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Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

Entitlements–the Other Side

I’ve been reading a lot about “entitlements” and how isn’t it terrible some people depend on the government for their livelihood and don’t pay income tax. I do think it’s a good idea to require drug testing to receive public assistance, since most jobs require drug screening. But when politicians, newscasters, and the general public lump Social Security recipients in with welfare recipients, I get a little angry.

I didn’t ask for a Social Security program–I HAD to get a Social Security card when I got my first job (at 16). I didn’t have any choice about paying for Social Security “insurance”–it was taken out of every paycheck I ever received in the 34 years I worked. Even more was taken out of my late husband’s paychecks.

And when my husband unexpectedly died (leaving me with six kids aged 2 to 17), we couldn’t have survived on my tiny paycheck without survivor’s benefits. When the kids grew older, I went back to school (while continuing to work) and finally got a good paying job. Yes, part of my tuition was paid by government grants. Good paying job=more income tax.

Just when I finally had money in the bank and platinum cards in my wallet, I became disabled. Once again, the Social Security was a godsend.

My monthly disability check is less than one paycheck from my last job. The medical bills and 75% drop in income trashed my credit rating and wiped out my savings. They say that SSD and retirement benefits were never designed to be a person’s entire income, but to supplement savings or work at lessened capabilities due to age or medical condition.

What savings? Most Americans don’t have enough savings to last through the disability application process, let alone supplement their support for the rest of their lives. And in today’s economic climate, it’s virtually impossible for an older disabled person to find suitable work.

And so we live –austerely–on our meager checks. We find cheap housing and defer maintenance as long as we can. We clip coupons and shop grocery sales. We pay sales tax on everything we buy, gasoline tax on every gallon that goes into our beat up (but paid for) old car, and property tax if we’re smart enough or lucky enough to own our homes. For some reason, it seems that the disability check is always just a few dollars higher than the limit to qualify for other programs so we can’t get food stamps or Medicaid.

The average Congressman draws a salary that is ten times what the average beneficiary has to live on. Yes, there are more of us. But we didn’t design the system–the government did. Social Security is a promise to provide a (minimum) assurance of future benefits in return for weekly contributions. A promise that most Social Security recipients paid for over many years of hard work. If the system isn’t working, it’s not our fault for believing the promise and expecting it to be honored by the other side. It’s not our responsibility to re-invent the system so it works. But, as usual, it will probably be us that pays the price. Even if we don’t pay income tax.

 

This article may be reprinted as long as resource box below is included. Reprint notification appreciated at judy33873 at gmail dot com.
I supplement my Social Security by selling handcrafted gifts and freelance writing online. After expenses, I still don’t make enough to pay income tax. Grab some free content or  contact me for writing assignments through my blog at <a target=”_new” href=”http://publisherpotpoourri.wordpress.com”>http://oakhillcreations.wordpress.com</a&gt;

Pigs in the Creek

Here lately I’ve been hearing a lot of criticism of our esteemed President. While there are times I wish I could elbow the man and ask “WHAT were you thinking???Were you thinking at all????” I also recognize the fact that our current President didn’t create the economic mess in this country. Years of Republican policies and unbridled greed across the board have created a situation all the founding fathers together would have a hard time overcoming.

I got an email earlier that quoted an “old hillbilly saying” that said “you can’t clean up the water until you get the pigs out of the creek.” which went on to criticize the President. I thought about that, and it isn’t quite applicable for one simple reason: in this case there is one very visible and public animal in the creek that is getting blamed for all the pollution while there are several hundred more upstream drawing six-figure salaries and benefits the rest of us will never be entitled to, laughing all the way to their next $100-a-plate dinner while we sit at home eating macaroni and cheese.

I’m reminded of two brothers that used to hang out with my mischievous son. They were masters at the art of diverting attention away from their misdeeds by ratting on him.

And I’m beginning to think that our President is nothing more than a scapegoat—carefully chosen to not only divert attention away from the politicians and corporations that got us into this mess but to advance a few other agendas on the way. Such as “See? It’s not our fault he doubled the national debt.”—No, you just created the situation to make increasing debt the only way to survive. (Kind of like the situation most Americans are in, living on credit because we can’t afford to live within our meager paychecks!) And “See? An African-American isn’t smart enough to be President?”–(How do we tell the difference between stupid things a leader says because he’s stupid and stupid things a leader says because that’s the script he was given by his advisors?)

Will I vote for the man again? Probably not. But I don’t see a lot of viable alternatives, either. The only way I see our country return to its former greatness requires such drastic change that it will probably never happen.

Starting at the family level, we all need to start living within our means. That means earning more or spending less. (Ideally, doing a combination of the two.) We need to demand accountability from our schools, our citizens, and our politicians. If it isn’t fair to expect a billionaire to pay a percentage of his income in taxes, how is it fair to expect a struggling family to pay a percentage of their income in taxes? We need to quit giving American corporations our blessing to outsource production to cheap labor in third world countries and institute financial penalties that will “encourage” them to keep the jobs here. We need to take a hard look at medical “service” providers and demand to know why a child’s vaccination that can be done in a Third World country for “your donation that wouldn’t cost more than a cup of coffee” costs us (or our health insurers) $75.

We need to realize that “trickle down” economics doesn’t work when everybody upstream is diverting most of the flow into their own pockets. Too many facets of our economy are nothing more than a pyramid scheme destined to ultimately collapse.

If our elected leaders’ salaries were based on the median income of their constituents, how fast would economic development become a priority? If our elected leaders earned $7.25 an hour and were paid only for the time they were actually working, how much would they earn?

One of my favorite movies tells the story of a little church caught in a struggle between two powerful families in a small town, each supporting the head of the family for mayor. For years, the town suffered poor leadership and constant bickering. The breakthrough came when the wise pastor found a qualified candidate who didn’t belong to either family.

Maybe it’s time to get rid of both corrupt families and bring in a qualified outsider. Voting for a third party candidate would let both established parties know how the voters feel about “business as usual” in a much more powerful statement than simply refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Of course, it feels like “wasting” a vote on someone who can’t possibly get elected. Is it possible for a re-elected Obama to pull an economic rabbit out of his hat? Or will America turn to the Republican party for more of the same leadership that brought us to the brink of economic disaster? What happens next?

“Fasten your seatbelt. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride”–Bette Davis

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This content may be freely reprinted, unedited, with resource box.

Judy Cox is a freelance writer and publisher of a free content blog at

https://publisherpotpourri.wordpress.com

The New Economy

When I was little, things were simple. My Daddy was a card-carrying member of the UAW. Every contract brought a better paycheck and better benefits. Daddy worked at the same company for 30 years, and retired to Florida with a paid off home, good credit, and money in the bank.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch….I married a card-carrying member of the UAW. Like me, Gary was an only child, and we wanted a big family. Our first daughter’s birth cost $249.
At first, every contract brought a better paycheck and better benefits. The last pair of glasses I bought for myself cost $38 (including eye exam). Eighteen months later, with our new vision insurance, I got new glasses (which cost $200, plus the eye exam). A similar thing happened when we got dental insurance. All of a sudden, a $20 office visit was $160. The hospital bill for our last baby was over $10,000–paid by insurance.
As a child of the fifties, I was taught to trust the government, believe in the American dream, and give a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. Cash was always preferable to credit, and money in the bank would help you cope with any emergency. We had an insurance man for life, home, and auto insurance, and health insurance from work. Life was good.
Somewhere between then and now, things changed.  Cash became suspect, and credit became all-important. In some neighborhoods, the insurance settlement is the new lottery jackpot.
All I ever wanted was the same–or slightly better–standard of living than what I grew up with.  Instead, I’ve spent most of my life scrambling to get by, sometimes working two or three jobs. I could always find a job when I truly needed one–until now.
The rules have changed. Everybody is trying to get a bigger piece of the pie, and the crumbs that trickle down aren’t enough to survive on.  Our young people can’t find work, so they stay home, supported by aging parents or even grandparents, barely getting by.
And the behemoth that is big government and big business cannot accommodate the drastic changes that are needed to turn this thing around in time to avert a crisis. We are in the early stages of crisis, and still pretending everything will be okay as long as the plastic is approved and the minimum payment stays low enough. After all, if we keep paying our bills on time, we can get the limit raised, and when we retire we can sell our home for ten times what we paid, and…wait a minute, what do you mean I paid ten times what it’s worth now?
The big question is “what are we going to do about it?” An even bigger question is “what can we do about it?”
Judy Cox supplements her Social Security by freelance writing online. Visit her blog at https://publisherpotpourri.wordpress.com