool of suicide. And it illustrates the importance of financial strains – he took his life in the middle of the Panic of 1896. The 21st-century suicide spurt has an additional twist, however: Boomers.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Commentators trying to make sense of the economic chaos that hit the nation in the last couple of years have wagged their fingers in many directions – at banks, regulators, lenders, and so on.

But one culprit in everyone’s sights is the American consumer. Americans are in good measure to blame, we hear, because in the last couple of decades they became reckless spendthrifts, careening into credit-card debt, living far above their means – and then crashing and burning.

Could be. But overspending is nothing new. Indeed, it’s probably been less true recently than it used to be.

(more…)

Read Full Post »