The Economy is ________? Fake news about U.S. economic strength

Over the past year or more, there’s been a consistent narrative that the U.S. economy is doing well and on the uptick. While most recognize that Trump’s descriptions of a “perfect economy” or “the best economy in history” are absurd, the liberal, mainstream media consistently talks about the “strong economy” in the U.S and cites it as a campaign asset for Trump.  But in its own pages, adjunct to its declarations of economic strength, are countless stories and examples of the opposite–that the U.S. economy is not doing that well, and more importantly that mega-millions of people are living in precarity, are vulnerable, are suffering.  poverty_america

To be clear, the establishment media has a real and personal interest in portraying the economy in positive ways–they fear more people becoming critical of capitalism (the numbers are growing significantly) and they don’t want the Bernie Sanders-type politicians being able to cite the reality of capitalism in America today.  They may loathe Trump, but still prefer him to an outright critic of the system. 

The “strong economy” narrative generally pivots on two points–stock market levels and unemployment data.  The stock market is at record highs, over 29K, so if one is invested or has a 401 (k), then things are probably looking up.  But, as one of the charts below shows, that’s a small percentage of Americans.  As for unemployment, it is significantly low, but where that would usually lead to a significant increase in wages, it has not.  Wages are static.

For some time I’ve been meaning to write a piece on this topic–claims of economic strength amid countless stories of economic struggle–but that would require work, and as Homer Simpson said, trying is the first step toward failure.  So I’ve collected a sampling of articles I’ve saved in a folder I have labeled “U.S. Economy 2019” and I’m posting the links below as a resource to anyone who wants to know more on the issue.  I’ve tried to group the articles by topic, but it’s not the best-organized thing you’ll ever see.  Still, the news and the data is there. While there’s a fair number of articles and studies below, it’s a tiny share of what I’ve seen and what’s out there on the topic.  It’s not hard to rebut the idea that the economy is strong….

The overall theme of all this information is that Capitalism is deficient and not getting better.  The vast majority live in precarity at best.  Media narratives of a “strong economy” are the real fake news.

Note:  Many of the cites below are articles, but mostly based on fed data.  If possible (meaning, if easy) I’ve used establishment sources to show the various economic problems facing the U.S.  Among the sources to check are theFederal Reserve Board and its constituent banks, the International Monetary Fund, Wall Street bank reports, the Wall Street Journal, trade associations, and of course the Grey Lady and WaPo.  Plenty of lefty publications have great economic work, usually better actually, but I’ve avoided them below for the most part just because it’s easier to quote internal ruling-class stories about the economy.  I would strongly rec, however, Michael Roberts Blog.  It’s a must-read.  

New Articles Posted (1/18)

Rebuttal to David Brooks–There is a class war

Nick Kristof (really!) on poverty and class     

IMF says global econ runs risk of great depression  

China trade deal could make econ worse

Economists don’t expect econ benefit from China deal 

Toyota shifting production to Mexico

Amazon made $11 billion profit, paid no taxes

Corporations avoid taxes with Trump tax cuts

Twice as many corps paying no taxes under Trump tax laws  

Big banks got $32 billion more from tax cuts 

Banks double profits in past decade

Fortune 500 Companies paid zero taxes       

IBM paid no taxes, laid off workers   

Netflix, Chevron, IBM …. paid no taxes  

Credit Suisse Report, 2015: More poor in U.S. than China 

Worst production since 2015


Dow Jones average/industrial production


Worker pay lags far behind productivity

  (Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post)  

People can’t afford cars, plants put on idle  

Employment, Wages, Inequality

Low Unemployment but Low Wages

Lots of jobs, most suck  

44% make 18K or less  

For 53 Million Americans in Low-Wage Jobs, a Difficult Road Out

Social Security Wage Stats–Median income is $30K 

Almost half of American work in low-wage jobs  

Tiny wage increases amid job rise 

Taxes on workers up, on corporations diminishing  

payroll vs corporate taxes

Low wage work is pervasive  

“The Massive Triumph of the Rich” 

Wage “growth” amid low unemployment

Screenshot_2020-01-13 Year-over-year wage growth.png


Wages too low to allow people to escape poverty  

Bottom 90% worse off than 2007 

Median individual income is @  $33K 

Charts on wealth inequality, 2017  

Top 1% has 80+% of wealth

Gates, Bezos, Buffett own as much wealth as 165,000,000 Americans

3 own wealth

World Inequality Report

Bottom half of Americans have negative wealth   

Racial disparities in employment, wages  

St. Louis Fed: Decline of white working class  

Pay collapse for bottom 90 percent

64%, including most Repubs, favor wealth tax on the rich  

Dollar stores flexing muscle in U.S. economy    

Unemployment up in Midwest states  

Percentage of adults employed still below 1990s levels

Poor jobs creation in November 

Weak spots in job report  

Manufacturing jobs being lost

U.S. Steel cuts 1500 jobs  

U.S. business hiring at 7-year low  

Americans tell Fed that economy isn’t booming     

Atlanta Fed cuts GDP forecast due to big inventories  

GDP slowdown  (and, GDP not really good indicator) 

Real GDP growth consistently below forecasts


Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 

IMF: 2019 review of global economy  

Michael Roberts’ forecast for 2020

Ex-Bank of England head warns of econ crisis    (here too)

Median net worth at 1996 levels


Charts on 2019 economy

The top 1% own 45% of all global personal wealth; 10% own 82%; the bottom 50% own less than 1% | Michael Roberts Blog

Oxfam: 1% with 82% wealth 

Distribution of Stock Ownership


Inequality within countries (orange column) peaked in the inter-war period and fell back a little in the post-war period, but widened again after 1980.


Hillary Clinton made millions talking to bankers (yeah, cheap shot at Clintons) 

NY Fed says that an increase in sales of riskier corporate debt poses a “financial stability concern”, noting that an economic downturn could force investors to dump assets en masse.

Tax cuts help wealthiest

Working people pay more taxes than billionaires


Stock buybacks after tax cuts led to market rise

Stock buybacks over $600b after tax cuts    

Tax cuts benefit the already-wealthy 

Americans want higher taxes on wealthy


IMF: Global Informal Economy on decline

Factory closings and job losses  

Borden declares bankruptcy 

818 dairies close in Wisconsin 

Milk Industry Suffering  

Pier One closing 450 stores and cutting jobs

Lordstown GM shuts down

Midwest manufacturing hit

Global manufacturing downturn

Farm Bankruptcies Highest since 2011

Farm Bankruptcies surge 24$ due to tariff war

Farm income down, equipment prices soar

2019 was one of decade’s worst years for job cuts

December 2019 Disastrous for Auto Sales

Housing market crisis  

Housing sales down in November 

U.S. Production Shrinks


Consumer comfort lowest since Crash of 08  

Retirement and Pensions  

Retirement Crisis in U.S.

Retirement Crisis  

How long $1 million retirement funds will last (and VERY few have $1m) 

Retirement savings not recovered from Great Crash  

Retirement savings inadequate and diminishing

Retirement savings below $200K for most senior Americans  

Average Retirement Savings


Tariffs, Trade, China  

NY Fed: American Consumers, not China, Paying Tariff Costs  

Americans pay $46b of tariff costs  

Tariff impact on Ford  

Fed study finds Trump tariffs backfired  

Chinese confident of Tariff War Victory  

Americans are paying 100% of tariff costs

Tariffs damage washing machine market 

Trade deficit at 10-year high 

Alarming slowdown in global trade  

IMF on Trump-China trade conflict  

Trade wars and the dollar 

Midwest farms and banks taking hit from tariffs

Farm tariffs hit Trump supporters

Farmers lose Chinese markets to tariff war

Farmers say Trump took away markets  

Huge subsidies to agriculture in tariff war

Ag subsidies double auto bailout

Trade war crushing small businesses  

China hardliners have upper hand on tariffs  

Chinese funding fuel projects globally 

China buying Brasilian soybeans  

China cuts dollar, boosts Yuan

Manufacturing and Productivity

US manufacturing activity drops to weakest level since financial crisis as tariffs bite  

U.S. industrial output falls by most in 17 months in October  

Manufacturing contraction in Sept 2019 

Factory activity lowest since 09


Economy struggling with productivity  

Motor Industry decline and global economic downturn  

Global auto industry in 2019–closings and layoffs

U.S. Manufacturers harder-hit than China’s in Tariff War

Durable goods much lower at end of 2019 

China is leading a 15-nation pact that would create the world’s biggest trade deal. The US isn’t in

Countries increasing trade with China  

Fed overnight loans to bail out banks, debt, taxes 

Huge Fed Overnight Loans to banks  

Fed infusing banks with overnight loans  

Global debt to GDP level soars  

Market soars, corporate prices don’t 

Business taxes down, workers pay more  

Pew Charitable Trust 2015 survey on debt  

Debt denies freedom  

How much debt Americans have ….  

9 case studies in debt 

Student debt at $1.6 trillion, not being paid down

Student debt soaring  

Student debt up 107% this decade

Army recruiting students with debt

Almost half of Americans can’t afford food and housing  (here too)

Consumer credit north of $4 trillion  (here also)

Huge delinquencies on car notes

People getting crushed by car loans

Payday lenders and the poor   

J.P. Morgan–economy dipped in October

The Environment, Health Crises, the Environment

Undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes  

Boeing CEO gets $62 million after killing 400, laying off 2800 

Big increase in “deaths of despair” 

Workplace suicide rate rising  

Minimum wage increase could reduce suicides  

Chart on Deaths of Despair

Screenshot_2020-01-13 Deaths of despair since 1999 - Infogram.png

Opioid deaths rise when plants close

U.S. health care system costs 4X more than Canada’s  

Americans die due to inadequate health care system 

U.S. health care costs dwarf other countries

Billionaires are leading cause of climate crisis

Argentina imposes capital controls  

Mexico created fewest jobs since crisis of 09 

Fed set up to provide capital to private banks (Nomi Prins) 

Military-Industrial Complex  

U.S. has massive military budget

Bipartisan agreement on military spending  

The Pentagon money pit    

20 companies profiting off military-industrial complex 

U.S. has spent $6 trillion on wars since 9/11 (here too)




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

David Barsamian @ UH

David Barsamian Speaking @ UH

Wednesday, April 3d, 4:00 p.m.

 210 Agnes Arnold Hall

“Rise Up & Resist!”

David Barsamian is the founder and director of the Alternative Radio Network, and frequent collaborator with Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Edward Said, and others.





“Rise Up and Resist!”  When is enough enough? In the face of evil what does it take for people to move from passivity to active resistance?









Event Sponsored by the Arab-American Education Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump Tax Returns? Really?

So several media outlets are reporting that the new House in January is going to demand Trump’s tax returns  (See Here).

Really? That’s at the top of the “to do” list??

The election was about health care, gun safety, immigration, wages, etc. and they’re still obsessed with what a bag of shit Trump is. Is there some magical line where if you just discover one more piece of disgusting personal info about Trump, or expose one more hypocrisy, he’ll suddenly fold and become vulnerable?

The man isn’t subtle or covert–he’s not some Wizard hiding behind a curtain (well, maybe a Grand Wizard).  He’s been repudiated by millions already, and still has open followers.  In 2016, it was possible to say that we didn’t know what he was really about.  In 2018, DeSantis and Kemp ran campaigns that would make George Wallace and Ross Barnett proud, and won.  Like the Yankees and Notre Dame, you hate Trump or love him . . .

Trump doesn’t care what the media or Dems say and his people don’t care. So his tax returns show he’s a rich guy who cheated on his taxes . . . that makes him a “capitalist.” It’s not his Achilles heel. It’s a waste of energy.

This is why American politics, and esp the Dems, are utterly incompetent. Instead of dealing with problems real people face and reckon with their own failures (Klansmen were elected governor in FL and GA), they play these games.

3 red states expanded Medicare, 2 southern states increased the minimum wage, 3 states legalized weed in some form, FL gave the vote back to 1.5 million people. Polls showed majorities are sympathetic to immigrants and opposed to Trump’s hard line. Most people opposed Kavanaugh. I don’t know if that means Americans are progressive, but it surely means that the media and Dems either don’t know or won’t tell you what this country really is about.

Last night, “Trump Sucks” was enough to take back the house.  Relying on two more years of that, or the Mueller investigation, or another woman coming out with some story about Trump isn’t going to damage him.  Two GOP reps under indictment won last night . . .

Obviously, it’s good to see Trump experience some failure. But waiting on a Hail Mary play from a Blue House of Reps isn’t going to go far. So it’s time to shitcan Pelosi (and Schumer and Hoyer and Clyburn) and do something serious.

By the way, when’s the last time you heard someone from the GOP use the word “bipartisanship?”







Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The Commodification of the Vietnam War: Popular Culture and American Militarism”

From Condemnation to Restoration

(Talk at Université Grenoble Alpes, 25 April 2018)



Capitalism, Politics, Power, and History

Gramsci and the cultural politics of the elites

Debord’s “spectacle” and “the autocratic reign of the market.”

Tom Frank’s “Conquest of Cool”


“Selling” the 60s and the Vietnam War





Vietnam and the Woodstock Generation, an American Dilemma

Country Joe and the Fish, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag”

Hair, “The Flesh Failures”

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 5.35.50 PM




Merle Haggard, “Okie from Muskogee”

Jerry Jeff Walker, “Kickin’ Hippies’ Asses”

Johnny Cash, “Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues”

From War Crime to Noble Cause


Jimmy Carter: “well, the destruction was mutual. . . . We went there to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese. And I don’t feel that we ought to apologize or to castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability.”

Ronald Reagan: “It is time we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. A small country newly free from colonial rule sought our help in establishing self-rule and the means of self-defense against a totalitarian neighbor bent on conquest.”


“Crazed Vets”

Travis Bickle



bickle vn


Russian roulette in VC prison in Deer Hunter


russian roulette

Rambo Revives Vietnam



POW/MIA (Mythmaking In America)

“Do we get to win this time?”

Rambo, VN, Russians, and the Cold War (1985)

Red Dawn




“Culture Wars in the 80s”


The Wall









Draft Dodgers Come Home to Roost


Phil Ochs


Quayle, Clinton, Bush and the Working-Class War


Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 5.51.01 PM


Clinton’s Draft Letter



W as draft dodger



Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 5.56.29 PM


Rehabbing the Vets … their image at least














honor warrior



The “Sixties” for Sale

(Tom Frank)

The Nike “Revolution”

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Iron Butterfly Investments?

The Simpsons spoofs the 60s


Kerry Not So Lucky/Obama “pallin’ around with terrorists”


Swiftboated: “We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. But . . . all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbarous war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more and so when, in 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.” (1971)






American Militarism and the Legacy of Vietnam






Ken Burns’s Vietnam today: “begun in good faith, by decent people.”


Hannah Arendt: It is not surprising that the recent generation of intellectuals, who grew up in the insane atmosphere of rampant advertising and were taught that half of politics is “image-making” and the other half the art of making people believe in the imagery, should almost automatically fall back on the older adages of carrot and stick whenever the situation becomes too serious for “theory.” To them, the greatest disappointment in the Vietnam adventure should have been the discovery that there are people with whom carrot-and-stick methods do not work either.

Vietnam, Art, Commodity


“Mad Men” Finale










Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It Wasn’t Just Cronkite



50 years ago on February 27th, 1968 Walter Cronkite went on national TV with his “Report From Vietnam,” and rattled America.  The most trusted newsman in the country at the time and a supporter of the war until then, Cronkite, in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, had a change of heart.  Now he urged that Lyndon Johnson begin to disengage from the war–“not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”  It had become plain to him  that the United States would not soon or successfully conclude its involvement in Indochina. “If I’ve lost Cronkite,” the president lamented, “I’ve lost middle America.” LBJ, it went without saying, had lost the war as well.

The story of Tet since then tends to focus on Cronkite.  Because he was so pessimistic, yet influential, he missed the reality of the fighting in February 1968–the U.S. in fact had “won” the Tet Offensive but was undermined at home by Cronkite’s reporting, and rapidly growing antiwar sentiment, and thus had that “military victory” turned into a “psychological defeat.”  The war was won in Vietnam but lost at home . . .cronkite


Barely known but occurring on that same day, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, returned a four-day trip to Vietnam where he had assessed the aftermath of Tet.  Despite these revisionist claims of Tet as a victory, Wheeler’s analysis wasn’t much different than Cronkite’s and, since he was the JCS Chair and had just returned from meetings with Commander William Westmoreland and the rest of the U.S. military leadership team in Saigon, his words hit harder.

The Chair’s appraisals contrasted sharply with public optimism about the war. As Westmoreland publicly continued to claim success–concluding that he did “not believe Hanoi can hold up under a long war”–Wheeler told reporters that he saw “no early end to this war,” and cautioned that Americans “must expect hard fighting to continue.” Privately, Wheeler was more pessimistic.  It was “the consensus of responsible commanders” that 1968 would be a pivotal year. The war might continue but would not return to pre-Tet conditions.*  Clark Clifford, the incoming Defense Secretary,  put it bluntly; Wheeler had “presented an even grimmer assessment of the Tet offensive than we had heard from Westmoreland and Bunker.”

“There is no doubt that the enemy launched a major, powerful nationwide assault,” Wheeler observed. “This offensive has by no means run its course. In fact, we must accept the possibility that he has already deployed additional elements of his home army.” The JCS chair also admitted that American commanders in Vietnam agreed that the margin of success or survival had been “very small indeed” during the first weeks of

Tet attacks. The enemy, with combat-available forces deployed in large numbers throughout the RVN, had “the will and capability to continue” and its “determination appears to be unshaken.” Although the Communists’ future plans were not clear, he warned, “the scope and severity of his attacks and the extent of his reinforcements are presenting us with serious and immediate problems.” S

everal PAVN divisions remained untouched, and troops and supplies continued to move southward to supplement the 200,000 enemy forces available for hostilities. The MACV, however, still faced major logistics problems due to enemy harassment and interdiction and the massive redeployment of U.S. forces to the north. Westmoreland in fact had deployed half of all maneuver battalions to I Corps while stripping the rest of the RVN of adequate reserves.

Worse, Wheeler, though surprisingly pleased with the ARVN’s performance, nonetheless questioned its ability to continue, pointing out that the army was on the defensive and had lost about one-quarter of its pre-Tet strength. Similarly, the government of the RVN had survived Tet, but with diminished effectiveness. Thieu and Ky faced “enormous” problems, with morale at the breaking point, 15,000 civilian casualties, and a flood of about one million additional refugees, one-third in the area of Saigon–all part of the huge task of reconstruction which would require vast amounts of money and time. The offensive moreover had undermined pacification.

Civic Action programs, Wheeler admitted, had been “brought to a halt. . . . To a large extent, the VC now control the countryside.” He added that the guerrillas, via recruiting and infiltration, were rebuilding their infrastructure and its overall recovery was “likely to be rapid.” Clearly, then, the military had developed its analyses and policy recommendations in February 1968 from candid, at times desolate, views of the effects of Tet.

Later claims of success aside, in February Wheeler at best found the situation “fraught with opportunities as well as dangers” and conceded that only the timely reaction of U.S. forces had prevented Communist control in a dozen or so places.” While Harold K. Johnson, the Army chief-of-staff plainly admitted that “we suffered a loss, there can be no doubt about it,” Wheeler’s euphemistic description of Tet was that “it was a very near thing.”

Subsequent events in 1968, especially the so-called Mini-Tets in May and August, cost the VC/PLAF/PAVN forces dearly and the U.S. and southern Vietnamese militaries rallied to create better conditions, something of a stalemate.  But the decisions made in the aftermath of Wheeler’s report and similar analyses from Vietnam had been made–the U.S. would “Vietnamize” the war, essentially conceding that the influx of over 500,000 American soldiers had not defeated the Communists in Vietnam.

The Americans couldn’t wait until the dust settled late in 1968 to do otherwise; Cronkite had shocked Americans with his bleak report (only months after they had been assured there was “light at the end of the tunnel”) and Wheeler had unnerved official Washington.  Now, when American scholars continue to peddle the “Tet as Victory” line, Wheeler’s report and the overall level of military candor about the parlous nature of the war needs to be a huge part of that dialogue . . .


For more on this, see my article in Jacobin, “The Story of the Tet Offensive”

*For Wheeler’s report, see  in Neil Sheehan, et al, eds., The Pentagon Papers–New York Times Edition (New York, 1971), 615-21.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gun Crazy

I’m in Venice this semester as a visiting professor, so I’m not keeping up with U.S. politics like I normally would.  But I woke up to another report of a mass killing at a public place, another school.

Yesterday, after class, a student here said he had a question about Texas. He’d visited there last year and was “scandalized” by the public display and worship of guns. Asked why Americans were so obsessed with guns and why there was so much gun violence, and most importantly why they didn’t do anything about it.  In Italy, a white anti-immigrant zealot killed 5 people last week and it’s a huge story, because it’s so rare.  (To prove “self-defense” in the use of a gun here, you really have to show that your life was in danger and you had to shoot someone . . .  not simply assert that you feared your “castle” might be violated, or saw someone with dark skin running from your house, or wear a badge).

I talked to him for at least 20 minutes and had no useful answers.

“The Script” for gun killings immediately went into effect. Politicians and personalities are offering their “thoughts and prayers” as always.

A lot of people are rightly condemning the NRA’s stronghold on this issue, which has been a political reality for generations and hadn’t budged. Screeds about the NRA are approaching “rain is wet” category.

I’m seeing a lot of self-described radicals cue up their lines about The Patriarchy, Privilege, and other such things, again. That most of the victims  in these mass killings are white and male and that the shooters don’t issue any political manifestos doesn’t seem to fit into the narrative, but what the hell, when you’re on a roll . . .

I’m also seeing a lot of self-described radicals who cue up their lines about The Patriarchy, Privilege, and other such things, again, angrily dismiss claims of mental illness as a mere “alibi” to apologize for The Patriarchy, Privilege, and other such things. If a mass killing isn’t the time to discuss the American mental health crisis, then I can assume there isn’t one, and we’re spending too many resources and too much time talking about mental health?

Lefties who want to gun up for the Revolution because The Man is well armed . . . look in the mirror, you’re not John Brown, you’re a living satire. The Man has drones and nukes–good luck with your revolution. Those guns you get will far more likely be used against yourself or a family member.  Every time a “radical” calls for lefties to go out and buy guns, the suits at Smith & Wesson smile and pop another bottle of champagne, and laugh at you.

There is only one thing in common in every single one of these mass attacks–a Gun.

There is one thing in common probably in all of them but surely in the vast majority–a history of psychological disturbance, red flags all over the place, some type of punishment, jail time, whatever, and a long trail of warnings all over the internet and among friends (and not infrequently some military experience).  Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris from Columbine, Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary, Devin Patrick Kelley in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Omar Mateen at the Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, this kid . . . and so it goes–all of them showed clear signs of being a threat to use arms and commit violence.

Two-thirds of gun deaths are Suicides so while these mass attacks are terrifying and far-too-common, they do remain statistically small.   Easy access to guns for a depressed person makes it easy to kill oneself.

It’s Occam’s Razor time here: Mental Health needs to become a huge national priority, not only because of gun deaths, but just because . . . Look into the backgrounds of mass killers, and you’re not gonna come away thinking “wow, there were no signals, who could’ve seen that coming . . . .”

Guns . . . oh, hell, what’s the point. If a classroom of slaughtered 2d Graders doesn’t provoke action, what will?

Too bad Barack Obama’s not still president. He was so good at shedding crocodile tears at the obligatory memorials for these victims, while doing nothing.

Guns and mental illness–it’s not that hard.

Have a great day. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Suicide and Guns–AFSP Tells Gun Safety Groups to Get Lost


“Suicide Prevention Walk Organizers Tell Gun Control Advocates to Keep Away”

That’s a headline from this past Friday’s “Voice of San Diego” News Organization website.  It forced me to do a triple-take because I was saddened and angry.

I know more about guns and suicide than most people–more than I ever wished I’d known.  My son Kelsey died by suicide in March 2010 using a gun he’d bought at Academy Sports on his 21st birthday a couple months earlier.  From infancy Kelsey had real issues with judgement, anger, and motivation.  He’d been to shrinks, doctors, homeopaths, acupuncturists, . . . you name it, in my attempts to help him out.  He had problems at school and was well known with the neighborhood cops. He was smart as hell but seemed to find trouble, and trouble found him just as easily.  And he was fascinated with guns, and living in Texas . . . the most gun-loving dystopia in America.


Suicides by Guns

Each year in America (and the numbers are rising) there are about 44,000 suicides, and half of those involve a gun.  Each year in America, there are about 33,600 deaths caused by gun, and about 22,000–a full two-thirds–involve a gun.  Just to make a comparison, there are about 36,000 auto-accident deaths per year (a huge decline from a peak of around 55,000 in the early 1970s).  As the crisis of auto safety grew, manufacturers and lawmakers developed and regulated new safe devices, and cars soon had better seat belts and air bags . . . and today, car advertisements regularly emphasize their safety features.


Motor Vehicle Deaths

Guns . . . ?   Ha!  Due to the power of the NRA, the many legislatures it has bought, and the inaction of allegedly friendly politicians (especially Democrats and President Barack Obama), the problem worsens (thought Obama was moving when he gave his frequent crocodile-tear-laden talks at memorial services).

But this . . . a suicide prevention event that has banned Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and the Brady Campaign–probably the two leading groups trying to address the rampage of gun violence in America–is downright chilling, and disgusting, and utterly craven.

And, from a personal standpoint, it’s painful because I’ve been involved with the group doing the banning, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  since Kelsey died.  I’ve attended their “Walk Out of Darkness” fundraisers both in the Houston communist and on the University of Houston campus.  I’ve donated, and encouraged and pushed people to donate–probably several thousands of dollars over the years.  And when asked to speak about Kelsey’s story–I always, 100 percent of the time–talked about the needs to do something about guns.

The problem of suicide in America is the problem of guns in America (and vice-versa)!  The more guns you have, the more likely the suicide rate is to rise.  Access-to-guns-and-risk-of-suicide-chartIt’s quite simple, really.

But according the regional director of the AFSP in Seattle, Jessica van der Stad,  the legistative goals of Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign, “related to guns is inconsistent with our efforts . . . As a suicide prevention organization, we are not in the business of saying who can and cannot own firearms. We are in the business of saving lives.

Prior to the walk, a representative from the Brady campaign told the AFSP people in San Diego that “We are planning on wearing our standard t-shirts that say Brady Campaign and ‘gun violence prevention saves lives.’”  One of the Brady goals “is to educate and put measures in place to prevent firearm suicides – is this an appropriate place to spread that word by wearing our t-shirts?”

However, the chair of the AFSP San Diego chapter, you know, the ones “in the business of saving lives,” replied: “Upon consulting with our National leadership we still are unable to have the Brady Campaign / Moms Demand Action promote itself at our community events. We value the work you are doing to create awareness around the effects of firearms in our communities as it relates to suicide means. And you rightly point to the possibility of our walker guests being negatively affected by any depiction of guns, printed word, etc.”

And then, the money quote, the nadir of cowardice and political ignorance:

“AFSP has formed a partnership with National Sports Shooting Foundation, and has developed a new educational program and materials emphasizing Firearm Safety. Acknowledging that firearms are a primary means of suicide, this effort is a vital component of AFSP’s goal to achieve 20% reduction in suicide by the year 2025.”

The AFSP, a group that exists in largest measure because people kill themselves with guns every damned day,  is working with the National Sports Shooting Foundation, a group that exists to promote gun purchase and gun use.  The AFSP had to work with a gun group to develop “a new educational program and materials emphasizing Firearm Safety?”   It even acknowledged the rule of firearms as a primary means of suicide, yet paired up with a Shooting group?  Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign have had such programs for years and would gladly have worked with AFSP, but were told to stay home.

I told you above about my son Kelsey and his death by suicide using a gun.  His death, though one of thousands, stands out–not just because it affected me personally.  When Kelsey was born, when he was a toddler, his mom worked for what was at the time Handgun Control Inc., a groups started by Sarah Brady, the wife of Jim Brady, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary who was shot and nearly killed by John Hinckley in the assassination attempt on Reagan.  Kelsey grew up with daily epistles about the dangers of guns.  I wouldn’t even buy him a toy gun.  But mental illnesses and living in desolate Texas can undo the best lessons, and that’s what happened.  For those of us who are “suicide survivors,” all we can really do is try to help people who are in crisis, and that means making it a lot harder for people to obtain the most likely tool used to kill themselves–a gun.

In the AFSP’s Orwellian world, suicide will become less frequent by giving shooting clubs access to their membership, people who’ve already lost loved ones by guns, instead of allowing Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign simply to appear and leaflet a rally–a simple act of free expression.

Personally, I’m done with the AFSP, and I would ask it to return all the money I’ve donated and raised (they keep good records so it would be easy to figure out) so I can give it to groups working on gun violence, and also return the money of people I’ve connected with through their “Out of the Darkness Walks” because I think we all donated to an organization based on the now-fraudulent idea that it was serious about preventing suicides . . . and if you’re going to prevent suicides you have to prevent people from getting guns so easily.

I will discourage anyone I know from working with or donating to the AFSP.

I would implore the AFSP to rethink its relationship with gun groups while excluding gun safety groups.

In the meantime, you can contact AFSP and tell them how disappointed you are in their decision to give priority to gun rights over the right to life.  By making league with gun groups–who exist in some large measure to enhance the sales of guns and make profits for gun manufacturers–they’re ensuring that the suicide rate will continue to go up.  And for the AFSP that means more business, built on more self-inflicted death.

Info on the AFSP is below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment