I Can Fix Your Teeth, But It’ll Cost You An Arm And A Leg
by Mike Bohling
While our country has been busy hemorrhaging money, blood, and credibility, I’ve been busy thinking about the future. I’ve been trying to concentrate my efforts on thinking about MY future, but the future of the country keeps shoving my future aside and taking center stage.
People are unhappy with the direction in which America is headed. Some, like myself, are downright disillusioned. I don’t want to go into the details of what my ideals of America are, but I feel that her very foundation is being dismantled brick by brick right in front of my eyes. So much so, that it has become easier to count the bricks that are left than the ones missing.
The United States that I grew up in was a much different place that the one I live in today. Back then, I felt confident in my security. Laying out a plan for the future was easy. I believed that if I worked hard, saved, invested wisely, and didn’t squander my money that I would someday retire and live out my final years pursuing my interests. That’s the way things worked back then.
Now that I’ve passed the halfway point towards retirement, I’ve come to realize that it may not be so easy. The government that I once thought of as the Eagle that protected me has turned out to be just another appendage of the Corporate Vulture, looking to pick my bones. Corporate America has become America, and our current crop of elected officials has completely validated my inherent mistrust of politicians. Maybe it’s always been that way, and I just didn’t notice. I guess I was distracted by too many years of the national media embarrassing itself week after week with the latest “Top News Story”.
It hasn’t taken much scrutiny on my part to conclude that this country is owned and controlled by a handful of corporations, and that our politicians and lawmakers are owned and controlled by a hit squad of heartless lobbyists and attorneys employed by them. These Mega-Conglomerates have grown much bolder recently in showing their absolute control. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not as if Vultures have anything to fear from mere citizens or a handful of environmentalists and third party fantasizers.
When the President asks for our support in spreading “Freedom” to the far reaches of the globe currently occupied by evil-doers, he does so tongue in cheek. Oh, he’s trying to spread freedom alright, not individual freedom, not religious freedom, or even freedom from tyrannical leaders. The freedom that Dubya and his cronies hope to spread worldwide is corporate freedom. Freedom to extract. Freedom to exploit. Freedom to pollute. You might keep that in mind the next time you hear him describe his adversaries as “Freedom Haters”. Corporate freedom is slowly and deliberately killing off the middle class in America, and countries around the world are rightfully fearful that America’s brand of corporate freedom is about to be imposed upon them as well.
A cursory look at 2005’s legislature draws a pretty good picture of Congress completing another blockbuster year of passing laws designed to protect Corporate America from its traitorous citizens. From Credit Card company sponsored bankruptcy reform, to Imminent Domain, to handing out subsidies and tax breaks for the most profitable companies in the history of the world with last year’s Energy Bill, our lawmakers have made it very clear who they work for, and it ain’t you and me. They couldn’t even bring themselves to address the embarrassingly pathetic $5.15 minimum wage that hasn’t increased since 1997. Heck-of-a-job, Congress. The soaring gas prices and obscene profits made by Big Oil seem like a natural place to spend some time ranting, so I will.
Fuel prices are high, and they’re going to go higher, yet American auto manufacturers are still producing energy-flatulating SUV’s as fast as they can, and American consumers are still buying them. What’s even more amazing, is that the 12 mpg crowd actually believes that they’re being patriotic by buying these four-ton Tonka toys.
Last week, while I was pumping $16 worth of hi-test into my motorcycle, the woman at the next pump was griping about the $120 it took to fill up her brand new Lincoln Navigator. I considered informing her that all of those “Support Our Troops” magnets and flags were adding undue weight and wind resistance to her behemoth, and were probably reducing her fuel economy, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. I also didn’t think she would have been humored if I pointed out the irony of her complaining about gas prices while driving a troop carrier to the post office, so I put my helmet on and continued on with my 50 mpg camping trip without saying anything. Upon reflection, I should have stuck around and had a long conversation with that Navigator Lady. I think I could have padded my retirement account nicely by selling her my Cheerios on the premise that they were Krispy Kreme seeds. Ah well, another opportunity lost.
And what does all of this have to do with me planning for my future? Well, everything. I can control how much gasoline I consume and how much I spend on non-essentials, but what has me in a sweat are the rapidly rising costs of things I have no control over. Things like health insurance and medical care, food, housing, electricity, natural gas, campground fees, and fishing licenses. (Okay, okay, campground fees and fishing licenses aren’t “necessities”, but without them what’s the point of planning for the future?).
In trying to plot out my retirement, I have to face the harsh reality that as fast as I can put money away, the Vultures (with the help of my government) are trying to devise more and more insidious ways to get their greedy talons on it. I’m worried that the economy will take a dump and take my retirement savings with it, and I worry that if the devaluation of the dollar continues at it’s current pace, that it will take a wheelbarrow full of social security checks to buy a loaf of bread.
But, what really keeps me awake at night is worrying about how to stay healthy. Health care in the 21st century is becoming a luxury that only the wealthy will be able to afford.
Even if I have no income and nothing left to retire on, I know that I’ll manage. I’m pretty resourceful, and I don’t need much. I’ll be fine as long as I can keep from getting sick, or getting old.
As I said earlier, this is not the America that I grew up in. In this new America, the middle class will be forced to make a choice between forfeiting a lifetime’s worth of accumulated assets for a two-week hospital stay, or handing it all over to the insurance companies during the course of twenty plus years of retirement. Either way, someday I am going to be faced with making the decision to eat and keep a roof over my head, or to go see a doctor and get that nasty cancer/stroke/heart attack taken care of.
Many of you reading this may be thinking that I have a rather pessimistic view of my future, and that isn’t the point that I’m trying to get across. I’m not pessimistic, in fact, the people who know me, know me as an optimist (I’m still confident that God will use my retirement plan for miracle practice). It’s just that I’ve grown very cynical through years of watching the country I grew up in slowly change from a place that held a secure future for me, into a place that seems to be working overtime from all angles trying to separate me from what I have earned. To be truthful, it’s not even me that I’m worried about. I still have options.
As I said in the first paragraph, the problems that face this country have taken center stage, they just happen to be the same problems that I face, trickled down. I have an idea or two about how I’ll deal with things on my end, but that won’t lessen the anxiety for the rest of you.
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