Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Federal Debt Ceiling and Me


I went to work for the Federal Government in 1970.  I worked as a Federal civil servant until 2010—40 years.  By the standards of my family, I did very well.  Only one of my generation in the family—my cousin Dan—had a higher salary than I did, and that was only before his conviction as a cocaine dealer.  I generally have been able to have vacations with my family, provide nice homes, and allow my family and myself some, but not all, of the nice things that life at the end of the 20th century afforded Americans.

How times have changed.

I retired in 2010.  When I retired, my income was reduced by 40%, a fact that I had included in my retirement planning.  In the past year, however, one of our two real estate holdings—holdings I had used as an investment—tanked, and I am now stuck with a significant monthly cost I never expected.  Gas and food prices have increased beyond anything I imagined.  Utility costs—once really low here in West Virginia—have increased significantly.  The cost of main–stream books for my Kindle has increased by $3 a pop.  Everything costs more, it seems.

I rely solely on my Federal annuity for monthly expenses.  It’s a good annuity and I’m lucky to have it.  Given what’s happened over the past year, though, it is hardly luxurious.  Beni relies on my annuity, too, plus a small social security payment she receives each month.  Over the past several years, there have been no increases either in my annuity or in Beni’s social security.  The possibility of increases next year is slim.

Now, along come the Tea Baggers to make my life a possible living hell.  Unwilling or unable to grasp the impact of not raising the debt ceiling, they spout their childish and totally incorrect economic and historical theories.  Unwilling to accept the fact that their refusal to pass a debt ceiling increase will destroy our economy and the economies of other countries, they instead fight to outlaw abortion and allow the teaching of creationism as science.  That such fools hold my well being in their hands is something that makes me really unhappy with each and every person who voted these idiots into office.

My annuity is paid from Federal funds.  It’s paid on the first of each month, so I’m hoping I will get my August annuity payment on schedule.  Beni’s social security payment is made on the 7th of the month, so it’s very possible she won’t be paid in August.  As small as her social security payment is, it still makes a big impact on our combined budget.

If I don’t get my annuity check, I have no idea what I’ll do.  I have some cash available that should get me through one month, and probably two months, but that’s it.  That’s all I have, and all Beni has.  And we are relatively lucky for people our age.  There are many people in our town who, if social security and medicare are unfunded in August, will not be able to pay their rent, buy food, or get their needed and usual medical care.

I have heard all my life about middle–class people who were destroyed in the Great Depression.  My parents came of age during the Depression and told my brother and me these stories as cautionary tales.  I always thought that such people must have done something wrong.  They must have planned badly.  They must have lived way beyond their means.  Now I’m beginning to see their experience from another point of view.

Beni and I didn’t live a lavish life.  We stayed together after I came out for one main reason: we had four daughters to put through college.  We did that.  But tuition and related costs for four kids, plus other costs of raising a family, took most of our savings.  I don’t regret it one bit.  Our kids were able to have an education without having to take out loans that would burden them for years to come.  (Three of them took out loans anyway, but that was their choice.)  My thought at the time, as I used our savings for education and other kid–related expenses, was that Beni and I would be fine because of my annuity.

Now that safety net—a net that each month seems to provide less and less safety—is in jeopardy, as is Beni’s smaller net.  And why?  Because we have 60–some tea bagger idiots in the House of Representatives who are willing to ruin the lives of millions in this country because of their ignorance, their foolishness, and their bigotry.  I never thought I would write a piece like this.  I’ve always been comfortable enough not to have to discuss my finances.  That’s just one more part of my American dream that the bigoted and intolerant rednecks are taking away from me.  I am very pissed.

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