Friday, June 17, 2011

I wouldn't say I've lost my faith in humanity...

...but Americans are starting to feel like a lost cause.

I went to a conference back in the midwest. I figured while I was out there I should hear from "middle America" so that I could "get in tune" with the average voter like the so-called enlightened tea party.

I struck up a few convos about politics. There was one main theme, "Well, we just can't afford to keep giving all these government handouts." Hm. Ok. I can see an argument for welfare and social food programs as "government handouts" but how the hell did social security and Medicare become such??!! They are "pay as you go" programs. It's a collective savings plan intended to purchase products that are difficult to finance as individuals - mainly, care for our aging population.

It's like this - say that you want to buy one of the those 300 inch, $30,000 TV sets special-order from Japan on the average American income ($54,000 for those who know more about the Bachelorette than the state of the economy). Shoot - that's just not possible. However, you happen to live in a big condo complex and have a lot of friends. Y'all start talking about this idea and decide it would be an awesome pool-side addition to the complex. So, 30 of you each contribute $1,000. And...voila! There's a giant TV for all to enjoy.

That's called "collectivism" and it's apparently something that spoiled Americans can't do anymore. I mean - what if John from condo 3B hung out in the pool all day watching the TV but I only got to watch it for 45 minutes each Saturday. Well, that wouldn't be fair would it? So what if John has terminal cancer and, therefore, has fewer years to enjoy the TV overall. Taken that way, my 45 minutes and John's all-day-for-two-years becomes somewhat equal. But there's a shred of logic in that - and logic escapes the average American.

So, we will soon cancel Medicare, social security, unemployment insurance, public healthcare programs, and public education. I decided to run some numbers to see what that "good economic policy" will cost the average American on that $54,000 salary. Here is what it would look like in our family:

1. We would take on a share of the care for 4 elderly persons in good health.
Between my husband and I, we have 9 siblings. However, only 5 of those families are in good enough financial standing to provide any assistance. With good budgeting, we could probably manage costs of $300 per person for food, gas, and other incidentals, which, shared among families would equal about $150 per month. The real killer is the loss of Medicare. Due to their age, all persons over 65 require "high risk" insurance. In California, the average cost of a high-risk private policy is $1200 per month per person. So, now each family needs to fork over $960 (without consideration of copays or prescription costs) for medical care. If you're keeping track, that's like paying an additional rent payment for each family - just to take care of our parents.

2. We would have to support unemployed family members.
We are relatively blessed - we only have 4 families impacted by unemployment currently. So, we would only have to take on the co-support of one family. That family has 4 members total. They move in to our 3-bedroom condo so that we can support them on less cash. However, they are now also without health coverage and no government support - so now we have another family health plan to pay (or we can let our nieces/nephews/brother/sister get sick and die). They are young and healthy, so a good plan will cost ~$800 per month. We also need to increase the family grocery budget by $150 per person, so that's a lovely $600 per month increase.

3. Education costs for children
The average private school in California charges $700 per month per child in tuition. We are lucky in our scenario as only two children require schooling - a mere $1400 per month increase in the family budget there!!

In case you got lost in the narrative, here is the simple breakdown:
Elder care (with healthcare): $1010
Unemployment assistance: $1400
Education: $1400
Total: $3810


We can continue with the current plan where we pay ~$1260 per month and get the majority of the above covered through collective bargaining PLUS all the other pesky amenities we enjoy as a result of paying a really minimal amount of taxes (including dependable electricity and water).

So, the whole tea party thing seems so ridiculously stupid to me. Talk about killing ourselves softly with a nice blunted spoon. We are up in arms about the economy but our solution is to force struggling American families to take on even more financial responsibility - without the help of collective bargaining.

In the meantime, we subsidize oil companies, corn growers, GE, and other profitable companies that shouldn't need our help. We also use our tax dollars to give bonuses to the wealthy (and permit them not to pay taxes at all) and under-the-table deals for private industrial projects in individual states. The bait and switch tactic of the tea party has worked its magic - we stopped looking for places where we didn't intend to spend money but are and started looking at things that the rich & powerful don't want to help us fund - like using our own money to support programs that benefit 99% of the population.

Here's something to ponder, America: If every person who made a million-dollar salary would agree to take a reasonable but large salary of $200,000 (that's 4x the average American income if you're keeping tabs), the business savings could fund anywhere from 10 to 40 additional workers. How is that for a long-term economic solution?

No comments: