Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Occupying Wall Street versus the GOP and MSM

CNN and FOX are refusing to even acknowledge that Occupying Wall Street exists. Romney accuses the protesters of class warfare (a lovely joke, that one). But something is going on. There appears to be as much anger on the left as there was on the right when the Tea Party first appeared -- before it was coopted by Dick Armey et al. Today, on the one side, we have a lot of angry, mostly young(ish) people who use the new media to communicate and who are springing up in OWS groups around the country. It feels very organic to me. They can't agree on what they want, but they are angry. On the other hand, you have the GOP, refusing to even consider Obama's jobs bill and stimulus spending package and refusing to acknowledge that the "99%" have issues that are worthy of being addressed. Instead, it has been one bill after another introduced or blocked at the state and federal levels that are designed to suppress (democratic) voters, cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, destroy unions, deny women's rights, etc. It is all about power.

I consider myself a pragmatic progressive and I have totally supported Obama since I first heard him speak so many years ago. He has lived up to my expectations as POTUS, leading us, albeit slowly, in a direction that I think is good for the country. I have zero patience or tolerance for his critics, the so-called emoprogs, who apparently live to criticize his every move.

Having said that, I have watched the evolution of the OWS movement (which may be too structured a term at this point to really describe what is happening) from a bit of a distance. As a child of the 60s, I can understand the thrill of a protest and making "a statement", but I am too involved with running my own business and trying to take care of an unemployed and depressed husband and a disabled adult son to do much more than observe. As those of you who follow my tweets know, I am more focused on 2012 and what needs to be done to take back the House, hold the Senate and reelect POTUS. I have listened to and watched some others whom I respect withhold their support and withhold their judgment of OWS because the goals or objectives haven't been clear. Lately, however, some of the brighter minds have started providing some advice and nudging.

We have seen what was started and accomplished with the Arab Spring when the young people were angry and highly motivated, when they rose up against those whom they saw as oppressors. In this country, we also have the benefits of laws to protect freedom of speech and a tech-savvy youth.

I am a little nervous about where this is all going and what the impact will be on 2012 because there is so much at stake in that election. However, I generally support the way the OWS groups are protesting. If I were the GOP and MSM, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss what is happening. When people are backed into a corner, they will fight to survive. A lot of greed led to the near collapse of our financial systems just three years ago and a lot of people got hurt. The lessons have apparently been forgotten. As the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow dramatically, the gap between the haves and the have-nots, as the middle class continues to shrink, something is going to give. I'm not convinced that anyone can control or channel it. I just hope that no one does anything stupid on either side.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Safety Nets and Real People

Sometimes 140 characters just isn't enough. Senator Rubio's comments last night about how we have become weak as a nation due to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare need a response. He wants to be President some day, so he needs to understand the people he wants to lead. (We could start with the fact that Social Security is not an entitlement program, it is a program that all working individuals pay into over the course of their lifetimes (unless they are public employees...). If you are employed by someone else, your employer pays half and you pay half. If you are self-employed, as I am, you pay both sides. )

The current GOP/tea party meme is (apparently) that we should take care of our own. I mean, who wouldn't agree with that? You love your family. Your mom or dad is getting older, move them in and make sure they are cared for -- an extended family like in the old days. But we live longer now. What happens when they start to need assistance with daily living activities, like showering, going to the bathroom, dressing, feeding themselves? What happens if they fall and break a hip and need to be hospitalized or need skilled nursing care? What happens when they develop dementia and have to be supervised 24/7 or they may wander outside and get lost? Well, you basically have four choices: You can look the other way and abandon them. You can hire someone to come into your home or apartment and take care of them (expensive, even on a part-time basis). You can put them in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility (extremely expensive). You can quit your job and do it yourself, except then you won't have the money for rent, food, etc. You won't have health insurance and, of course, without Medicare, neither will your parent(s). Without a lot of money, without health care, without resources, you wait for them to die.

The same thing applies to a disabled child (who hopefully becomes a disabled adult). I walked away from a very good executive career when my son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. That decision has impacted our lives in a lot of negative ways financially -- but it was an easy decision then and would be now. Having a child is a life-long commitment that can't be outsourced. However, I am now nearing retirement age. I have my own business and we get by. My husband lost his job of eight years when his boss closed the business because of his own health issues and he has not been able to find another one. Neither one of us has health insurance, no retirement plan, no 401K. I pray that we make it to 65 so that we can get health coverage again. We just can't afford a $1500 premium each month. Luckily, my son has Medicare and Social Security.

For all of the above very personal reasons -- and everyone has their own story -- I get very, very angry when politicians speak so glibly about doing away with benefits that literally make the difference between life and death for some people, the difference between having a roof over your head and being out on the street. I have always worked, never collected government benefits of any kind. I am proud and believe in being self-sufficient.

On the one hand, we live in this wonderful country of people who open their hearts, homes and wallets when people around the world or next door are hurting and need help. They are people like you and me. I have raised my son by example, buying a meal for a homeless person because no one should go hungry and we can always get by on less. I believe in karma. I do not understand how rich politicians with government-paid health care and extended vacations and all kinds of other benefits can stand up and say that we, the people, aren't good enough, aren't deserving enough for a couple of safety nets to keep us from going under. Why should we live "lives of quiet desperation" in a country as wealthy as this one? Do I work any less hard than they do? Is my worth as a human being less than theirs because I make less money? When all is said and done and we are ultimately judged by the lives we have lived, I really don't think how much money we have earned is going to matter for much. But how we have treated each other along the way -- yes, that will matter.