Monday, January 19, 2009

Mary Pitt: "Waddaya gonna do?"

Waddya gonna do when you've gone about as far as you can go? You want to open a window and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" But, where you live there is nobody to hear you. Go ahead, yell your fool head off but there are none to hear and, if anybody does, they don't care.

The preachers will tell you, "The Lord will provide" but, in all our years, we have never heard of a Great Speckled Bird flying over and dropping money on people. And you learned long ago to pray for nothing but the strength to bear the troubles that befell us in this mortal life.

You have simply lasted too long. You have lost dearly loved ones to death for first one reason or another; even nursing a dear life mate through an illness that took years to claim them. You have worked, budgeted, and micro-managed to keep your family sustained and, due to your own age and illness, are now condemned to a life of poverty.Your one source of income has become the Social Security check that appears in your bank account on a monthly basis.

Finally, you are notified that this amount will be increased by a bit more than you have received in the past. You silently say a whispered prayer of gratitude to whatever God you believe in. But wait! In the notice that you receive, you are told that, indeed, the amount IS added to your allotment, but then you learn that the "premium" for your Medicare Part B has been increased to $96.40 a month and, lower down, the "premium" for your Medicare Part D has increased to $87.70, leaving you an increase of a whole forty dollars with only a few dollars over a thousand to pay all the expenses necessary to your continued existence.

The problems do not end there. When you go to the pharmacy to have your prescriptions re-filled, you learn that the insurance company has increased the "co-payment" by $10.00 on each medication. If you take four medicines, there goes your $40.00 a month net increase! Right into the voracious gaping maw of an insurance company's bank account, just the way the insurance companies and President Bush intended.

So whaddaya gonna do? Is there any expense you can cut? Thanks to all those years of work and planning, you do own your own house, (such as it is and so long as you can keep the taxes paid), but the climate in which you live is intemperate and you must also keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer for fear of being overtaken by heat stroke or hypothermia. You already turn off the lights that are not in use.

You have closed off part of the house, only heating or cooling the rooms you use but utility costs are rising constantly. (You are aware that you get just enough money to disqualify you for the assistance of LIEAPP, food stamps, or any other welfare assistance.) You must have your car due to the distance involved in obtaining the necessities of life, and you must keep the payments up until, at last, it is your own and all you must be concerned about will be repairs and insurance. You spend practically nothing for clothing inasmuch as you have all the things you bought to keep up appearances when you were working. You don't eat much, having lost your appetite but eating only because you know you must, and your food budget is only about $100 a month. Eating out? Fugeddaboudit!

There is only one thing that you can cut and you know it. That would be your "bundle" of telephone, television, and internet. The TV is your only source of entertainment and escape, the internet your only connection to friends and news that you can believe. Going without them could save some money, but the telephone is, literally, a lifeline, a means to call for help in case of accident or illness. That would cut the cost in half and leave you sitting alone and staring at the walls, a condition that is often a prelude to suicide.If you have cared enough to read this far, there is one thing that we will ask of you.

We won't settle for a breathy, "There but for the Grace of God go I." Think about it! You may think that you "have it made" and "it can't happen to me" but it can! Stock markets fail, banks go bankrupt, depression covers the land, nobody has money to buy your product, you become old and ill and, though you thought you were covered, you find medical bills sapping your tightly-hoarded savings. Your kids? Though you may think they're doing well, they are worried about their jobs, their homes, and their own kids' educations. There is not a pittance to spare for the "old folks".

Whaddaya gonna do? You're going to wish that you had heard, and heeded, the stories of the elderly impoverished and supported the establishment of a reliable and realistic safety net for your old age. You will pressure your Congressman to abandon the old partisan ideals and do what they must and you will pray that the new administration that is taking place in a very few days will succeed in their efforts to get our nation back on track so that the term, "safety net" will once again have real meaning.


The author is a very "with-it" old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for "societal perfection".

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