Yes, it's a movie about a pandemic.

Fox Business Channel published a seriously weird "Lifestyle" piece today, discovering a trend that you might not have given any thought to: "STIMULUS CHECK RAGE." In a brilliantly circular headline, the Fox Business website warns that said stimulus check rage is "possibly driving COVID money violence." The subhed is pretty good, too: "For some in serious need, stimulus checks have great emotional meaning."

Wow, how crazy is that? Attaching emotional significance to money? Truly a foreign concept to Fox viewers, unless you're talking about their money, or even their imagined money, which they earned on their own merits and not because of a big government handout. Also, you're goddamned right Fox viewers want their own COVID checks, which they deserve but won't get emotional about unless the payments don't arrive.


About that "trend": As far as we can tell, it consists of exactly three (3) incidents that are loosely related to COVID payments. In order of criminal severity:

1: A 38-year-old Florida military veteran tossed a smoke grenade near Donald Trump's resort at Mar-a-Lago Saturday, and told officers he was angry at not having received his $1,400 stimulus payment. In the man's car, police found several more smoke bombs and road flares, as well as "a 12-foot expandable hook, nylon rope and a black glove." He's being held on $21,000 bond, which is a lot more than the payment he was waiting for.

2: A Spartanburg, South Carolina, man was angry that his $600 payment from December had been withheld by the government for unpaid child support. He was arrested March 5 after assaulting his domestic partner, beating her severely. A sheriff's deputy said, "I've been doing this for 35 years and I haven't seen many people beat this badly." The man also set their home on fire, and set fire to two other cars in separate locations, which belonged to his current girlfriend's mother and to a former girlfriend. He's being held without bond on one charge of attempted murder, three counts of arson, and malicious injury to property. The suspect has a long criminal history, including charges of "assault and battery, domestic violence, burglary, trespassing, larceny, shoplifting, fraudulent checks and drug charges."

3: A 25-year-old Indianapolis man allegedly shot and killed four family members Saturday, including a seven-year-old girl, after "an argument with his daughter's mother over getting a cut from her upcoming stimulus check." The police report said the woman from whom he'd demanded the money had gotten a no-contact order against the man in October. She survived being shot in the back. What an awful, heart-rending story, let's use it to gin up fear of ... help from the effects of a global pandemic.

So there's your "stimulus check rage": two cases of men violently assaulting women, one of whom killed four people, plus a guy who didn't seem all that clear on who's even president these days. Nonetheless, Fox Business found a psychologist who was willing to say that yeah, maybe this was all related to the COVID relief payments, wait no, he said the opposite: that they're probably related to the financial straits that have made those relief checks necessary.

Alex Melkumian, founder of the Financial Psychology Center, told FOX Business that it is not uncommon for individuals to commit violent acts out of desperation when they are going through financial and emotional hardship, and that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year has exacerbated the issue even further.

"The year that we've had leading up to these stimulus checks and the reason for why we're in a position of even being issued stimulus checks is a year that's unlike any we've had in our lifetime. So there are always going to be people who are sort of down and out, so much so that psychologically they're willing to cross a threshold that a lot of people are not," Melkumian said. "When we're struggling and we're in pain, you know, for some people, either the ethical, moral or whatever bar gets dropped."

It's an entirely reasonable idea; a 2017 study found that during the Great Recession, "unemployment and economic hardship at the household level were positively related to abusive behavior," and, perhaps more surprisingly, that

rapid increases in the unemployment rate increased men's controlling behavior toward romantic partners even after we adjust for unemployment and economic distress at the household level.

In other words, beyond actual economic privation, men seem to become more abusive as they experience "the uncertainty and anticipatory anxiety that go along with sudden macroeconomic downturns."

Golly, sounds to us like the problem may have a hell of a lot more to do with patriarchy and capitalism than with the anticipated arrival of a relief check. But a really cursory read of the Fox Business story might lead some people to think the relief checks are the problem in these three disparate cases.

The story also offers some useful notes from the American Psychological Association's annual "Stress in America" survey from October, which found — astonishingly! — that large percentages of Americans found the pandemic very stressful, that money worries are a significant source of stress, and that people with lower incomes report being far more stressed out over money than those with higher incomes. Imagine that! Still, hell of a stretch to link that to any sort of widespread "stimulus check rage" — if anything, we're seeing a hell of a lot of people on social media who are freaking relieved to have the money.

We look forward to future economic insights explaining the real nature of things, in the tradition of "Cheap Gas hurts economy?', "Poor People aren't poor because they have refrigerators," and "Wind turbines made the natural gas plants freeze."

[Fox Business]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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