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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Debt: Killing as Effectively as Cancer and Heart Disease

Second attempt at suicide by fire in 15 months.
I have been reading with horror how the people of Greece have been reacting to the austerity measures put in place by their government.

In case you live with your head in the sand Greece has a significant sovereign (government) debt, like the USA - something like 120% of GDP (as opposed to 100% here in the US).  Unlike the US no one has much faith in the Greek economy which is rife with corruption, kickbacks and tax evasion.  Greece's government was borrowing some 20-30% of its annual needs each year and the debt had ballooned out of control (here we borrow something like $20K USD for the $42K USD the government spends each second).

Over the last few years the remainder of the EU (European Union of which Greece is a member) has struggled with how to overcome the "Greek problem."

The citizens of Greece have significant problems with the austerity measures put in place by the Greek government - measures put in place to allow them to borrow even more money as if this will solve the problem.  But what's interesting is the effects this is having on the Greek people.

One effect has been an increase in suicide rates.  People, whose lives are tied to the cutbacks and whose businesses have struggled because of the crisis (and not just in Greece but the remainder of Europe), are now committing suicide at nearly twice the pace (up from 6 per 100,000 to nearly double that).  However, the suicide hotlines have experienced a ten-fold increase in calls - the discrepancy here caused no doubt by the social stigma in Greek society associated with suicide.

The suicide victims fit more or less the same profile: male, 35 years or older, financially ruined, no longer able to fill the role as provider for their family.  Typically these victims have their own businesses, often started from scratch with bank loans.  As the economy in Greece has contracted their banks have withheld further credit and their customers have stopped paying (not until offering checks post-dated months in the future as payment).

Compared to this chart death by suicide in Greece will soon reach the US death rate for stroke.

If it increases much more the suicide rate will begin to approach the US breast cancer rate (see this).

(Note that if you believe that most Greek suicides are masked as accidents to prevent stigma the rates are already near or above the US breast cancer lever.)

As far as the EU is concerned this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Greece will get worse before it gets better and other countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal) all have similar debt problems.

What is truly horrific here is that this is just the suicide rate.  What about the crime rates?  What about the domestic abuse rates?  Many in Greece turned to various fraud schemes to try and save their businesses before they went bust - only to ultimately attempt or commit suicide.

The US spends $16.5 Billion USD annually according to this report.

This is less than Greeces annual budget deficit of 17 Billion Euros.  But to "fix" the problem will cost far, far more...

So what does this mean?

This means that debt (personal and governmental) is just as dangerous as breast cancer if not more so.  If the true death rate in Greece from suicide is at the 10x level more along the lines of what's reported by suicide hot line numbers that would mean debt kill as effectively as most serious forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

This implies that by creating a "faux success lifestyle" of success through debt the government is literally killing its citizens as effectively as cancer.

Here in the USA the borrowing is on par with Greece - yes we are not yet insolvent but the pain required to fix the problem will be no less serious - meaning that people will die.

That's right - fixing the US debt problem will kill people in significant numbers - because true austerity is required to get things under control.  (Though I suppose that at least this administration thinks its okay for the "35+ year white old male" to take the hit...)

Our debt crisis here in the US has merely been placed on hold for a few months.

And cutting off low-income people to save money will be just as deadly as squeezing middle class business.

Like heroin debt is a silent killer - but debt is more effective and deadly.

Debt has become the government's drug of choice for addicting and killing its citizens.  Citizens who clamor for more debt even as the tendrils of death lap at their feet.

As a nation we have come to believe that we will never have to "pay the piper."

But that's a deadly lie.

Those targeted by "suicide" in Greece are those who should be at their peak earning power and driving the economy forward.  Instead they are literally being killed off by that same economy.

This is why our government fears "paying the piper."

The problems will here be far more severe than those in Greece...

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