Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weekend Assignment #330: Greed - A Rant

This is the rant that's been building up in me for weeks. I was going to cover it in a two-paragraph aside in the entry below this one, but, in true rant fashion, I've gone on about it quite a bit longer than intended.; So a quick copy-paste, a few edits and expansions, and here we are:

Weekend Assignment #330: Op-Ed

Time to flex your writing muscle again, because for this week only, the Weekend Assignment blog is being changed to The Weekend Assignment Chronicle! Now, we need some Op-Eds to make things a little more interesting around here. Your assignment is to pick a current event and write your opinion regarding it. Anything goes. Write about politics, the economy, or maybe even your opinion about an incident in pop culture. It's all good. It's good to exchange opinions, especially when it's done with respect. So, feel free to speak up here!

Extra Credit: Do you read the Op-Eds? Yes? No? Tell us about it!

August 2007 - my personal economic crash as my employer went bankrupt.

As someone who has been unable to find full-time, permanent work as an accountant since the third economy-devastated industry I worked in laid me off over two years ago, and as someone who manages the finances of a disabled woman who lives on Social Security and food stamps, I'm frustrated with pretty much all levels of government right now. Congress is reducing food stamps, squeezing our poorest people on the grounds that the government can't afford to help them, and besides, maybe they're just lazy and don't deserve our help.  They also spent months refusing to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, people made chronically jobless by our faltering economy. (They finally got the bill to go through when the late Senator Byrd's replacement was appointed.) Even when this bill was passed and signed into law, it only extended unemployment for people like me, who are not past the 99 week mark in their unemployment benefits;. It does not help my brother, or any of the other "99ers."

What Republicans and deficit-hawk Democrats don't tell you is that benefits for the poor and the unemployed are generally accepted by economists of all ideologies as the most economy-stimulating spending there is. Money paid to such people is likely to be spent immediately on food and other necessities, which helps to keep people employed who sell the food and necessities. The poor and unemployed also pay sales tax, putting money into the empty coffers of financially-strapped states and communities so they don't have to lay off teachers and police and firefighters. Republicans insist that we can't afford to help these people, and anyway they're just lazy bums who don't want to work; never mind that they represent about 10% of the nations workforce and that there are, on average, 5 unemployed for every job. An unemployed teacher or, ahem, accountant, isn't a great match for a job making submarine sandwiches anyway. Most job openings I personally see are for selling insurance, a task I'd be truly abysmal at, or for accepting payments on a home computer on behalf of an overseas company I've never heard of, in return for a commission. It sounds uncomfortably like what's known as a "Nigerian scam." My friend S. talks about trying to find a job online; I shudder to think what she'll come up with, if anything.

So, yeah, Republicans and some Democrats think it's a fine idea to reduce the deficit by paying as little as possible to people like me, underemployed for three years this month; my brother, unemployed for over 99 weeks and therefore getting no unemployment at all, and incidentally with significant medical problems; and my friend S., living on Social Security and with physical and mental health disabilities. Her food stamps were recently reduced on an individual basis, and the only explanation given was that it was because her Social Security benefit went up, which it didn't. (I think they used a small, one-time extra SS payment all recipients got earlier this year as an excuse to artificially recalculate everyone's income as higher than it is, so the state doesn't have to pay out as much in food stamps.) I've seldom seen S. buy much more by way of groceries than bottled water, organic milk and cola, and maybe a loaf of french bread. At the end of July she ran out of food stamps and was unable to even buy that much. Her medical coverage is from state-run AHCCCS, which doesn't cover dental or vision or hearing. (S. has teeth missing, with no prospect of dentures or other treatment.) She is consistently treated rather badly by social workers and medical professionals. Most recently, the agency that pays part of her rent started sending $59 less than before, with no explanation, and no returning of phone calls. I as her representative payee have to make up the difference from her same unchanged Social Security check. How am I meant to do that?

But no, according to Republicans we can't afford to help people like S., because of the deficit, don't you know (deficit price tag for the extension of unemployment benefits: $33 billion), and because my mentally ill, arthritic friend in the scooter, a fibromyalgia sufferer, is somehow a lazy bum, the undeserving poor. Those same people insist that we must extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans, which, if made permanent, would add over $1 trillion to the deficit over a 10-year period. Yeah, that'll help. Such trickle-down, voodoo economics have been in place since 2001, and look where we are now.

On the extra credit question, I admit that I don't typically read newspapers, except sometimes the online versions. My op-ed pages are mostly two tv shows, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show, and sometimes The Huffington Post. I feel a little guilty about not supporting Tucson's sole surviving daily newspaper, but I tended to spend the money without ever reading past page one. Sorry, TNI.



Alan said...

Living in the UK, I have to make do with that terrible socialist evil known as the National Health Service.

Carly said...

Hi Karen

Sorry it took so long for me to get by. Will explain in an email later.

First of all, do you know how much you frustrate me? YOU HAVE A REAL TALENT FOR THIS KIND OF WRITING! I love that you did this assignment in two parts. The first had me wondering why you didn't explain to the nice man from MSNBC that you are a writer, and then ask if he needed a local correspondant to cover the goings on in AZ? Don't you dare laugh at my suggestion... you are gifted! I was really hoping for a better turnout for this assignment. It frustrates me that folks sit it out because someone might not like what they had to say... America is slipping away, we need expressions like this op-ed to remind us of who we are, or at least used to be. Sigh.

To say WELL DONE itsn't quite right, more like... PERFECTlY DONE! Especially big KUDOS for taking the time, amd making the effort to say whats on your mind!

Stephen Watkins said...

It's true... we need more people to be brave, and not wimps like me.

What scares me about the way we treat the poor in this country is that the United States now ranks with other third world, dictatorial, and communist countries in terms of the gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. The last time it was this bad in our country... we ended up having a Great Depression (and despite the half-blind optimism of many economists in insisting on calling what we're in now a "Recovery", if something meaningful isn't done soon to correct the misbalance, we'll be finding ourselves soon knee deep in Great Depression 2.0).

It sickens me that the new-age Robber Barons are praised for the virtue of robbing the poor to feed the rich. And it confounds me that many of the people who are the targets of these Robber Barons continue to vote against their own best interests simply because they've been hoodwinked into believing that the values and principles of Robber Barons are, in fact, their own.