September 22, 2018

Why Are Americans So Depressed?

Depression is estimated to cost Americans more than $210 billion dollars each year in medication to treat depression. Depression is widespread and getting worse. Just the cost in the decline in the quality of life is enough to make one depressed. Genetics can play a major role in one’s life today as well as the influence of one’s family. But living in today’s world can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and depression.

Americans struggle hard today to survive. The loss of a job can come at any time regardless of the quality and effort we put into keeping that job. One day you work for a firm that is doing well and the next day that very same firm has been purchased as part of a buyout and your division has been eliminated. Most workers are unemployed at least once or twice in their career. Each time that a man or woman is unemployed it may take longer in terms of time to find a comparable job. We live in an age of consolidation and a changing work environment. Technology is changing daily and the skills of today may be obsolete tomorrow. Not only do workers compete with industries in their field in this country but they compete with workers in other countries whose wages and cost-of-living make moving American jobs to that country to gain a significant economic advantage a real possibility.

The cost of education today is more expensive than ever. College has become expensive and most colleges would be empty today if it were not for student loans. Depending upon how much one is forced to borrow for four years can determine how long and how expensive it will be for that student to pay back that loan. At an average of $35,000 per year in loans, it does not take long to accumulate a large and burdensome debt. Sadly, the wrong major in terms of economic terms can influence the future earnings of a student and make the loan a larger factor in their cost of living.

The cost of living is higher today than in years past and becoming more expensive each year. As food and gas prices rise, there is usually a decline in disposable income for the average American. A certain futility exists when it comes to gasoline prices. One can read about the decline in crude prices while the local gas station raises their price of gasoline. Many stations raised their prices as a result of the problems with distribution caused by Hurricane Harvey months ago but have never adjusted these prices when distribution was restored.

Unemployment is a significant factor is today’s society. While the Federal Government measures current unemployment, the published percentage is based upon workers that are currently looking for employment. So the 4% (U-3 rate) is misleading as millions of workers who have exhausted their benefits and stopped looking for work are no longer counted in that percentage. They are counted in a less published number that measures Labor Participation and dwarfs the miniscule number of 4% with permanently unemployed workers in the millions, 94 million to be exact, that are included in the Labor Participation percentage of 62.8%.

Whether we lean toward the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, most Americans would agree that not much is being accomplished in our Congress. Our unsustainable debt is growing and no attempt is being made to bring our annual spending back in line with our incoming tax revenue. The recent tax decrease passed by our Congress is not support by any solid tax revenue. Instead, it is financed with future debt to the tune of $1.5 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. This in itself is bad but what makes it even worse is the fact that the Federal budget is already out of balance by another trillion dollars each year.

What probably is the most depressing factor is today’s life for Americans is the state of our government. Whether you are a fan of President Trump or not, the daily “tweets” are confusing and only add to the directionless state of our government. Estimates are that it has cost taxpayers one million dollars every 10 days to investigate the possible Russian intervention in our 2016 election. A rough estimate is currently around $20 million dollars. We have no firm policy on whether we will ever resolve the North Korean situation or the trade war with China. NAFTA has been debated now for over a year and most Americans have no idea if a wall will ever be built along our southern border. Immigration has gone nowhere and we argue incessantly over the CAFÉ standards for gas mileage and the possibility of tariffs on foreign goods.

If you are not depressed, just turn on the TV and you soon will be totally depressed by the constant talk and endless debate that resolves nothing. Most of our news comes from only a few sources consisting of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. The business interests of the media conglomerate often dictate how our news is reported. The present state of the mass media makes it nearly impossible for any unpopular views to be heard in the marketplace.

The majority of our advertising today is concentrated on automobiles and pharmaceuticals. I can think of no more depressing topic that the ills and diseases affecting the American people and how the drug industry can correct our ills, within limits of course, as the Federal Government has forced them  to reveal the adverse effects of  these “miracle” cures. If one takes time to listen carefully, no one in their right mind would take these remedies but the advertising industry has been able to disguise them carefully by “consulting your physician” before taking drug X.

Americans should be depressed. Our families are disintegrating, real job growth is stagnant, and within a very short few years, our economy will implode as we are rolling along living on debt as a society. We have student loans, credit card debt, automobile debt, mortgage debt, and personal debt. We are soon becoming as broke as the government we live under.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer