When Andrew Joseph Stack, a software consultant with a history of tax troubles and marital problems, crashed his Piper Cherokee into the Austin, Texas, office of the Internal Revenue Service in February, the crime was widely seen as a referendum on the national psyche. Stack, who killed himself and one other person while injuring 13, was said to represent a strain of legitimate grievances in America.
In his syndicated column, Richard Parker credited Stack with summing up the American “continuum of disappointment, anxiety, fear and yes, anger” related to economic pressure and income inequality. “On the day of Stack’s violence,” Parker wrote, “everyone I interview who has read his suicide note has the same reaction: No, he should not have tried to kill anyone to make his point and so he deserved to die. And yes, the guy did have a point.” Writing on AlterNet, Rich Benjamin called Stack “an acute symptom of this nation’s neglected wounds,” concluding, “We dismiss his screed, suicide and crime as ‘lunatic’ at our own risk.”
“The United States is not the Soviet Union,” writes Yale School of Management fellow Bruce Judson in his 2009 book It Could Happen Here: America on the Brink. “Our economy is not as terrible. Our government is not as despised. But nobody thought the U.S.S.R. could collapse. Could everyone be wrong again?”