There is a lot of stress in today’s world, and according to some reports Americans are “snapping” at an ever increasing rate. There are a multitude of reasons why Americans may be more stressed and angry in todays’ society, not the least of which being the economic downturn in America. Uncertainty can put a lot of stress on a person, and when the future looks bright people are less stressed. The suicide rate in the United States had been steadily declining for decades until about 2006 when it began ticking up again. In 2010 12.4 Americans per 100,000 people killed themselves, compared to 10.7 in 2000 according to Suicidology.org. This can serve as a reminder that the governments’ irresponsible monetary policy and accruement of mass debt have far reaching consequences. It is the actions of our government which made the economy sour, and therefore helped to increase stress and ultimately suicide in our country. If we want fewer people to “snap”, than an environment needs to be fostered where stress is minimal, and allowing the economy to improve will de-stress huge numbers of Americans.
Some studies have also suggested that the overall suicide rates increased in states that had legalized assisted suicide, even discounting the physician assisted suicides. Washington state and Oregon do in fact have suicide rates of 14.2 and 17.9 respectively, higher than the national average of 12.4 according to 2010 data. The two states have a long history of higher suicide rates however, so it is unclear if the legalization of physician assisted suicide had more impact than the economic downturn which covers roughly the same time frame. But part of this data could point to why so many people are “snapping” these days; that people takes cues from their government. If the government says it is okay to kill yourself in certain situations, suicide becomes more acceptable and therefore increases, even when the person was not in one of those “acceptable situations”. So if a government sanction on killing oneself increases suicides, what does government involvement in killing others tell the American public?
Whether or not you believe the wars in the middle east are justified, there are a few cues that Americans take away. One is that force is an acceptable way to solve problems. If the U.S. can use pre-emptive strikes to protect the country, why shouldn’t a U.S. citizen use pre-emptive violence to solve his own problems? If violence is an acceptable solution, than it should also not be surprising that troop suicides killed more American soldiers than combat deaths last year. I am not criticizing members of the military and I am very grateful for their service, but I do want to point out that government actions set a precedent that inevitably many in the public will accept subconsciously.
According to the documentary I.O.U.S.A. the personal savings rate of individual Americans was 12.4% during the 1960’s, 6.7% during the 1990’s, and by the 2000’s had fallen to negative 2.9%, which means many Americans were living on credit. In 1960’s the U.S. debt was $286 billion compared to privately held debt of $237 billion. As government debt increased, so did personal debt until in the in 1990 government debt was $3.2 trillion compared to $2.4 trillion in private hands. In 2010 the U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) was 62.2%, the highest it has been since 1950, coming off of World War II spending levels. Personal debt had reached an all time high of $9 trillion, and government debt was still climbing at $13.5 trillion. Irresponsible spending by government went hand in hand with higher private debt.
Whether it is the President getting frisky in the oval office which kicks off an STD epidemic, or government debt which leads Americans to the same type of spending, we need to realize that the actions of government and officials have far reaching consequences. If we do not hold the government to a high standard, the bar will be lowered to whatever level the government has sunk to.If we want people to stop “snapping” than we need to bring our government back from the brink of “snapping”. People reflect the governments’ actions with their own actions, therefore a responsible government will foster a responsible citizenry. What we can do is understand that government sets precedents everyday that may be more difficult to change, than to prevent in the first place.