News Release

U.S. Suicide Epidemic: It’s Hitting Trump’s Base Hard

RAJAN MENON, rmenonnyc at gmail.com
Menon just wrote the piece “America’s Suicide Epidemic: It’s Hitting Trump’s Base Hard” for TomDispatch. He is professor of international relations at the City College of New York, and senior research fellow at Columbia University. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention from Oxford University Press.

Menon writes: “We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That’s odd given the magnitude of the problem. …

“A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes. What’s more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually — the suicide rate — has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides, even though the murder rate gets so much more attention. …

“This surge in the suicide rate has taken place in years during which the working class has experienced greater economic hardship and psychological stress. … Technological change, including computerization, robotics, and the coming of artificial intelligence, has similarly begun to displace labor in significant ways, leaving Americans without college degrees, especially those 50 and older, in far more difficult straits when it comes to finding new jobs that pay well. …

“In contrast to the United States, suicide rates are noticeably lower and have been declining in Western European countries where income inequalities are far less pronounced, publicly funded healthcare is regarded as a right (not demonized as a pathway to serfdom), social safety nets far more extensive, and apprenticeships and worker retraining programs more widespread. …

“White workers will remain crucial to Trump’s chances of winning in 2020. Yet while he has spoken about, and initiated steps aimed at reducing, the high suicide rate among veterans, his speeches and tweets have never highlighted the national suicide epidemic or its inordinate impact on white workers. More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse. …

“Inevitably, the president and congressional Republicans will then demand additional reductions in spending for social programs. This is all the more likely because Trump and those Republicans also slashed corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent — an estimated $1.4 trillion in savings for corporations over the next decade.”