Thursday, December 29, 2011

Captives of Ourselves

I received an e-mail the other day, in which the writer agreed with me that Congress could look to its own pockets when they begin reducing the burden on taxpayers. My correspondent then went on to imply that all the world’s problems would be resolved if only the man in the White House were replaced by almost anyone else. I’m not so sure.
While I am not really pleased with the way the country has been led of late, neither am I really keen on having a president who thinks getting the government off our backs and into our bedrooms, subject to a particular interpretation of a version of the bible that isn’t mine, is the kind of freedom our founders had in mind. In fact, I’m certain it is not.

There are real problems facing this country, and they are not what church you attend (or that you attend at all), what kind of partner you may hold dear, or who owns your body. And just changing the president isn’t going to make us whole again. And we need to be made whole.

Right now, all across this country, young people are being deprived of  the kind of education that will fit them for the world as it exists and will be. Some states and localities have realistic and relevant educational goals, but too many would reduce their schools to "readin’, ritin’, and ‘rithmatic" and the known world when the McGuffey Eclectic Reader was the textbook of choice. The current administration wants to change that. The challengers seem to want more copies of McGuffey.

Another issue that has been made the center of political argument is health care. Many people seem to have been convinced that the planned changes in how we deliver health care will kill us. The new plan has evolved because we now have the most costly and marginally effective health care of any developed nation. So why haven’t those who challenge the new health care program come up with a solution before now? And why should I have confidence in whatever would replace the program initiated by this administration? Did turning over part of our national security to contractors make Iraq and Afghanistan successes? Do you get your mail on time?

One more argument that I read regularly is that the current administration wants to "tax the rich," as if that were some kind of new idea that will bring down the country. The argument most often advanced against that is that the "rich" will stop investing in "job creation" if they are taxed at what most of us would consider a fair rate. Does that mean they have been investing in job creation and we didn’t know it? Oh, I mean here in our country, not in places where the prevailing wage and standard of living are in the dollar-a-day range.

And finally, who makes the laws? Not the president. Congress writes the laws (or their lobbyists do), and the president executes them. The courts interpret and enforce them. And we, the people, pay for them.

We are captives of ourselves, and we are being asked to pay the ransom.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The great sadness isn’t that youth is wasted on the young. No, what is really sad is that old age is wasted on the old! When you’re young, regardless of your mistakes, you have the time and the opportunity to do it over.

If you make a mistake when you are young, it’s like correcting an essay before you turn it in to the teacher. And if you can’t erase what you have done, you can at least correct the spelling, change the font or the colors. Once you reach a certain age you no longer are limited to the essay, you’re writing a book. That’s a lot harder to re-write. It takes more out of you.

Besides, you aren’t turning it in to the teacher. You are the teacher. You should know better, not make stupid mistakes, not need to erase and begin again. And if it’s a long book, not just a short story, there are so many corrections to make, or that you would like to make. And of course, so much of it will be fiction.

So what starts out to be a short paragraph now covers many pages. It may be that when you began you had no idea where you were going, but now, as you get older, you should be able to read the timetables, the road signs and maps, and know where you are headed before you get there. Time to stop and change direction, take a detour, make side trips. Still, when you get to the end, there you are. Your manuscript is heavy, it has many words, but is it a "good read?"

You can fill your book with a lot of short stories, a collection of essays, even just paragraphs and one-liners, but even so, the words will tell the story of your life. If only you could know how it would read when you began, would you write it differently?

There is often real tragedy in the young mis-spending youth. But it might better if we didn’t have to waste aging on the old.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Living with it

I’m indebted to one of my readers for this week’s theme. He wrote: "Here's something to consider for your next blog: Do our ‘leaders’ in Washington really think that all of us will be fooled with inflation rates artificially suppressed with the omission of food and energy data? They must live in a vacuum to not have noticed the large increases during the last several years in grocery and restaurant bills, gasoline at the pump and home heating. Add those little things to the budgets of families with kids in college or with a member undergoing extensive medical treatment, and their inflation is run-away."

It isn’t hard to answer this. One only has to recall a previous election when one of the presidential candidates was totally amazed by the check-out scanner when he visited a grocery store "just like everybody else." What emerged wasn’t so much an encounter between the techno-present and the cash-register past, but rather a picture of the isolation in which our leaders live.

Do you really think those people earning $180,000+ per year (with an equal amount for retirement for life even after one term) plus free health care, are really going to the grocery store for the milk? And do you wonder that they aren’t aware of the price of gasoline that they use in their Hummers and SUVs? Then you are the one out of touch with reality. They are not all like that, of course, but one can’t help but feel that the majority are.

In the beginning those who chose to offer their lives and sacred honor also pledged their fortunes to the advancement of our nation. If they received pay it hardly covered the cost of a room in a boarding house, much less transportation from the far-flung domains they represented (all 13 of them). There wasn’t a "shining city on a hill" to go to, only Philadelphia, and the roads from Savannah or Richmond or Boston weren’t even paved. (And before you take umbrage at what you may perceive as a disparaging remark about Philadelphia, let me state that it was my father’s birthplace, and the city where my wife spent her teenage years, and that I hold it in high regard.)

Anyway, the simple answer to my reader’s question is: No, I don’t think the people who govern us are really connected to us anymore. Somewhere in all that travel, over all the years, they have lost the map that guided them because on the same journey they stopped at private houses, not public houses, accepting the hospitality without admitting a quid pro quo, or even getting out of the carriage to acknowledge the horses pulling them along. And so many have forgotten how to make change.

That will be . . . Uh, Umm, I can’t figure out the change without my scanner/calculator/cash drawer. But that’s for another time.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Skewed View

Okay, I’ve avoided it as long as I could. I dislike politics, dislike politicians, and more importantly, no longer trust the people to make sound judgements about what our elected representatives are doing with our lives.

Could it be that I’m hot today because I just received notice from my "secondary payer" that my insurance premiums and prescription costs will increase (again) in the new year? Could that have anything to do with the fact that the economy is so stagnant that wages, interest, pensions and social security have not increased in two or more years, but the cost of health care insurance has? Does that have anything to do with the coming health care reform in 2014, so the insurance companies and drug companies and for-profit health care providers can set the baseline for cost control as high as possible? Could it be that the design I see is a mosaic of cheating and stealing and lying by those who profess to want to give us what’s best for us? Why is it okay for the people who "govern" us at the local, state and national level to rail against the government (that provides their salaries and health care and retirement) and tell us they know what is best for us, while at the same time telling us that their opponents only want to screw us?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the governors want to see the governed reduced to total helplessness by making us not only unhealthy but uneducated, so that we will not have the power to challenge their skewed and screwed version of the world until they have taken all they want from all of us.

There! Rant doesn’t pay the rent, but it sometimes makes poverty bearable.