Often, suicides are inexplicable. The reason for some suicides, however, is black and white…and red. How does debt get so bad that death is the only escape?
The eye-popping documentary about debt in America, Maxed Out, tells the stories of three Americans driven to suicide by credit card debt. Two of the suicide victims were college students.
Unfortunately, these victims are not alone.
In 1997, the New York Times reported David Dwork, Major of Mahwah, N.J., killed himself in 1997 due to large consumer debt.
More recently, the Consumerist reported on a woman driven to suicide by aggressive collection calls.
Consumerist also cites a Lending Tree survey in which 20% of respondents believed that death was the only way they would get out of debt.
Can you blame them?
Lenders continue to flood our inboxes with new credit offers. Credit cards are signing up 18-year old college students for unlimited amounts of credit with no regard for their income or ability to repay debts.
The credit card banks have merged into a handful of bloodsucking monopolies controlling not only your credit cards, but the usurious check-cashing/payday lending and sub-prime mortgage industries as well.
And as Maxed Out artfully illustrates, the lenders own Washington, too, successfully passing the bankruptcy reform act last year. That law took the bankruptcy option away for most of the indebted. What other options do they have?
But suicides caused by consumer debts are only a canary in the coal mine. Debt has us, as a nation, in big trouble.
Our government is incapable of responding to a national disaster, sustaining social security, or providing affordable, universal health care, yet we are spending billions of dollars that we don’t have to send our servicemen into harm’s way to fight a war that wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted, and is impossible to win.
But most alarmingly, the United States government is allowing its middle-class—and the American dream—to all but disappear.
There will always be the very rich and the very poor. But the prosperity of a nation should not be judged by how much money is at the top, or how few people live at the bottom, but by how many people live comfortably and happily in the middle.
We are becoming a nation of haves and have-nots, and debt is to blame.
Yes, consumers need to be educated on how to use debt responsibly and avoid getting over their heads.
But most importantly, corporations cannot be allowed to continue to enjoy obscene profits by willfully and deceitfully destroying the lives of the lower- and middle-class.
It’s our responsibility as a nation to prevent cycles of debt that lead to bankruptcy and even suicide.
Other people’s debt may not seem like our problem, but the future of our nation depends on it.