Coffee heat rising

Come Saturday Mornin’…

Another week has blown past. The older you get, the faster time passes…remember when you were a little kid and an hour seemed like an eternity? Yeah…now it doesn’t even make it up to five seconds.

Finally managed to finish and post this week’s chapter of Ella’s Story. Slowing the post schedule for each bookoid — Ella, If You’d Asked Me, and The Complete Writer — from three a week to one a week was a good idea. That seems obvious in retrospect. But Asked and Writer are already written. And really, if I would get off the dime I could (in theory) write a chapter a week for Ella’s Story.

It’s just that, well…I’m not about to get off the dime. Too many distractions beckon, not the least of which is the doggy drama. One could say it’s not that I have too much to do but that I overly enjoy doing too little.

Right this minute, for example, the dryer buzzes angrily. Yesterday Cassie waddled over to the dog bed parked under the computer desk, dragged herself onto it, and…yeah. Squatted right there and pooped all over it. So much for writing. Get up, drag out the bed, clean up the mess, see that the dog is in a bad way, carry the dog outside to do its business, pick her up, carry her back inside…on and on it goes. Instead of doing this — right this minute — I should be dragging out the garbage, picking up the dog shit out of the back yard (again), cleaning the dog shit off my shoe from where I stepped in it this morning, taking down the leaking hummingbird feeder and power-washing the flagstone beneath it before the day gets warm enough to awaken the Ondt Queen’s hordes, drafting a kind of “g’day” email to send out to my missing clientele, returning to LinkedIn and rebuilding a presence there, starting to work more seriously on Drugging of America, putting a load of actual laundry in the washer, sneaking out with Ruby to squeeze in a mile’s walk, checking the pool chemicals, applying a coat of silicone lubricant to the rubber gasket on the pool’s pump basket, calling my friends to see how they’re settling into their new abode, downloading and entering data into Excel for the tax accountant…

Ugh! There’s the hangup: I hate hate HATE the job of entering day after day of income and expense data into a complicated spreadsheet. So, the chore becomes one of entering month after month of data… And, that, having been put off in a monthly fit of aversion, is going to take several long days of drudging away. I don’t want to do that, so…I don’t do anything. Because really, that should be the first priority (January being more than at hand…), and so of course I can’t do anything else before doing that. Can I?


I fail to see the point of recording every single goddamn transaction. Why can’t we enter tax-related transactions only? Income: sure. Medical-related expenses: yeah. Business expenses: of course. Property tax, state tax, and car registration: yep. Capital improvements on the house: yes. But come ON: every trip to Costco, Walmart, and Safeway? Every bottle of olive oil, loaf of bread, package of dog food? Seriously? Why is that necessary?

Obviously, for the business “tax-related” would mean every single transaction. But for the personal stuff, what is the point of entering dozens and even hundreds of transactions that are irrelevant for tax purposes? If all I recorded were income, medical and insurance expenses, charitable contributions, tax payments, capital improvements, investment income & expenses…wouldn’t that be quite enough? I mean, for godsake…we know what net worth is, and we know what net income/expense balance is: all we have to do is enter the bank balance at the beginning of the year, the bank balance at the end of the year, and figure the difference. Quickbooks downloads bank transactions and preserves them, in a clumsy way. Fidelity provides reports for all IRA and non-IRA investments. So…why are we doing this?

Add to the list of things to do today: Ask accountant why are we doing this.

Ruby just peed all over one of Cassie’s pee mats. Suspicions confirmed. Because Cassie has come un-house-trained, now Ruby figures she can forget that “outside” rubbish, too.

Cassie fell into a disturbing relapse yesterday. On her best days, she’s far from well. On a bad day? Well: disturbing.

She started having difficulty walking. The past few days, her chassis has just kind of given out: her hind legs either collapse or, on the slippery tiles, slide out from under her. Yesterday she was very weak, and by evening clearly was in pain. I dosed her with half a Benadryl and a baby aspirin at night, and by this morning she seems better.

Sometimes she becomes confused. A few minutes ago I found her standing in the office with her nose sticking into the bookcase. She seemed not to know how to disengage herself from this pose. More and more often, too, she goes outside, she looks around…and she appears mystified. Her expression and body language seem to say What is this place? Where am I and how did I get here?

So…that’s depressing. Yesterday I thought it was “Time,” but knowing she may spring back to at least a marginally acceptable state discourages me from whisking her off to the vet to be put down. And yea verily: this morning she’s not well, but she’s not in those desperate straits, either. Far as the human eye can discern.

I discovered that closing the doors to two of the bedrooms cuts down considerably on the excreta pick-up. Why? That is unclear. But without the freezer/crafts room floor and the spare bedroom floor to use as outposts of the doggy loo, they’re both more inclined to arf at the door when the mood beckons.

But Cassie really needs to be physically guided outside and reminded to do her business about once an hour. Sometimes, if she’s feeling feeble, this entails picking her up, carrying her out the door, toting her to the peeing ground, setting her down, and then picking her up and carrying her back inside. Besides the obvious joy entailed, this poses yet another problem:

SDXB is determined to get me to go on a day trip to Castle Hot Springs with him. So enthused is he about this expedition that he has engineered an entire party with his present girlfriend and one of his other ex-girlfriends., which he expects me to join. He now has this scheduled for early February.

The problem is…if Cassie doesn’t accommodate his plan by shuffling off this mortal coil before then, there’s no way I can go with them.

I can’t leave her with my son: he has a job. (Remember those?) I can’t leave her outdoors all day: for one thing, she’s always been an indoor dog, and for another, even if she were accustomed to spending hours out of doors, it’s too cold now for that.

So…uhm… I really don’t quite know what to say… “Sure, I’ll come along if my dog is dead by then”?


The Virtues of Saving Paper…

So yesterday among the several little sh!t-fits I had after the coffee poured into an open file drawer was one of my recurring frenzies over the SHEER QUANTITY of paper stashed in file drawers in my office and garage.

Dayum, how I hate all this PAPER! So I started shuffling through it looking for things I could throw out.

Tossed out a ton of records of the endless engagement with the insufferable La Morona, the secretary at GDU whose ouster took almost two years. Threw out a bunch of student evals and annual reviews from my teaching days at GDU, dating back now something like eight or ten years. And that emptied…about a third of one jam-packed drawer.

Another crammed drawer has bank statements dating back to before the invention of electricity. Of course every statement has an account number on it, some defunct, some…not. There may also be papers in there bearing my Social Security number. All those pounds and pounds of paper will have to be shredded or burned.

My shredder is too small to rip up that much paper, so unless I want to track down one of those community shred-a-thons, I’ll have to spend an evening cremating fistful after fistful after fistful of defunct paperwork in the fireplace.

In the middle of all this, what should I find but the receipt for the expensive Chinese wool rug I lent to SDXB and that, last month, he ended up donating to charity in my name.

“Expensive” is what that thing was: I paid over three grand for it at a discount. From deep in an old file of warrantees and paperwork for stuff most of which broke or was discarded years ago, up pops a document showing this rug’s freaking registration number plus its valuation: $4,000.

Holy mackerel. Is this or is this not a gigantic 2012 tax deduction?

Will this or will this not cause the IRS to audit my 2012 returns? But…I have the actual evidence to justify deducting a $4,000 charitable contribution!

Shoot. I should have photographed the thing before we decided to unload it. The truth is, it was in excellent condition: after Anna the Ger-shep came on the scene, I rolled it up and put it out of harm’s way. As a result, it’s been out of the reach of dog teeth, dog claws, and dog rear ends for most of its existence, except for a few years on a little-used floor casa SDXB.

This is not the first time I’ve been surprised and cheered to find a document that any sane person would have shredded years before.

There was the time PeopleSoft decided I had started at GDU a year later than I did. If they’d gotten away with that one, it would have shorted me an entire year’s worth of sick-leave pay, to the tune of about $17 an hour. Amazingly, I had the 15-year-old statement of my first paycheck.

Then the financial managers decided they needed to know how much I’d paid to buy into some Vanguard funds, way back in the early 80s.

Now we have the proof of value for a rug I haven’t seen in five or six years.

Hoarding has its virtues.

That notwithstanding, I’m emptying all that trash out of there at the earliest convenient moment. Like, probably starting this evening!

The Organizeder I Try to Get, the More Disorganized I Am

What is it about basic organization that I seem incapable of mastering? I imagine I’ve kept careful records, I delude myself that four drawers full of carefully categorized file folders have organized every important piece of paper that comes into the house (and thousands of faintly important, maybe-important, and irrelevant pieces of paper). In my mind, it looks good…if sometimes cluttered. I am, in a word, organized!

Well, until someone asks me a direct question. Last night the new accountant e-mailed a few innocent queries.

No. 1. How much is your social security income before taxes and medicare deductions?

Uhm…not very  much.

No. 2. How much is deducted for Federal and AZ taxes?

Too much?

No. 4. Did you receive a statement from the state of AZ showing the taxable amount of your sick pay?  Were any taxes withheld?

You would think so. But if I did, I can’t find it. Yes, taxes were withheld. The only record I can find is notes on a telephone conversation with the lady who runs the RASL program.

No. 5. Please forward a copy of your latest MCCD pay stub.  The one I have is dated 09/24/2010.

Okay. You do realize that through this entire semester, no two community college paychecks have been the same? Does that matter?

No. 6. How much was your Fidelity IRA distribution?  Was it from a Roth or a regular IRA?  Were any taxes withheld?

Who, what? Where, why? When?

No. 9.  Are you getting a new A/C unit that will qualify for the tax credit?

Far as I can tell. The AC guy says it’s worth $1,500.

The only reason I could answer that last one is that the receipt is still sitting on my desk, yet to be filed.

Social Security totally flummoxes me. After they took away an entire month’s benefit check as punishment for my having committed the sin of earning a few bucks more than the earnings limitation, they turned around and announced they had recalculated my benefit and were raising it. I have never been told the dollar amount that is withheld for federal taxes, and as far as I know Arizona doesn’t tax Social Security. If it does, I don’t know how much or whether Social Security withholds state taxes. When I try to figure out what the gross must be, assuming they’re withholding 15% for federal tax and nothing for state tax and $110 for Medicare, I come up with a gross on the new “increase” that’s smaller than it should be if I were paid the original gross the entire year.

Such a vast flood of paper pours into my house that I’ve developed a flinch reflex about any form to fill out, any document from a threatening official agency such as the federal government or an insurance company, and most anything that requires a response from me. Every day I walk past the recycling bin coming in from the mailbox and dump everything that looks like advertising or pointlessness into the trash. The mailman delivers so much garbage that in a week the four-foot-high bin is half-full before I’ve tossed the newspapers and all the overwrapping that swaddles every product we buy.

That still leaves me with mounds of paper to have to sort through, try to understand, figure out what to do with, and file. Right now, after just a week, my desk and kitchen counter are covered with the stuff!

And file it I do. But once it’s filed in those tidy drawers, it’s effectively lost.

Oh god. Just writing about this is giving me another throat spasm. I’ve gotta get up, feed the hound, and go for a walk.

Is this REALLY necessary?

Image: Paper recycling in Ponte a Serraglio, Italy. By H005. Public domain.

Wait. You think I exaggerate? Check this out:

The boggle minds!

Charging Costs to Your In-Home Business

So over at the Depot I got these nifty (read “cheap”) motion-sensitive coach lights for the front of the house. Yesterday Dave the Electrician came over, hard-wired them, and got them working right. The equally cheap nifty lights I installed when I moved in here five years ago are crumbling away under the radioactive Arizona sunlight.

But more to the point, the  house has been rewired by some moronic former owner so that two of the three lights in front have to be turned on from inside the garage. When the house was built, one switch next to the front door turned them all on. Why anyone would change this escapes me. I suspect it was Satan and Proserpine‘s idea. “Green” was their affectation, and one way they liked to manifest that was with few and dim lights. As long as he was dorking with the electric (for reasons unknown, Satan imagined he was a great electrical handyman) (don’t ask about the DIY 220-volt outlet!), he probably figured he could save electricity by wiring two of the lights into the garage, thereby allowing him to turn on only one light to cut down lawsuits from evening guests tripping over the threshold.

Which brings us to the day’s point: Can I get away with having the S-corporation pay for the new fixtures?

I believe I can. Here’s why:

1. The office, which has a hardened lock on a solid-core door, is now accessible by burglars only through a front window. This window is lighted solely by the front lights. The nearest street lamp is on the other side of the house, and the trees in the front yard shelter the office window from easy view. Thus at night access to the office is facilitated by darkness.

2. The only things of value in the building are inside the office, which, in my absence, is otherwise locked behind a contraption designed to break a burglar’s drill bit—or his foot, should he try to kick his way in.

I have no jewelry of any note. My baubles by and large come from the craft store.
The sound system is an ancient stereo that no one would pay money for today.
The television is an old TV/computer monitor my son had in San Francisco, tiny and antique. At a yard sale it would bring about ten bucks.
The furniture is 50 years old. It does not qualify as “antique.” It qualifies as “used furniture.”

3. Besides the fact that the only marketable goods in the house are inside the office, the entire value of my business consists of the data stored on its computer, external hard drive, and flash drives. The very existence of the S-corp would be put at risk if someone came in the office’s window and cleaned out all the electronic gear.

4. The neighborhood is under siege from burglars and home invaders. I can prove this by the constant stream of alerts, warnings, and reports from the police and the head of the neighborhood association.

5. Therefore, installing security lights on the front of the house is crucial to maintaining the security and integrity of the business.

These little lights, which probably will last about as long as the crumbling cheapies they replaced, are great. If anybody comes up to the front of the house, they pop on, so that I can look out a window and actually see who or what is out there.

In the previous regime, if I heard something in the night I could only turn on one light, which did not illuminate the courtyard. There’s no way I’m going to walk into the garage to turn on the other two lights, not if there’s even the remotest possibility that someone’s prowling around outside. The garage has a side door. Even though I put a security door over it, I have to go in and out that side very morning to water the plants, and half the time I forget to flip the deadbolt shut when I come back in. Sometimes I re-enter the house through the back door and forget to close the security door altogether. So, in the middle of the night, opening the door from the kitchen to the garage is an invitation for the burglar to come right in.

Lights that come on automatically if there’s anyone sneaking around out there will allow me to see the person and call 911. And they should deter burglars from breaking in the office window when I’m out.

I like these, because they’re open on the bottom, allowing me to change the bulb without having to deconstruct the whole fixture. Amazon has a cheaper motion-sensitive coach light, but you have to take it apart to change the bulb. That entails work, which goes against my principles.

Now, while it’s true that the new fixtures light the residential part of the house as well as the room devoted to the office, the fact is the only things of any value inside the house are in the office, and if those things are lost, the corporation goes bust. So, I think it’s reasonable to argue that the fixtures can be expensed through the corporation.

“Managed Recreation Opportunities”: Big Brother’s Slice of the Great Outdoors

Years ago I edited a huge report that comes out once every five years for the state Parks and Recreation Department. In it, the bureaucratic authors wrote several times about “managed recreation opportunities,” a term that neatly described their attitudes about you and me and the wilderness. When you go for a hike in the Great Outdoors, you’re not alone: Big Brother is watching you.

Big Brother is installing toilets at the trailhead, pouring loose scree on the trail (erosion control, not a deliberate attempt to break your ankle), putting up signs to herd you this way and that, and roping off areas you oughtn’t to see (clearcut forests, for example). Such “improvements” to the out of doors often do little or nothing to change the reason you’re there, but are simply crowd control or worse, crowd encouragement. Fewer toilets and tourist centers would mean fewer people thumping the wilderness, for example…but without them, how could your “recreation opportunities” be properly “managed,” eh?

These “improvements,” which cost money, often entail erecting a gate across roads that access the “opportunity.” Usually the accompanying gatehouses stand empty. But in the most popular places, such as Oak Creek Canyon’s Slide Rock, recreation managers staff the gates with ticket-takers and charge people to use the parks and forests for which we’re already paying with our taxes. “No Parking” signs go up for miles along the roads leading to the parking lot, so you can’t use your public lands without paying a second tax in the form of a “parking fee.” Effectively what this does is make the site inaccessible to those who can’t or won’t pay extra to use it.

The City of Phoenix hosts a number of desert preserves, land that was donated or purchased to preserve small stretches of desert, mostly graced by low mountains, from the fierce sprawl of development. Our city parents watched what was going on with the state’s efforts to manage recreation opportunities and took the lesson.

Over the past few years they’ve quietly been installing gates across access roads to all the city’s desert parks. When I saw the one they stuck up at Piestewa Peak (formerly “Squaw Peak”; the difficult name is a politically correct bow to folks who think the Anglicized term is an insult to Indian women and an effort to honor a young Navajo woman who died in Iraq), I wondered when they were going to start charging people to use the hugely popular park.

Well, the answer is “now.”

The City recently announced it would start charging five dollars (!!!) to park your car at the mountain preserves!

Understand, large numbers of regulars use these parks every single day. I’ve mentioned my friend Garnett Beckman, who at 104 is still going strong. She was one of those regulars; at age 65, when she retired from teaching, she began climbing to the top of 1,190-foot Squaw Piestewa Peak every day. This produced an amazing effect on her health. She continued to hike there, all over the American Southwest, and all over the world…well into her 90s. When I went with her on one of her Christmas hikes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, she was 84. So well known was she that a bench with her name on it has been installed three-quarters of the way up the mountain.

That would be one of the “improvements.” It’s gracious and lovely, as gestures go; but if you can hike 890 feet up a steep hill, you probably are tough enough to sit on a boulder or the ground to catch your breath.

Like me, Garnett was living on Social Security and not much else. There’s no way on God’s green earth that Garnett could have afforded to pay $5.00 a day for the privilege of parking her car at the base of the mountain. Neither can I.

I used to hike there or in North Mountain park several times a week myself. After I took on the 40-hour job at the Great Desert University, that went by the wayside, but one of my plans for this fall, after the weather cools and I’ll be teaching only one section at at time, was to get back into hiking.

Now that won’t be happening.

So loud was the uproar over the $5 soaking that the city backed down and said it would charge only $2 at the most popular parks, including Piestewa Peak and North Mountain. Mighty white of them.

For $50 you can get a pass to park for six months—a hundred bucks a year to use a park your tax dollars are already paying for.

These fees are supposed to pay for the “improvements” the City took upon itself to build. The gate, for example. The toilets. The running water. The tourist center.

North Mountain did not need a tourist center. While parking-lot bathrooms are nice for the kiddies, the truth is the trails are so sparsely vegetated there’s no place to hide to do your thing, and so most adults hold it until they can get back to their car and drive to to a bathroom. During the many years before some genius decided to run plumbing into the desert, the trails were never running sewers.

It is true that during the summer morons get themselves stuck up there on those hills with regularity. They don’t carry enough water (often they don’t carry any water!) or they go off the trails, and then they have to be hauled down on a litter or airlifted off the side of a mountain. But instead of gouging those of us who have better sense, why not charge the chuckleheaded and the feckless the full cost of sending a rescue team after them?

And it is true that the homeless mentally ill sometimes set up semipermanent camps in the desert parks, and so the city has to hire park rangers to chase them off. That problem could be resolved by providing decent mental health care services for everyone. Oh sorry, I know: s-o-o-o-cialism!

And it is true, I will not deny it, that a couple of times I’ve run into some scary dudes out there, including a man who chased me up a trail behind SqPiestewa Peak. None of the hired park rangers, however, were anywhere to be seen. I eluded him by hiding in a draw, pushing my bright blue day pack beneath me so my dun-colored clothes would blend in with the brush. Unless the city can put a cop at every bend in the trail, rather little can be done to stop that kind of thing. The laws have been changed so that women can carry concealed weapons into those parks, likely to be more effective protection than absent park rangers.

So what’s happening here is the City is using its “improvements,” most of them utterly unnecessary, as an excuse to start milking the cash cow that’s been standing there staring the city parents in the face all these years.

It’s amazing they haven’t gotten around to it before this. Piestewa Peak is so popular you can’t find a place to park at all when the weather is nice. Regulars who are acclimated to heat either go up there around five in the morning or wait until mid-day, when it’s too hot for most casual exercise walkers and families with young kids. Same is true on the north side of North Mountain, where you can access a milder trail than the one on the south side. The parks have been money waiting to happen for years. I guess, though, that the city council members figured they’d better wait for a really serious recession to pull this stunt; if they’d tried it with no obvious excuse, they’d have all been voted out of office forthwith.

So there you go. Another cut in our fair city’s quality of living.

Taxes, Government, the Tea Party, and America’s Way of Life


Listening to NPR’s All Things Considered during a quick grocery run this afternoon, I heard newly triumphant Tea Partier Rand Paul trumpeting on about what he thinks of as his “moderate” views on the future of American government: basically, get rid of everything that costs anyone anything. The Americans with Disabilities Act, he tells us, was “overreaching,” and businesses should be allowed to refuse service to anyone they please, including those needing special accommodations. Asked if, by that line of thinking, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was overreaching, he backed and filled like crazy, first trying to say that he agreed with legislation intended to eliminate “institutional” discrimination. Then, when pressed by the reporter who pointed out that the Civil Rights Act said businesses could not refuse service to anyone they please, he admitted he hadn’t ever read the darn thing.

The mixed results of the current round of voting, and the silly “We’re here to take back OUR government” motto that’s being used to fine demagogic effect (hey, it’s not your government, folks…it’s everyone’s government), presage re-election of doctrinaire kill-the-beasters. These people would like to see every tax-funded safety net taken away from every American, and if possible every tax eliminated, first starting with big corporate taxpayers, them moving to the extremely wealthy, and finally focussing on the middle class. As we know, the deadbeat working poor don’t pay taxes.

What, really, would this mean? A few days ago, Jim at Bargaineering ran a post in which he mentioned, in passing, USA Today‘s report that American tax rates are lower than they’ve been in 60 years. He also pointed out that those scary-sounding tax brackets do not even vaguely represent the typical American’s actual ratio of tax to income; after deductions and credits, he observes, “very few people pay anything close to their marginal tax rate.”

This engendered a lively round of screaming and wailing from Bargaineering’s readers. I left a half-baked yelp there, myself, which I’d like to refine a bit today.

You know, the American middle class exists not in spite of the government, but because of it. The affluent lifestyle that has been enjoyed by the majority of our citizens since World War II is an artifact of government protectionism and social programs that date back to the 1800s. The amenities we enjoy and that are envied by citizens of other countries, even in the developed world, were put in place by our taxes. As scholar Michael Lind remarked a few years ago, our middle class has “been invented and reinvented by the government.”

How, I wonder, do the Tea Partiers, the Kill-the-Beasters, and the chronic complainers think we get roads built? Bridges built? Airports constructed? Air traffic controllers trained and in place 24 hours a day?

Where do they think schools come from? Do they really believe it would be better for all of us to home-school our kids, or to rely on private entities with customer service like, oh, say Qwest‘s or Comcast‘s, to educate our children? Did none of them watch last week’s Frontline report on the quality of education delivered by for-profit “colleges” and “universities”?

Have they never used a public library? Have they never put their kids in a summer program run by their town or city’s public parks program?

Where does the water that flows out of the taps in their kitchens and bathrooms come from? Who works to make that water as safe as possible and keep it coming, clean and steady, day and night, year after year?

Is each and every one of them ready to pick up an automatic rifle and defend his home against an invading army? And who among them will be the general and who the privates in the unfunded militia that will protect our country against those who hate us?

And do they never go to professional football or baseball games, held in enormous arenas built at taxpayer expense for the benefit of private entrepreneurs? Do they not watch television, an amenity developed and delivered to us at taxpayer expense?

Did they all go to private colleges and universities, paying the vast tuition for places like Princeton, Yale, and Stanford out of pocket? Maybe they went to lesser schools, like Carleton College or Lewis and Clark—no problem sending the kids there with the savings from all those taxes not paid to support public universities and community colleges.

Maybe these folks, the Joe the Plumbers Sarah Palin pretends to speak for, can afford to put their kids in private or parochial schools. But most people can’t. What do they think will happen to America when 70 or 80 percent of the families in this country, absent public schools, cannot afford to educate their children?

One commenter at Bargaineering says about the claim that taxes are now historically low: “You forget to add into taxes things like social security, state and local fees and also real estate taxes.” Oh, the pain. I weep, I do.

Were it not for Social Security, after a lifetime of hard work and with a bouquet of graduate degrees, I would be sleeping on the street and blogging from the library. Oh, wait! No, I wouldn’t. There wouldn’t be any libraries without local taxes. I would not be blogging at all.

Nor would I be eating.

When I was laid off from my job—the micro-local consequence, we might add, of lax regulation of the financial industry and misguided theories about economy and government—I was forced into unwilling retirement because I am too old to get another job and do not know how to wait tables or stock shelves at the local WalMart (which wasn’t hiring anyway). I could not even get a job driving the tourist train at the zoo. Without Social Security, which now represents more than half my income, I would have lost my paid-off home because I could not have paid the utilities or the cost of basic maintenance. I would not have enough to to buy food or clothing.

If Social Security did not exist, my son would have to take me in and care for me through my old age, or else I would be on the street. And all those Tea Partiers would be doing the same for their parents.

Were it not for Medicare, I would not have any access to health care. Even with a better-than-average medical track record, my age, an evening in the ER with a stress attack pushing my blood pressure through the stratosphere, an incorrect diagnosis of a heart murmur, and a single hairline wrist fracture (signaling nonexistent “osteoporosis” to one insurance bureaucrat) render me ineligible for health insurance at any rational cost. If I could get an insurer to cover me, I could not afford it. For the health plan that cost $36 a month while I was working, COBRA charges $500. One early retiree I spoke with earlier this week said that he and his wife, both cancer survivors, are each paying $2,200 a month for health insurance!

That is more than my monthly gross income. It is $666 more than the 2005 average monthly income for Americans.

Medicare is pretty stiff, too: 8.33 times what I was paying on the job, where my employer footed most of the bill. The largest part of the individual’s cost of Medicare goes to private entities: Medicare Part D and Medigap are provided by the same insurance companies that rip you younger folks off; the only reason you can get full coverage in these programs—assuming you move fast and get yourself a policy the instant you become eligible—is that the federal government requires insurers to cover you without prejudice.

Taxes don’t just evaporate into the air. They buy essential services.

Those services keep our country safe, make commerce and communication possible, build and maintain the world’s best land and air transportation system, keep our food and water reasonably safe, give us a record high life expectancy (if you were born in 1900, when taxes were nil, you could expect to live just under 50 years), make it possible for us to educate our children for nothing or nearly nothing (have you priced private grade schools and high schools lately?), and relieve us from having to support our aged and infirm parents.

Among other things.

So please. Let’s get a little common sense!


Chicago Tea Party logo: shamelessly ripped from the Internet, without tax payment
Deutche Truppen am Arc de Triomphe, Deutches Bundesarchiv, Wikipedia Commons