Monday, February 16, 2009



The Economics of the deepening Depression:
As Pockets Empty Jails Fill.

(Feb.16, Boston, Mass) Statistics always lag behind reality; they do not provide ‘real time’ data but rather dated information. However, reports from law enforcement officials nation wide reflect how the economic hardships battering the country are playing out on the ground, in the neighborhoods, on the streets, in towns large and small. From coast to coast arrests are rising, jails are filling and, the trend illustrates a disturbing fact of hard economic times.

In the last few months there have been some morbidly sensational crime stories that have garnered national attention not just for their brutality but also due to the underlying causations. In several cases, an unemployed man, a ‘breadwinner’, has murdered his wife and children before committing suicide. Notes found at the crime scenes have shown these murder-suicide episodes were prompted by a recent job loss and an “inability” for the murder to provide for his family. Of course, these tragic occurrences are extreme manifestations that arguably are deeper than financial stresses.

Police departments, in this day and age of technology are better equipped to track crime using methods not available just 15 years ago. Theirs is ‘live time’ tracking and, from Boston to Chicago, Des Moines to Denver, and beyond, what they are seeing does not portend well for the immediate future. “Crime is soaring. What we used to sometimes mistakenly call ‘petty crime’ such as mugging, street robbery, purse snatching and low priced shop lifting are now taking more and more of our time and resources. Our cops are busier, our jails are over crowded and sadly, many of those we are arresting committed their crimes to feed their families. It is a situation we are unfamiliar with”, commented Captain Daniel O’ Reilly of the Hartford (CT) Police Department. His sentiments are being expressed in virtually every jurisdiction in the country.

Crime has a long relationship with economic hardship and has historically been cited as one of the prime social ills that create the ‘ghetto’ environment. The fact that crime is rising in suburban and rural locations as it has never before is seen by many in law enforcement and academia as a natural development given escalating unemployment, lay offs and the lack of available jobs. “Right now we are registering first time applicants at a record number. We are having a hard time handling the work load. People are hurting and hurting badly. Most folks don’t want to be here trying to collect, they want jobs but, there just aren’t any”, said Mary Jean Milford, Director of Unemployment Services in Oklahoma City.

Harold Gizmo was being arraigned in the Hennepin County Courthouse outside Detroit. He was accused of stealing a pack of Ball Park Franks, two cans of Spam and a box of Fruit Loops from a local market. Gizmo had been recently laid off from a local window frame factory where he worked for the past 18 years. “All I was trying to do was feed my children. Ya know, they are the one’s suffering. They don’t understand what is going on and, the frustration of it for me...well. It just breaks my heart. Now, I’ll be in jail because my wife can’t bail me out. There is just no money.”

Unless the enormous federal ‘stimulus package’ begins to have a positive impact on the day to day economy of working Americans struggling like never before relatively soon, jails across the country will be packed with folks like Gizmo and their families will be left to struggle alone. If the members of the Senate and the House had any interest in helping their constituents they would not hesitate to act responsibly and bipartisanly towards rejuvinating our sagging economy. Unfortunately the Congress is too busy with their political breath holding, acrimony and self serving posturing. As John Krjumski, an unemployed sludge tank operator in Baytown Texas noted, “It would be a different story in they (Congress) and their kids were going to bed hungry every night. They all ought to rot in hell”.

Amen, Mr. Krjumski.

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