Tag Archives: mississippi

Obamacare?

10 Nov

Everybody seems to be up in arms about it, either defending it or trying to destroy it.

Ideally, it would have provided something called universal health care. A basic level of health care for everyone, regardless of income. It doesn’t do that. But, that’s what conservatives were afraid it was going to deliver, since that smacks of “socialism” and they drag up old Cold War phobias to make us fear the concept.

So, what we really got was federally mandated health insurance.

Sort of.

From what I can find out, it isn’t universal. If you are low income, you are likely to still not have any health care coverage, so you are still regarded as one of the “leeches” on the system and the reason that health care costs keep rising.

From where I’m sitting, in Mississippi, it looks like business as usual, but great for insurance companies.

Okay, I went through the enrollment process.  The website everyone makes fun of worked just fine for me, and this was a couple of weeks ago when it was all new.  We were offered very limited choices to start off.  One company, that’s it, folks.  Reminds me of the electric company, we’ve got another monopoly going on.  Maybe we’d have had more options if we lived on the coast or in Jackson, but even so, we’re only 30 minutes from Hattiesburg now, and that’s one of the larger cities in Mississippi.  So it’s one company with two plans, and they don’t include the highest coverage, the platinum level.  (Not that it mattered, we couldn’t afford either one we were offered anyhow.)

The two lowest plans did not offer very good coverage, and it included a large deductible.  To add to the injury, the crappy plans cost roughly $850-950 per month for a couple.

The state of Mississippi, like a number of other states that have vocalized their dislike of the “Obamacare” Affordable Health Care Act, has refused to consider expanding their Medicaid program.  Likely it’s due to the impoverished state of the Mississippi economy to begin with.  After all, where would the money come from?

They are being generous.  They will not fine those below the income threshold, which I assume is the poverty line.  Whatever that line is, we’re below it.  So, it is status quo.  No fine, no health care, and nothing has changed at all for us.

But let’s do some math.  Let’s assume that a couple who is working 40 hours a week at minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  That would mean that they got an annual gross income of $30,160.  They are paying an average of 26% of their income to taxes, Social Security, etc.  That’s $7841.60 leaving them with $22,318.40.   Let’s say that they select the lowest cost plan at $850 per month.  Their annual costs will be $10,200.  That leaves them with $12,118.40.

That sounds reasonable, right?  Surely they can live on that, right?

Well, let’s experiment.  The average rent is about $600 per month, totaling $7200.  Their annual income is now down to just $4918.40.

But, they have to get to work, and most of Mississippi doesn’t have mass transportation of any kind.  They don’t live close to work, but they are careful with managing their lone vehicle so they are both able to get to and from work.  Even so, they average 25 miles round trip each day, their vehicle is older so the annual cost of license and tags, combined with the inspection, totals to just $45 per year.  They carry the minimum insurance, but it still costs $90 per month.  Being an older  vehicle, it also does not get good gas mileage, coming in at only 20 mpg, at an average cost of $3.15 per gallon.  It also requires two annual oil changes, which cost $35 each, for another $70 per year.  On average, they have to buy tires every fourth year, which cost $400, adding another $100 to their annual expenses.  They pray it does not break down, as they are already spending a lot on their transportation, a grand total of $2732.19.  That leaves them with $2186.21.

But, remember, they are still left with bills to pay for utilities, clothing expenses, and their grocery bill.  The real problem is that after getting their affordable insurance, paying their rent, and getting to and from work, they are left to figure out how to survive on $182.18 per month.

That won’t even cover their utilities, let alone let them cover their deductible, pay a co-pay, or buy a prescription.  They won’t be able to eat either.

But, a couple earning minimum wage, in the eyes of many, is not below poverty level.

I’m not seeing anything affordable in this.  I’m not seeing anything resembling universal health care either.  I damn sure don’t see anything resembling socialism in it. The only ones who are actually going to have health insurance are the same ones that have it now, barring the ones who can afford it but are too cheap to pay their portion of the premium for their families through the plan offered by their employer.

I can remember those people well.  Back in the “good old days” when I had an employer that offered health insurance and treated their employees as though they were a company asset (like good companies do), we had a giant hike in our health insurance premiums.  They had a meeting with all of us, explained what was happening and why, as well as what their options were in terms of offering us health insurance plans.  They listened to us, then came back with an option.  The costs of extending insurance coverage to our families was going to have to be deducted from our paychecks, and we could elect to have coverage if we so desired.  I desired–I had a kid with a chronic health problem (she was a type 1 diabetic who was often in the hospital).  My co-workers, knowing that I paid about half of my paycheck to health insurance, asked me how I could afford it.  For me it was simple.  I could not afford to NOT have it.  There is a vast difference in the kind of health care one receives with health insurance versus without it, and I had witnessed it first hand.

I also had pretty good insurance.  I didn’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.  Sure, I had a co-pay at the doctor’s office, as well as for prescriptions, but it was reasonable and affordable.  I didn’t have big bills for the hospital stays, and I had both dental and vision coverage as well.

Even if I could afford the insurance plans offered via the so-called Obamacare plan, neither of them included dental or vision insurance.  The co-pays were reasonable, but the deductible was a serious issue.  So was the percentage of coverage on procedures and hospitalization.  With only 60% coverage on these things, how is someone with $182.18 per month to pay utilities and groceries out of, going to pay even a $1000 procedure (far less than a single emergency room visit) which is going to cost $400 out-of-pocket.

The Affordable Health Care Act may have had some great intentions, but some how, along the way, it got left with loopholes and giant black holes that once again put insurance corporations into the drivers’ seat leaving the rest of us clinging to the bumper and terrified.  The worst part is, it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  We have sticker shock, as well as discovering that we’re ordered to choose from models X, Y and maybe model Z for health insurance, but we’re standing here realizing that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.  What kind of problems are waiting to appear?

We, as a population, has little faith in the government in general and even less in the federal government.  It’s notorious for favoring those with mega-money and tromping on the little guy without regard for the welfare of the masses.  It’s all about special interest groups, with an ample seasoning of mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape.

It seems that there is only one escape from the tyranny of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Get elected to Congress.

Yep, they were smart.  They made sure none of them would ever have to deal with this monstrosity that is neither affordable nor healthy.

Shutdown Solutions?

3 Oct

Face it, no matter how hard we try to NOT think about it, we’re all faced with the shut down of the federal government.    Probably the ones feeling it the least are the same people responsible for not agreeing on a compromise for the budget.  While those who are not members of Congress lack the fine detail of why there has been no agreement in our lame duck Congress for a budget, one single fact has become quite obvious to everyone.

Congress failed to do its duty to America and its citizens.

In my eyes, its the equivalent of treason because it goes way past inefficiency and lack of sincere concern.  The shut down isn’t merely a mild inconvenience, it is putting America at genuine risk.

All because they can’t get their own way?

Everybody wants to point their finger at Obama as being the one responsible for everything from the Affordable Health Care Act to the economy.  The reality is that the executive branch does not legislate.  Unless the action was the result of an executive order, it was the result of legislation passed by Congress and then, only then, signed into law by the president.  That means that the so-called Obamacare plan was enacted in a lawful manner by Congress, whether you or I either one actually like it or wanted it.  Our representatives and senators are the responsible parties, not Obama.  If you hate it, hate them.  If you like it, like them.  All Obama did or could do was advise during the legislative stage and sign it into law after Congress had brewed and stewed over it.

So with that understood…understand this.  The government shut down came about because Congress could not reach an agreement on a budget.  It wasn’t the supreme court’s judges or the governor of California or the prime minister of the United Kingdom’s fault, and it’s not Obama’s either.  The responsible parties are the ones that you elected, right in  your home state, and they likely have offices near your home so that they can theoretically keep in touch with their constituents.

You can believe me that I know the name of our two senators and my representative, and I know their email addresses too.  I also know exactly how long it takes for me to receive their form responses to any comments I email them–1-4 months.  Do I think they are particularly responsive to their constituency in this day and age?

Hell no.

Will I vote for any of them ever again.

Double that hell  no.

But you know what?  Incompetent job performance, which is what has resulted in the government shut down, should result in termination.  That creates a bit of a dilemma.  Some of those in Washington probably put sincere effort into trying to do their job, but were hopelessly outgunned by the majority who were refusing to do so.  With so much incompetency though, we are stuck with a blanket solution in order to have a plausible solution at all.

I think a government shut down should have serious repercussions for the ones responsible for causing it.  Things like:

  • No member of Congress should receive pay or any other benefits during a government shutdown, including retirement pay, medical care, per diem, etc.
  • No congressional support staff should receive pay or any other benefits during  a government shut down, and cannot be coerced into performing their duties during the shut down.
  • No member of Congress or congressional support staff shall receive retroactive pay or benefits for the duration of the government shut down.
  • 30 days after the initial day of a government shut down, all senators and representatives will be facing elections in their home states to maintain their seat or be replaced for the duration of their term.  That would at least give us a new Congress that might get something done, as well as reducing the likelihood of any shut down occurring to begin with.  We all know how these career politicians like to protect their cushy jobs.

When the discomfort of shut downs are affecting Congress as much as they are everyone else, perhaps they will work a little harder to try and do their job.  Besides, if they aren’t getting paid or enjoying the many perks of their position, we might save a bit on the budget and make a shut down worthwhile.  And the best part of a shut down? We would have a national opportunity to clean house and get a new crew in that just might do the job the way they are supposed to.

Can we say “congressional job fair” folks?

People Watching

7 Sep

I am a people watcher.  I notice a lot of things about people, and some of them are very subtle cues about their psyche given away by their body language.  When I worked in fields such as corrections and law enforcement, it was very useful.  When I was younger and lacked knowledge about the frequency of people having less than honorable intentions, it was what saved my silly butt when my brain failed to use what is called “common sense”.  People watching is a lifelong habit.

As time as moved forward, the internet was not only born, but grew up and out, swallowing our world.  It has given us access to the thoughts and comments from people from all over the world.  In many cases, it has removed the economic barriers that had previously isolated certain sectors of society from each other.

So what does that mean?

It means that I have the ability to regularly observe the public behavior and comments of those people born into a life of privilege.  You know the sort–their vacations cost more than my house’s total purchase price.  They have never experienced actual hunger, been homeless, or been worried about whether their utilities were going to be shut off before they could scrape together the money to pay the bill.  They have no idea what robbing Peter to pay Paul even means in terms of daily life.  They can have personal trainers, multiple cars, multiple vacations each year, etc.  They also have the ability to go “find” themselves and put their principles ahead of survival.  

When they were graduating (or their children) from high school, their biggest worry was not trying to find a way to pay for college, but rather whether they would be accepted into their first choice college.

But that’s okay.  It is nice that some people can enjoy a life of privilege, and if they inherited it from their grandparents or great-grandparents, well, lucky for them.  It’s hard to not envy that financial state when you are struggling, but I really don’t bear them animosity.  What does torque my psyche is that these people with  a life of privilege feel that they not only have the right, but the obligation, to pass judgement on the rest of the world.

People usually do not choose to be poor or financially struggling.  No one enjoys being hungry, homeless, sick, etc.  Our natures encourage us to try to avoid those states.  They, which in this case, includes me, may have made some poor choices or been the recipient of an unfortunate series of events that lead them to that state.  From there, circumstances can snowball to other issues, with a wide range of observable results.  These things can happen to people who are intelligent, moral, hard-working, and considerate of others.  They may even have a very good education to go with it.

It’s sad but true, money talks in this country.  Without money, if you are sick, you will die, the same as anyone who is poor and sick in a third world country.  Some areas have better indigent health care than others.  In Mississippi, if you do not have children at home, you are unlikely to receive any assistance with any medical needs, from medication to hospitalizations. The state does not consider keeping their population healthy to be financially feasible or a good investment, apparently. It means lower costs for the elderly too–Mississippians tend to die younger than most Americans, reducing the number of years that the elderly receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, etc.  Sounds great on paper, if you are one of the privileged category that can afford good housing, good nutrition,  lifelong insurance and private elderly care.  Poor people tend to believe that they are “lucky” to have minimal health care for their children.  The new national health care plan is painted to be the tool of the devil himself, an affront to the very fabric of American society.

Why do these people of privilege believe that they are responsible for passing judgement on every overweight person they see, everyone who is struggling to make a life for themselves, everyone who asks for help, and everyone else that they may observe in the course of a day?  Who gave them that right?

Somewhere along the way, the capitalism that we all treasure became a corporate based economy that has little to do with the concept of “free enterprise” and a whole lot to do with monopoly and control.  It’s not really capitalism anymore, more like corporatism.  Now we are told that corporations even enjoy many of the rights of a person.

Wonderful, right?

Not until a corporation dies on the battlefield or in a hospital bed of a curable disease.

In most cases, those with a life of privilege have acquired it via the corporatism society we live in today, not due to extraordinary efforts or great inventions. The sad thing is that with the rise of corporatism, we’ve lost compassion.  We illustrated it with the reality show industry featuring Donald Trump pointing his finger and stating “You are fired!”

There is no compassion from corporations.  It’s nothing more than the cogs of a wheel that bring the downsizing from the board of directors to the employee being laid off, all pre-planned like a paint by number painting and never seasoned by compassion, to give the dreaded pink slip to someone who is going home to his or her family with the worst news imaginable.

Even the safety net of the extended family is gone, also courtesy of corporatism and its demise rushed by the corporatism that fuels Hollywood’s representation of society in films and television.  We are now like a nation of three year olds grabbing everything they can reach and shouting “MINE!” at the top of their lungs.

Corporatism has convinced us that we need those “toys” and that he who dies with the most toys wins.  Too many people are working too many hours to buy toys so that they look as though they are living the life of privilege, when instead they could be enjoying the luxury of a real life with enough.  It’s made us a nation of people who trample over other people just to grab one more toy too.

Did you think Hunger Games was a depressing book?  It’s not that much different than the corporate career many face.  Most “die” early on, doomed to a life in the mail room, secretarial pool, or being fired.  A few climb to the next level, if they are greedy enough and willing to stomp on enough other people to do so.  At each level, more die and fewer rise to the next level.  Then, finally, there is a handful of “winners” who get the prize.

I think we need a whole lot more compassion, respect, and consideration for others and to stop entertaining those in positions of privilege with our envy and efforts to rise to their positions.  We need to learn what enough really means.  We need to remove the concept of false shortages and monopoly from our economy and create an air of plenty and competence.  We need to reward excellence and despise greed.

I can dream, right?

Sometimes, I wonder how Gene Roddenberry’s world came into being, what kinds of growing pains it experienced before money went away.  What measure did they use to bargain with others then?

Vacation!

1 Jul

There has been a problem, and it’s all Facebook’s fault.

They kept advertising vacations in locations like Israel or at a nice, hot, sunny beach.

Now maybe to someone who is starved for warmth, that’s appealing.  Me, I hear Israel, and I think Middle East, and that isn’t a place that is apt to make me relax one bit.  They have entirely too much going on there right now, from political upheaval to religious issues, and my idea of a good time does not include wearing a burka, trying to decipher where I could or couldn’t go as a woman, or watching soldiers carry machine guns.

I have betrayed the fact that I’m not very worldly.  I’m terrified of tanks and soldiers with guns, and always have been.  It’s bad enough to see them on television.  I don’t want to vacation where I have to navigate check points or be “protected” by soldiers.  It’s bad enough if it’s your own country that is living like that, I sure don’t want to go visit one for “fun”.

No, I’m not anti-gun.  I’m anti-war.  I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I see wars as killing sons and daughters.  I’ve lost one, not due to war, but I know what it feels like.  I can’t imagine sacrificing a child to the war games of politicians.  I’m also not anti-soldier–I have friends and relatives who have or are currently serving in the military.  I don’t have a panic attack if I see them in uniform either.  Not even if they have a gun.  They aren’t on patrol.

I guess I regard the entire Middle East as this huge war zone, with periodic spaces under truces that don’t include me, as I’m not Muslim or Jewish.  I also have no need to make a pilgrimage to an ancient religious site there.

Plus it’s hot.

And sandy.

I spent most of my life in the American Southwest, which is predominantly semi-arid.  I’ve had enough “beach” for a lifetime–a beach is just more hot sand to me.  Never mind that the southwest is short on water–they have ample “beach”.  Even on the Gulf Coast, I prefer to visit the beaches in the winter.  Or at night.  Hot sand has zero thrills for me.  I don’t even want a sun tan.  I’ve spent the last thirty years avoiding that, why start trying to get one now?

So, I started thinking…

IF I could afford a vacation anywhere, where would I really want to visit?

Someplace cool.  Like really cool.   Not rock star cool, but ice and snow cool.  Like Mississippi winter cool, most likely.  Greenland and Iceland come up on the list fairly quickly.

The reality is, I don’t have a vacation budget this year.  I’m like most of America, and have a hand-to-mouth existence that is plagued with gaps between the two.  Our primary vehicle has broken down–our back up vehicle, our old mini-van, has expired tags.  We’re not going anywhere right now.

So how on earth to take a vacation?

Vacations for me are usually a camping trip somewhere.  Sometimes, I’ve gone on camping road trips, camping along the way to visit someone or something.  It’s entertaining and relaxing, and I got pretty good at setting up/tearing down.  Since those days, I’ve become disabled.  Setting up camp with Greg is now an endeavor that takes a lot out of us, even as we’ve simplified things immensely.  We’re also in need of a new tent now, as our old standby one with its easy set up and internal frame, has seen better days and leaks so badly we just use a tarp over the rain fly.  Without a functional and legal vehicle, we’re not going camping either–besides, I no  longer can cope with summer heat without air conditioning.  Our camping, when we can go, is confined to the other three seasons of the year.

But…

I’m a devious so and so sometimes.  I’ve heard of staycations.  Most of them sound like they aren’t all that much fun, or even save that much money.  But I thought about it, and what do I like to do when I go camping?

Obviously fishing is a big deal, but when we go out of Mississippi, I don’t fish, as I don’t buy an out-of-state license.  So what do I do then?

I hang out and do much of nothing, actually.  I do cook, especially if we have a group, but with the loss of the use of my arm, I have to have a fair amount of help to do that too.  So, it looks like I don’t do much except deal with meals, and when it’s just Greg & I, we tend to do very simple meals at that.

I’m going to hang my hammock in the yard on Wednesday, after the radio show is done tomorrow.  I’m going to take one of the books I need to read, a pillow, and go lay in the hammock and do nothing at all except read and watch people go by.  Maybe I’ll swing the hammock a bit.  I might get my little battery personal fan out to create an artificial breeze.  I might even take the laptop out for a bit, and see if the wi-fi reaches that far.

Sound silly?

Maybe it is.  But just a day of being silly can make a lot of difference in how we approach problems and figure out a way to solve them.  We could definitely use some increased brainpower!

Red Dog and fireworks

30 Jun

I have talked about Red Dog a lot over the last dozen years.  She has been an important part of my life.  Right now, as I write this, she’s just outside the kitchen door, protesting being outside.  She prefers her usual activity, also known as “Occupy Floor”.  It’s a movement she believes in devoutly, as long as it is in my vicinity.

Red Dog has a strange personality.  Most people, on observing her for short periods of time, regard her as “very loyal.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doubting her loyalty at all, at least as long as buttered toast isn’t in the equation.  On the other hand, since I know her very well, I know it’s more than loyalty.  It’s a severe case of separation anxiety.  It is her job to protect me, and that means she has to be with me at all times.  She has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that she is with me.

On one occasion, we were visiting friends.  She was young then, less than two years old, and she was more than a little suspicious of new people and situations still.  She lacked the confidence that more experience would give her.  We were in a crowded living room, and all of a sudden, I realized that she was panicking.  She was on the opposite side of the room, with people and furniture blocking her access to me, even though I wasn’t more than a dozen feet away.  I tried to get people to move to give her a clear path, warning them that she was panicking, but people who are not accustomed to the level of devotion she exhibited weren’t accustomed to dealing with panic either.  She collected herself, then sailed in a single leap over a coffee table and leather sofa to land beside me, managing somehow to avoid crashing into the stairs beside me.  Needless to say, after that, when I moved, she tended to move immediately as well.  The people who saw it also realized that when I said to move, that maybe they should too.

On another occasion, I was at the house of a man I was dating.  He was hosting a seafood boil with his neighbor, his brother.  There was going to be a lot of people and children, and I knew that supervising her was not going to be easy.  The solution was to leave her inside the house.  Unfortunately, she was not in agreement and decided that escape was critically important.  She exited through a window.  It just would have been nice if it had been an open window.

Obviously, she prefers to be at my side.  She has developed more restraint over the years, but she still is very unhappy at being left behind.   Unfortunately, the world is not particularly receptive to her desire to remain at my side, and she’s had to be left behind for everything from jobs to hospital stays, as well as on a few trips.  She has been boarded, and while I’d not claim she was an easy boarder, she is usually manageable, as long as there is no possible escape route.

During our time in New Orleans, we lived very near the Zephyr baseball stadium.  After almost all home games, there was a fireworks display.  It was an impressive one too, far more elaborate than the small town displays I was accustomed to seeing on the 4th of July.  However, among Red Dog’s skill sets, coping with loud noises such as fireworks and gunfire was not among them.  To make it even worse, New Orleans has fireworks for more than baseball and 4th of July–it’s also wildly popular for New Year’s Eve.

It was a New Year’s Eve when Red Dog made a very surprising decision.  I was hosting my then-boyfriend and his younger children at my house for a rather low-key celebration.  At midnight, we assembled on the kitchen steps to watch a rather impressive neighborhood fireworks display.  I tried to keep Red Dog inside, but she was facing a true dilemma: she could remain inside where it was safe, but she was alone OR she could come outside with the dangerous noise where I was at.  She came out, she darted back inside, she wanted out…back and forth she went, probably a dozen times.  Finally, she sat on the step beside me as we ooo’d and ahhh’d over the fireworks.  She began to watch them, as I put my arm around her, absentmindedly scratching and petting her.  Fireworks became a good thing.  Over the coming years we lived there, everything changed about fireworks.  Instead of cringing when it started, she would start barking at the door, demanding to be let out.  She loved to watch the fireworks.  She still does.

Okay, that’s totally weird.  Seriously, how many dogs LIKE fireworks?  She is the only one I’ve ever encountered that does.  Don’t get me wrong, she does not like firecrackers–they sound too much like gun shots and gun shots scare her half to death.  She likes the colorful displays in the night sky, even when accompanied by loud booms and shrieking whistles.  She stands and stares at them fixedly, and I have the peculiar sensation that she is remembering that long-ago New Year’s display when I was petting her as we watched them with our friends.

Our other dogs hate them.  They have no desire to watch, and prefer their crates during thunderstorms and fireworks alike.  Red isn’t thrilled with thunder, but I have seen her standing in downpours, complete with thunder and lightning, if I was anticipated home from work.  She has sat through a storm with me on a memorable camping trip where our sole protection when the clouds opened up was to sit on the tarp and flip it over our heads while we waited for it to stop.  I’ve also seen her jump a few seconds before I heard the clap of thunder–she’s apparently feeling the change in electric field before the sound arrives.

In the USA, the 4th of July is a date with many missing animals, terrified by the sounds, they run and try to escape.  Usually, they end up lost and sometimes it’s worse.  Often, they never make their way home again.  It’s a terrible time of year for dogs and cats, with the frightening noises and sulphurous stench of the gunpowder to make the explosions.  Don’t leave your pets outside unattended, it will save you a lot of heartache and it may save their lives.  Just bring them indoors with you, and provide them with a safe space when you are gone, whether its a crate to prevent them from eating inappropriate things (like your sofa, the carpet, trash, electrical cords, etc.) or so that they have a safe “den” feeling to hide from the noise.  Living in the South, I use wire crates for ventilation, but typically will drape them with a small sheet or towel to increase the feeling of security.  Other pets may prefer to curl up on the sofa or bed, some may prefer UNDER the sofa or bed–you know your pet best.

Be safe and keep your pet safe this 4th of July.  Don’t become another statistic.

Stupidity of Daylight Savings time and election mania?

4 Nov

I’ve ranted about it before, and I will rant about it again today…and twice a year for as long as the idiocy continues.  Daylight savings time is an idiotic concept, dreamed up and perpetuated by ridiculous propaganda that far too many people buy into.  If it saves so much energy…why don’t we just STAY on that time?  What do people really think they are saving?

But speaking about ridiculous propaganda, have  you paid much attention to the stuff circulating on the social media sites as people wave the figurative flag of their favored candidate?

It’s made me realize, with a two party system, we really are given a choice.

Between a rock and a hard place.

That’s about all the difference I really see between the parties.  The parties and their candidates are so far out of touch with what life is like for Average Joe and Average Jane that we may as well elect Brad Pitt for president.

Heck, he might even do a better job.  If not, well, at least he’d make interesting photo ops, right?

Neither party represents what we’ll call the “working man” of American society.  They don’t have a clue what our lives are like.

Like Mitt Romney’s wife, featured in an article about how she went shopping at Sam’s Club.  She was immensely proud of her ability to feed a large gathering of family for only $4.50 per person for the meal.  I don’t think she’d be too happy with my food budget, capped at $5 per person per day.  Some months, if there are extra bills to pay, well…the food budget gives up a portion of it’s funding to cover the deficit.  She’d even be more horrified to discover that if I’m serving guests, it comes out of the monthly budget, not an extra slush fund.  So does holiday cooking, as a matter of fact.  While the Romneys might not be concerned at the reports of higher prices for serving up the traditional turkey dinner later this month, for the rest of us, that IS a concern.  We can’t spend what we’re not earning, and there are still not enough jobs to get everyone back to work that has been looking for work since this recession started.  It’s unfortunate that with each passing year, we’ve seen more jobs going overseas too.

For those of us struggling to make ends meet, to pay our bills, and to just get by, while family members are unemployed or underemployed…having to deal with an English-is-a-second-language customer service rep in some foreign country is really a slap in the face.  It’s another reminder of how many jobs we’ve lost to countries with lower standards of living and more relaxed workplace laws.

In the stores, it’s hard to buy American made goods.  It’s harder yet to buy from companies that have American based customer service.  I don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation that if I buy an item or service with American money while I am in the United States, that customer service will be provided in the United States as well.

Then, there is health care.  I’ll admit, I am not thrilled with the Obamacare package, but…I wasn’t thrilled with nothing either.  Do I think that it’s the best that our government could come up with?  No…and it shouldn’t be so long that nobody can possibly read it and understand what it says either.  That’s the problem with these bills–they are excessively complicated and too often contain unrelated stuff.  Each bill should be one thing, written in a manner that any average person can understand it, but they aren’t.  Washington has become a place of bureaucrats worried about perpetuating their own existence, whether elected or appointed or hired.

The part that I think stinks is the idea that people are to be forced to buy health insurance.  Seriously, I don’t know anyone who can afford health insurance and opts to just not buy it for some reason.  I’ve priced it, long before Obama was ever heard of, and there was no way I could afford it, even just major medical was about 30% of my monthly take home pay, and there wasn’t any way I could give up that much of my monthly income and survive.  Utilities, rent, and automobile insurance already took care of about 80% of my net pay!  That left very little for luxuries such as food, gasoline, clothing, medical expenses, and assorted sundries.  Taking a second job wasn’t an option, really–my job required extensive overtime already, and while I was paid for it…that extra overtime is what was used for those “luxuries” I bought.

So I read the things that the candidates say, I read the things that their opponents say about them.  I read the things their supporters say about them.  I read the “fact checker” articles.

I’ve concluded that I was right.  We do have a choice between a rock and a hard place.  It then comes down to specific issues that are…or are not…supported by the two parties.

What concerns me?

  1. Women’s rights, including reproductive rights.  I’m pro-choice, and before anyone gets their underwear in a wad over that…let me clarify that statement.  I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion.  There is a very clear difference.  While I don’t think that abortion is the right choice for me, in any circumstances that I have actually faced, I also don’t think that it is the government’s job to make that decision for me…or any other woman.   I don’t think my boss should be able to decide if my insurance is going to cover birth control either.  There are many reasons and many circumstances for a woman’s choice, and few women are going to choose to use abortion as birth control if they have any conscience or concept of right and wrong.  If they don’t have those things, well, do we really want her reproducing anyhow?  Morality cannot be legislated, and there should not be an attempt to do so.  Laws are to protect society as a whole, and allow individuals to not have their personal rights infringed upon by others.  While that includes freedom of religion, it does not give anyone the right to impose their religious standards and expectations on others.  Period.
  2. Right to bear arms.  Okay, these mass murders we’ve had at schools and theaters have been horrific and shouldn’t have happened.  Yes, I know many other civilized countries have banned weapons of all kinds.  That doesn’t mean I support weapons being banned in this country.  Regulated and restricted perhaps, but not banned.  Assault rifles aren’t needed for hunting or self-protection.  Automatic rifles and handguns aren’t either.  Armor penetrating ammunition and weapons are also not particularly appealing to think of my neighbor having and using for target practice.  I think we need to address the underlying causes of these incredible acts of violence more than act on restricting gun ownership excessively.  Do we ban bathtubs for the accidents they cause?  Have pools been banned due to the high numbers of children that have drowned in them?  Do we still allow downhill skiing after people die in skiing accidents?  How about cars and car accidents and their fatalities?
  3. Same sex marriage.  I’m not gay, and I never was.  I’m not even bi-sexual.  I am in a traditional marriage, even if our wedding was far from traditional.  My parents weren’t gay, neither is my daughter.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t support the concept of equality among all Americans.  While I don’t deny that states can allow or forbid same sex marriage according to their citizens’ wishes, I don’t think that the federal government should be able to override those states’ rights to choose either.  Currently, federal law does not allow federal employees in a legal same sex marriage to enjoy the same benefits for their spouses that someone in a so-called traditional marriage enjoys.  I think this is wrong.  I have little hope of Mississippi, my current home state, is going to legalize same sex marriages anytime soon.  It’s got far too high of a percentage of ultra conservative citizens for that to happen.  But, if it was allowed…I don’t think the federal government should deny benefits to those people’s spouses because they don’t agree with it.
  4. Education.  It wasn’t working, so they tried “No Child Left Behind.”  That’s working about as well as new math did.  It’s absolutely not working, instead of educating kids and preparing them for the real world, whether that includes college or a job, kids are spending the year prepping for their standardized test.  Something else needs to be done, and this ineffective method of measuring both school and teacher performance needs replaced with something a bit more effective.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you went to a fast food restaurant, local store, or other location with staff that needs nothing beyond high school to get a job…and they actually could SPEAK American Standard English?  How many high school students can actually write down a coherent telephone message that anyone could read and understand, let alone write an essay for a college class?
  5. Jobs/Industry.  Face it.  We lack an industrial base and we’re importing too many goods.  We need jobs, we have willing workers.  We need to figure out how to get people back to work, back to creating the things that made America into what it was.  We need factories running, producing goods that are high quality and reliable.  We’ve all had enough of cheap, shoddy, imported garbage.
  6. National Transit System.  We rebuilt Europe’s trains after World War II, or so I’m told, but we can’t get trains to cover the USA in anything resembling efficient and cost effective.  It costs more to ride a train than it does to take a plane or even drive, and Amtrak is subsidized by the federal government.  Few cities have train stations where passengers and small freight can be economically transported to the next city, county, state, or anywhere.  In addition, the transit times when trains are used are utterly ridiculous.  We need efficient mass transportation beyond the urban bus and subway systems.  We need it both within states and to other cities and states, providing efficient and low cost transportation coast to coast.  Putting such a rail system into place would employ thousands of people, from creating the infrastructure to service jobs when it is up and running.  It would appeal to foreign tourists as well, especially since most industrialized countries have train systems already.
  7. Legalization of hemp & medical marijuana.  Hemp is a good crop, and it’s good for a lot of applications.  It can be used for making rope, paper, and clothing, as well as a host of other things.  It’s a good fiber, and more durable than cotton.  Medical marijuana is a good product too, when properly used.  Even recreational marijuana is less of a problem with the users than those people using alcohol.  Taxed and regulated, it would remove marijuana from the hands of drug cartels, reducing their income and clout not only in the United States, but in the countries where their supplies of marijuana are grown and prepared for smuggling into the United States.  The tax revenue would enhance the American budget, maybe even bringing the annual deficit down a notch, especially if recreational use was legalized.
  8. Energy.  We’re going to have to bite the bullet and come up with alternative energy plans.  We’ve seen the disasters nuclear reactors can deliver.  We’re seeing the disaster of the oil industry, each and every day.  We need inexpensive and efficient energy to recreate a strong economy.  We don’t have it, therefore, we need to figure out how to get it.  If we got a man to the moon, not once, but several times, and did it with computers that had less power than the old Nintendo 64…surely we can figure this problem out.  Quit subsidizing the oil industry and let them struggle on their own, they’ve been milking America too long.  Devote attention to alternative energy that is less costly, both to the consumer and the environment, and put America at the forefront again.
  9. Taxes.  Corporations.  Okay, taxes are something nobody wants to pay.  We’re all a bit tired of corporate entities making huge profits while paying little in terms of taxes, and then adding to the insult by outsourcing portions of their business to foreign countries.  We’re sick of them lobbying Congress for favoritism.  We’re tired of paying the bill, you might say.  It’s time to start taking a good hard look at how corporations are affecting the way we elect politicians, and how they affect the bills that go through Congress to become laws.  It’s a form of corruption, folks.  Plain and simple.  These corporations are doing nothing more than paying politicians for favors, no matter how it is sugar coated.
  10. Foreign aid.  I really do not understand why we are borrowing money only to give it away to other countries.  That makes no sense to me.  If I am unable to pay my bills without borrowing money, it would be foolish to give my money to other people after I borrowed it.  Why is the federal government continuing to do something that any of us would look askance at a private individual doing?  I think it’s time that foreign aid is cut back, if not eliminated, and there should be more accountability as to why we’re giving it to anyone.

There are a lot more issues too, more than I could possibly put in here, but those are the top ten ones.  Neither party is very concerned about all of them.  None of the candidates are either.  So who do I vote for?

I’ll cast a vote in less than forty eight hours now.

I have no idea who I’m going to vote for right now.  Just when I think one candidate or another has trumped finally, they show signs of obviously reneging.  I was never a fan of Obama, so I have to admit that he has done better than I thought he would.  At the same time, the Romney/Ryan ticket isn’t exactly thrilling either.  I’m not a Romney fan, and the idea of something happening that would catapult Ryan into the Oval Office makes me gag.  Biden’s not a rocket scientist either though, and I actually had someone crack a joke about Biden being Obama’s “insurance policy” so that no one would assassinate him–they were afraid that Biden would then become president.

Once again, it seems that I’m faced with a choice of who I am going to vote against rather than who I am going to go vote for.  Which candidate has the most potential to cause harm?  Are we better off with the devil we know…or a new devil?

Oh will I be glad when Tuesday is over.  I’ll have my mind back, as well as cease to see the endless parade of pro-this candidate or anti-that candidate on my Facebook wall!

Mark, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and our wedding

28 Oct

Mark is our research associate, assistant executive producer, and friend…and lives a considerable distance from where we live.  Too far to drive to join in on our wedding festivities, he can only experience the fun long distance, like a lot of our other friends and family.  Even so, he sent us a gift that has us grinning, despite our woes and worries about the upcoming ceremony and loss of the officiating minister.

That’s where the New Riders of the Purple Sage come in.

You see, we’re having a hippy wedding, and the New Riders obviously date from that era when hippies ruled supreme.  In addition, Buddy Cage, their slide steel guitarist, is appearing on the Dawn of Shades on January 3rd as we wind up the “Music in America” series.  He’s a super nice guy, in addition to being a devoted musician.

Mark went over the top.  He got the entire band to sign a cd to send to us.

With a funny quirk.  You see, “Gia” isn’t a common name…but “Gina” is a lot more common.

So…they addressed the cd to “Greg & Gina”.

In a way, it makes it even more special, because of the mix up on the name.  It’s intended for us, and so what if an extra letter landed in the inscription on the cover?

I know the sentiments are genuine, the intentions were pure, and that’s what really counts.  It’s a super cool wedding gift for a couple who are having a hippy wedding celebration, right?

Now, to just find someone with a portable cd boom box so we can play the cd during our gathering on the beach…and if we don’t find someone, well, a laptop can play it even if the speakers are less-than-wonderful, right?

It’s our special day, and as we frantically wind up on the last minute things for the celebration…we’re getting more excited.  It’s a big deal, even if it’s done with a firm grip on the fun factor.  It’s even more wonderful since our friends and family from near and far are keeping us in their thoughts, sending us wonderful wishes, and hopes for the best in our future together.

I’m even feeling as though the Ladies of Fate are smiling down on us, despite the fact that the original official for our wedding was called away by a serious family illness at the last minute.  We found a replacement this morning, and if we couldn’t have our friend do the honors, she’s the one I would have chosen by choice, so she’s not even “second choice” or a “make-do” solution to our need.  The Rev. Linda Giardelli will be officiating, and our wedding can amazingly go on schedule with no need for “Plan B.”

I’ve been so busy today, I haven’t had time to get nervous…as we deal with last minute details, issues, and regular life stuff.  I guess I’ll save it for 1:45 p.m. tomorrow as we prepare for that big moment with everyone staring at us, right?

 

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