Middle-class people have filed for bankruptcy at increasingly alarming rates in the past couple of years and the emotional strain of having to do so, is crushing them, some so much that they give up completely and a few have even taken their own lives. According to a new study by Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School Leo Gottlieb professor of law, and Deborah Thorne, Ohio University associate professor of sociology, “More than 100,000 middle-class families filed for personal bankruptcy every month in 2007.”
This is devastating to the middle class. Truly, if a person on welfare has to file for bankruptcy, it can be emotional, but not devastating, the way it is for middle class folks, and in fact, might even represent a new start for those who depend on government assistance to pay most of their bills. The people who live on welfare can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and usually, the only thing that they risk in doing so, is marks on their personal credit score. This of course, can be recovered through opening up another credit card, paying on time, and opening yet another one or financing something like a new car or furniture down the road.
The middle class lose their homes in bankruptcy and this in itself drives them literally over the edge. This segment of the population stands for the “American Dream” far more than any other segment. When thinking middle class, a picture already comes to mind of the three bedroom, two bath home, in the suburbs, the cat and the dog, and the son and daughter, or maybe more kids running around in the backyard and playing happily. This kind of lifestyle personifies it. It is this goal, that Americans are either striving to have or striving to maintain.
An article in the Huffington Post mentions that suicide numbers among the middle class are “mounting.” Rising mortgage defaults and falling home values are believed to be linked to the reason for ending one’s own or one’s family members life. An incident in Fla., reveals a man who shot his wife and his dog and set his house on fire before shooting himself. His case was one of several in which people killed spouses or pets, destroyed property or attacked police before taking their own lives. Apparently, they would rather have their families dead than leave them without means of long term financial support.
When a person loses their job, they can get busy and file for unemployment, but when a person loses his or her home, he/she has no place to go. That individual literally loses their entire way of life, all the memories, and quite possibly, the home where the individual’s children grew up in. An independent film called “Maxed Out,” from 2007, showed a lady who, after her husband died, was not able to keep up her mortgage bills and turned to credit cards for food and other necessities. She got behind on cards and naturally, foreclosure was declared on her home of many years. She stated in the movie that she had thought about suicide. She said that she had spent a considerable amount of time contemplating it.
So, the American Dream is shattering before our eyes, as most people would understand and relate to it. It is just not working. It has never worked for poor people and now the middle class are witnessing the broken glass, as it falls to the floor and their lives are destroyed in the wake.
Perhaps a new dream is what we need, one of a society that does not depend on an outdated monetary system with the inevitability of bankruptcy and foreclosure built into it. Maybe we need a much more sustainable system where the likelihood of job and home loss is not possible as we have advanced greatly and have learned how to cooperate to get our needs met, instead of compete.
Many say that competition is human nature. If this theory is true, than we can look forward to many more bankruptcies, suicides, poverty, war, etc. There will be no end to the grief on this planet, and in the end, we will destroy ourselves. There is an alternative to such a horrific fate for mankind.