The Debt Ceiling charade was perfect. No need for actual “shock” anymore, just create something. It doesn’t even have to be swallowed by the people, just make it convincing enough to put on television. Tie them up and cover their eyes and yell that a train is coming so they fork over their wallets without much of a fight.
My mother is divorced. Her retirement account was shot up during the last market crash and she is 62 years old. She makes $50,000 per year as a professor teaching college-level writing to students who think “Afghanistanian” is a word. She can’t sell her house because three houses on her street are in foreclosure and the shoddiness of the property – built as an asset to be swapped out every five years instead of being built as a home – needs leaks fixed, flooring replaced, etc. The next housing bubble is coming in 2012 as the short-term fix to the ARM schemes phase out and interest rates get jacked up again, and her house will once again be worth less. As entitlement plans get hoisted up to be sacrificed on the alter of austerity, the blood of seniors fueling more wealth accumulation at the top 1%, even her modest social security check – $16,000 per year – will be in danger. Healthcare costs continue to rise, and it’s possible my mother might not be able to afford to live as long as her parents did.
I’m 26 years old and I’ve never made more than $25,000 per year – and that peak was in 2007. I’m over $30,000 in debt for school and don’t have health insurance. Since I’ve been able to vote, I’ve seen a number of local and national elections stolen. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a good school overseas for a Masters program, but there is no assurance that my education will land me a job – especially in this economy. It’s a gamble, and my debt will grow. I’m at the age to start considering a family, but who can afford a family nowadays? Two screaming kids, two working parents, a shot-up education system, etc. The prognosis for my generation is grim. The possibilities for any kind of youth action to take back our government are few. I am disenfranchised. I can holler to my corner of the world in a blog online, but what good does that do us? We vent our frustrations but find no solace in it, no succor in complaining.
Yet I have it easy! I have it good! What of those who work in the fields without documents, those who work two jobs in a single parent household, those who are ill and hungry?
Soto is paralyzed from the shoulders down but does not let that keep her from doing advocacy work for people with disabilities at a Los Angeles independent living center. Using her mouth, she can operate a computer trackball and type numbers into a phone with a Popsicle stick. Several times a week, an aide helps her into an electric wheelchair so she can take the train to work.
Most of the $800 she earns a month goes toward work expenses, including paying someone to feed her lunch. She has relied on $723 a month in SSI to cover rent and utilities. In July, the state reduced its portion of the grant for single beneficiaries like Soto to the federal minimum, shaving $15 from her income.
The same month, the state began charging Medi-Cal beneficiaries copayments of $5 for prescriptions, $50 for emergency room visits and up to $200 for hospital stays. Soto has five prescriptions and went to the hospital four times last year. “That can really add up,” she said.
But the cuts that worry her most are those to the In-Home Supportive Services program, which is paying for about nine hours of care a day. The two women who have been assisting Soto for more than a decade have told her they will have to look for other jobs if their hours are cut again. Without them, she fears she would have to go into a nursing home.
“Oh, my gosh. That’s no way to live,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to continue working. I would lose my quality of life…. I think I would rather just die.”
When did America start thinking like Israel? Since when did we decide the most important thing was just making it as far as tomorrow? Was it Reagan and his talk of rapture coming? Will Jesus descend and wipe away our debts and oil spills?
Does anyone have any ideas? There’s a movement from Adbusters of all places to occupy Wall St. on September 17th. Yet Wall St. is more fortified than the White House nowadays. The rich of this Gilded Age are isolated and live in jets and fortresses. They don’t just hire security – they hire media firms and think tanks and create a culture of docile security. Our prisons are overflowing and our heads are empty. We elected a man who ran on “change” and he delivered us more of the same but in the way of a grotesque pornographic minstrel show for the rich. Do we see how tight the noose gets before we start thinking how to get out of this? I’ve been toying with ideas around grassroots democracy at local levels, community (re)building on small scales as the Great American Federal Age fades to a fiery sunset. Youth empowerment, that sort of thing. There needs to be a foundation of civil society for that to work, though, and I fear it’s all been shot to hell by secular self-medicated psychiatry. At least, this is what my mother tells me as she grades papers. It’s what I see in the educated, unemployed, and going-nowheres, the depressed and dejected activists who had to move back home. So, seriously… does anyone have any ideas?