The headlines tell the story. On Tuesday, my hometown paper played the news relatively mildly as "Layoffs Spread to More Sectors of the Economy"; the Washington Post chose the slightly stronger, "Layoffs Cut Deeper into Economy"; the Los Angeles Times picked "Deluge of Layoffs Hits U.S. Economy"; the Indianapolis Star, "50,000 New Pink Slips Pile Up"; and the San Jose Mercury, "Bloody Monday: U.S. firms slash 50,000 jobs." At a news conference, the new president rattled off selected names from the all-star line-up of companies that were tossing out bodies and shutting down lives: "Over the last few days we’ve learned that Microsoft, Intel, United Airlines, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel, and Caterpillar are each cutting thousands of jobs. These are not just numbers on a page. As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold."
Meanwhile, the one-day estimate of the number of layoffs, depending on how you were counting and whether you were speaking nationally or globally, rattled around the world — more than 40,000, 50,000, 55,000, more than 60,000, 71,400, 76,000. And the following day, yet more sizeable corporate layoffs were announced. Whatever way you cut it, these were staggering tallies that, as Econowhiner wrote in her blog, gave the phrase "Bloody Monday" new meaning in our world.
Add in the possibility that the flood of foreclosures might be even larger than imagined and, as Nick Turse indicates in a new report from the front lines of economic disaster, "Meltdown Madness," "bloody" is no longer just a metaphor. Turse has been trolling the local press across the country and has come up with a grim, but striking drumbeat of economically-sparked suicides (from multimillionaires to jobless and foreclosed workers), acts of arson, burglaries — people who are now robbing banks simply to pay their back rent — rising domestic violence, and soaring calls to help hotlines of every sort. Across the country, in fact, extreme acts are on the rise.
Increasingly, the "bloody" layoffs and "bloody" foreclosures lead to "bloody" facts on the American ground. This is a crucial story that Turse first began covering back in October in a piece, "The Rising Body Count on Main Street," that explored local press reports nationwide about extreme acts by economically distressed and desperate Americans. Like his "Fallen Legion" series of the Bush era — an invaluable record of those government insiders who "fell" while fighting to hold the line against the administration from hell — this is a subject my website, TomDispatch.com, expects to return to regularly. After all, as "Bloody Monday" makes all too clear, the bloody count of extreme acts in America is likely to rise for a long, long time to come.