Guest post: What Is This? Bizarro World?

Today’s post is brought to you by Deacon Blue of Holy Shit from Deacon Blue, he answered the call I put out a few weeks ago to hear from folks who are being impacted daily by this crazy economy,what follows is raw and open and a place I think many of us are in if we were to be honest. Thanks Deacon for being so open and sharing with us.  If anyone else wants to write about their struggles with the economy, I would love to have a guest post…hit me up at blackgirlinmaine@gmail.com.

My dad spent his entire career in blue-collar work, as a union electrician. There is no doubt that he spent most of that career, and all of my truly formative years, in the middle class.

I have a college education that I’m still paying for (and that my mom and dad helped pay for as well), a white-collar career, and I would call myself anything but middle class. In fact, I think this year I officially started skirting the “poor” category.

Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I’m on a state health-care plan now because my income has dropped so low. My family could, technically, qualify for one of those food cards that replaced the food stamps of old. The main reason I haven’t taken advantage of that is that, unlike with health-care, I still CAN afford food, and I’m not about to take from a program that other people still need more than me.

I find myself fearing at times that my dad, who has owned multiple houses in his life (and for some years has owned at least two, renting out one of them) must think I’m sort of idiot slacker. And he’s made enough hints and mentions that I must be doing something wrong with my spending or budgeting.

It irks me. Sometimes because he’s right. But mostly because he just doesn’t get it. And frankly, neither do many of my peers, some of whom are in similar straits as myself.

As I look back, I can see where shit started to fall apart for the middle class. After World War II, the middle class was created. Men and women (mostly men) who worked good paying jobs and got family benefits and eventually retirement benefits. They were able to buy homes, invest money and send their kids to college.

And then it began to fall apart, as more and more, those college educated kids found that they weren’t doing the jobs they supposedly got educated to do, and weren’t getting paid like their parents were. No, instead of defined work hours and hourly income, decent benefits, and overtime pay, we got salaries and some very fluid and changeable benefits. We had to work past normal work times, often with no compensation at all (except maybe “comp days,” which don’t exactly pay any bills). We were expected to give and give and give, but nobody compensated us adequately for what we did. And as the economy has globalized and now as the economy has begun to flounder, we are also expendable…or held hostage to our jobs, expected to do EVEN MORE, with even less compensation.

In essence, we were sold a bill of goods, and now if we say we don’t want to be worked to death for little pay and sometimes no benefits, we are told we aren’t team players. We aren’t hungry enough. We aren’t dedicated.

Welcome to Bizarro World.

Just a junkie…news junkie that is

Nope, I couldn’t do it. I could not go 24 hours ignoring the news, this morning when I woke up, I automatically turned on NPR as I do every morning to wake up. Let’s just say by the time I remembered I was taking a hiatus from the news, I had already listened for at least 20 minutes…oh well.

However I was listening to coverage from a McCain rally in some town and nearly fell out the bed when I heard a woman state that she felt that most people were economically just as well off now as they were eight years ago when Bush took office therefore she was a McCain-Palin woman because we didn’t need Obama’s socialist ways. Um…. are there really people that silly that they live in a vacuum where they don’t realize that economically most of us are beyond fucked.

I don’t know about you but eight years ago, the spousal unit and I had amazing jobs that paid well, we had great health insurance that didn’t even cost us $100 a month yet we had medical/dental and vision coverage. The mister and I used to take weekend jaunts, had no problem paying our bills and overall were leading a pretty charmed life financially speaking that is. Let’s see in the last eight years, I have obtained a masters degree and expected my earnings to go up instead compared to where we were eight years ago, we have lost an estimated $40,000 since that time…yes, you read that. We have lost $40,000 compared to where we were eight years ago. Oh, did I mention that we had no debt eight years ago.

I suspect we are not the only people who are suffering under the Bush regime, nice middle-class Americans who have one foot dangling in the middle class box but slowly spiraling into the lower class despite all the guarantees that education used to bring that one would be financially sound.

See, I am a news junkie and I know Americans are hurting and it scares me that there are folks voting who seem to not give a damn that their fellow Americans are in dire straits, you know good hard working folks who work hard but no longer get ahead.

I just don’t get why people fear the idea of many of us having access to health insurance, or the idea that if one earns $250,000 or above that you should pay more in taxes. A fellow blogger, OG spoke at length about this the other day, but to me it should be only common sense that if I have more than enough that I can spare a little to help out my fellow man.  The irony being that many of the folks yelling the loudest about wealth redistribution claim to be Christians and well if they had actually read their bibles they would know that Jesus was all about helping folks out. I won’t claim to know the mind of Jesus but I suspect if he was here with us, I don’t think he would be too happy with these tight asses who would deny their fellow man access to basic needs.

So while I broke my promise to myself to watch the news, maybe its important to stay tuned less I become one of the idiots wandering our countryside living in a bubble oblivious to the plight of others.

Healthcare a right, a privilege or a responsibility

Health care has been on my mind a lot for the past several days and it really hit home when I watched a bit of the debate last night and heard McCain and Obama speak on the issue.

See, I have a confession to make, I am a college educated, middle class person with no health insurance which makes the fact that I might be facing some health issues pretty damn scary in our current climate. Back when the spousal unit and I lived in Chicago and had traditional jobs, almost 7 years ago we had good employer sponsored heath coverage, at that time our cost was minimum and the care was excellent. However things changed when we moved to Maine and started down the road to self employment, we bought our own coverage but the only thing we could reasonably afford was a high deductible policy because Maine is a screwy state when it comes to health insurance. (long story short, because insurers here can’t turn down folks all but 2 companies pretty much pulled out the state so the only real company providing coverage is Anthem and it ain’t cheap)

Now the high deductible policy wasn’t too bad up until last year when our income nosedived and in order to meet our mortgage and other critical expenses we had to let the insurance go. We hadn’t planned to be a year without health insurance but I had no idea that I wouldn’t land another gig soon, instead ending up going the self employment route myself which means our income has peaks and valleys coupled with the fact that expenses like heating our house and food costs have soared.

Reality is there are millions of Americans out there like us and most of the time we don’t share our story, since who wants to admit to not having health insurance especially when you are a respectable member of society. Instead we hide that fact but no more, perhaps more folks like me will speak up which is how I will now get back to the presidential candidates plans on health care.

Truthfully we are a point that if it were up to me we would have some form of universal coverage yet I know right now its not going to happen. Now McCain wants to offer a credit so folks can buy the coverage they want, problem is and I guess when a man has 7-8 homes he has no basis in reality but true family coverage in my state on the current open market would cost me $13,000 a year, yes $13,000 a year!! That means that funky ass $5000 credit I heard mention of wouldn’t do jack aside from the fact that how would I afford the monthly premium until I get my tax credit? See, these folks don’t know what real life is like, if you are just keeping the food on the table and the bills paid an extra $1000 a month ain’t easy to come by.

Now Obama wants to make it that all children must be covered which I agree should happen but unless he raises the income requirements so that more middle families can get their kids covered the by the SCHIP program, it means imsurance is still gonna be hard to come by for my darlings.

Guess my problem is the policymakers and folks with ideas are just too damn removed from reality, I know my Obama started off broke but at times I do feel its clear that its a been a while since my boy had to sit and do the bill shuffle. You know who can I put off now to pay later.

Folks, when did we stop caring about one another? Or did we ever really care about each other? Health care should be a basic fucking right, as someone staring down health problems its a scary thought to think if my problem is not as small as I am hoping I could die because I am too fucking rich to get state coverage and too poor to afford a plan. All that said, I am biting the bullet and hoping to get coverage that starts next month (of course a definitive diagnosis if its a major issue could be bad because then there is that pesky pre-existing clause but we will cross that bridge when we get there), have no idea how to pay for the premiums but I have gotten good with the juggling act so I will just have to juggle a few more balls.

I think its also important to remember that the economic tides are changing so fast in this country that the distance between middle class and comfortable and middle class and scraping is really not that far of a drive these days. In fact it might only be a 5 minute walk to middle class and scrapping…