A man just knocked on my door. He was neatly dressed, appropriately groomed and riding a bicycle. He politely asked me for the privilege of trimming the yard and the bushes. He’s out of work and this is how he’s living.
My heart broke as I told him that I didn’t even have the money to pay him. Right before he appeared on my porch, I checked my bank balance online and saw again that my expenses are barely (and sometimes not) covered by the wages paid by my employer, cut 6% a couple of years ago and made smaller by rising insurance costs (for less coverage of course). They no longer contribute to my 401K and right after I became vested, cancelled the pension. I have no flexible spending account.
But I do have a job. And a brain. And that brain tells me that our country is absolutely doomed. While this poor man is knocking on doors to try to mow grass in a drought (my grass hasn’t been mowed nor has it grown since early June), our “elected representatives” have decided to take the rest of the summer off, so exhausted are they by the last month of silliness. While they rest up, the unemployment rate sits at 9.2 percent, more than 47 million Americans lack health insurance (which in this country means they don’t have access to care), and we’re laying off our police and firefighters or cutting the retirement benefits we said we’d cover for them after years of hauling hose or wrestling violent criminals to the ground.
Yesterday I had a phone conversation with a friend/source (it happens and is hard to avoid) about politics. She’s a Republican so we’ll call her “R”. She is mad about the debt ceiling, worrying about entitlements and the need to cut government spending and size (and yes, like most of my friends who feel this way, she is a public employee). R admitted rather sheepishly that she gets most of her news from FOX (which will be another blog post, count on it). I explained to her that, yes, Obama has increased the budget deficit, but he did so by honestly putting the wars on the budget, as well as Bush’s disastrous Medicare PartD program and those nonsensical tax cuts.
(You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts.)
R: You’re telling me you’d pay higher taxes?
Me: You betcha.
R: Are you crazy?
Me: Maybe. But I do want my insurance costs to be lower because we have a good fire department. I don’t want my grandmother eating cat food. I want child abuse prevention money. And I hate potholes in my roads.
God forbid we help each other out. God forbid we look out for anybody but our own damn selves.
(An aside: This friend/source of mine has devoted her life to being a tireless advocate for those with no voice. While I disagree with her politics, I have no questions about her love for her fellow man and her passion to help others)
The past decade has seen the income gap grow to absolutely obscene levels. What we have now is hoarding on the corporate level, and it is just as ugly and unhealthy as if these clowns were keeping a thousand cats in their kitchen. It’s dangerous and it’s killing us. Those tax cuts did not give us better employment rates. That money’s not trickling down. My boyfriend (the cop) hasn’t had a raise in years. Our roads are falling apart. This summer of record heat, the poor have had no money to help pay their electric bills, so they’re literally DYING from the lack of funds. The state is cutting child abuse prevention programs because there’s no money to pay for them. And this morning, a really nice, but sad, man knocked on my door, asking for a scrap of work.
I hope I didn’t damage his dignity, that image of God given to him, by being unable to help. I’m going to stash away $20 for the next time someone comes looking for work. It’s happened three times already this summer. I anticipate lots of leaf raking offers as well.
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’