Monday, October 28, 2013

Ever Heard The Phrase Too Little Too Late?

Sequester cuts began on March 1 of 2013. In my county effects are all ready being felt. Some Head Start facilities have closed their doors due to lack of funding and Meals on Wheels have ended for many of the elderly who are homebound. The HUD subsidies for 2 of my clients who have them haven't been paid for 2 months. So far the owners of that building have accepted just the part the senior pays, but I don't believe that will continue much longer. Taxes will be due, maintenance staff must be paid, and utilities to operate hallway lights, heat, elevators and entry door automatic locks must be paid.

HUD has tightened it's qualifications for Section 8 and it recertified those who receive it, but no one has been notified that they will still be receiving it. Seniors who receive section 8 in this particular building my be forced to move to Housing Authority buildings which, at the moment are infested with bed bugs. HUD Rental Assistance program was designed to help Seniors and other low income families from being forced to live in vermin infested apartments, however, apparently some in Congress prefer their corporate friends not have to pay taxes to support this idea.

Without Meals On Wheels my clients are forced to rely heavily on the SNAP program which will lose a portion of their funding on Friday, November 1. Right now, MOWs are serving only the seriously disabled and those who can afford to pay $7.75 per meal. Once the SNAP funding is cut on Friday, I'm not sure what will happen. I don't think the local Rescue Mission can handle the increased demand for food from people who can't get out to their place to be fed. One local church is starting a food kitchen, it's a very small church with a small congregation and they can afford to operate only 2 days a week. The good thing is they will deliver.

The local Salvation Army has a new Major in charge. He seems to understand that people need help, unlike the last one who ended many of the community support programs for the poor. He has reinstated the after school program for kids and it does include a meal.

School impact programs have lost funding since March 1 of this year. Without kids in school I've no idea what affect it actually had but I'm sure it wasn't good. Many kids need the breakfast and lunches provided and they seem to be where proposed cut backs will happen.

Sometime in January another round of cuts will happen. Those will finally affect the Pentagon. I don't know why those cuts couldn't happen first. It would have been better if they had. The Republicans would have felt the effects of those cuts in a way they don't feel the cuts they've already allowed to take place. IF they move to protect the Pentagon as I think they might, then more cuts will occur to the low income people, I'm positive the GOP won't allow anything else.

I'm tired. I've been trying to get the attention of activists to inform people about the true effects of the sequester, and they, led by bloggers, pundits, and main stream journalists are more enamored of exposing the government spying and lately the flaws in Obamacare.

People I do talk to seem to think I should talk to the administrators of MOW, send letters to the editor of local papers, and just kick up enough of a ruckus that I can PREVENT all this from happening. After 7 months of trying to bring attention to this problem, I was told today that someone "doesn't understand what I hope to accomplish if I've given up". See? I can't accomplish a damn thing because these cuts are all ready in effect, all ready hurting people and I no longer have time to build a coalition of support because none of these people who have lost out have any time left. I've been trying for 7 months, the entire time that these people have been suffering and going without.

How much longer do these people whose rent subsidy hasn't been paid for two months have until they're evicted?

How much longer do these Seniors whose 1 hot meal a day is GONE have before they get sick and wind up in a nursing home? Or maybe dead?

With Winter on the way, how long will the heat stay on when HEAP doesn't have a budget?

Yeah, I've got lots of time to fix all this.

I've got one last thing to say. FUCK ALL OF YOU FOR IGNORING THIS.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's Not The Taxes Stupid! It's The Lack Of Jobs!

In the year 2000, when G.W. Bush became president, my husband's business made $105,000 gross. Dumping fees for septage was $.04 per gallon. Gas, which is another big expense for us was around $1.75 per gallon here in NYS. The lower petroleum products prices made the purchase of the PVC pipe we used on a job not quite the burden it is today. We were saving money for a down payment on a house and we had the money to pay all our bills on time during the winter month shut down. By 2004 that had changed.

By 2004 the gross income of the business had dropped to $61,000 gross. Dumpage had gone up to $.08 per gallon and gas was around $2.23. The price of pipe and fittings had doubled and our bank statement was showing the stress since we had to start using savings to make the bill payments. Nothing we did to increase revenues made much difference since we weren't the only ones hurting. We could demand higher prices for our work but people couldn't pay them so the maintenance septic tank pump outs that are the bread and butter of our business dropped off.

In 2008 we hit an all time low of $39,000 gross. Dumpage remained steady at 8 cents but gas prices hit $3.50 and unemployment began to go up. We thought about ending the business but Hubby didn't think he'd get a job anyplace and with a business he at least had something to do even if he couldn't make any money. So we tightened our belt and kept on, hoping that something would change and we'd catch a break.

Last year we finally started seeing an increase in the gross. We went up to $50,000. The problem was that expenses to run the truck had gone out of sight and that was the first year we went in the hole. It was only by $500 but it was enough. Especially since Hubby had taken early retirement and cost himself a decent Social Security check. It saved us when Hubby was out of work due to his surgery but it isn't going to be much help when he finally has to retire.

The GOP and Tea Party would like to convince you that it's all the fault of higher taxes. I as the wife of a person who owns a business will tell you what is at fault and you can believe it or not. The problem is the price of oil and the price of everything we use that is made from petroleum. Add to that the higher price of tires, truck parts, insurance, advertising and materials. We are broke.

It didn't help that the GOP sequester is hampering the company I work for. Their ability to get new clients to keep our hours up has been cut by that. Our area never fully recovered from Clinton's closing of military bases. In an area of maybe 200,000 population he put 6000 people out of work. Despite efforts to rebuild, our unemployment rate in this county is still at 10%. There are jobs, there are no unemployed with the skills to fill them

We have two aviation rebuilding companies located at what is now the Griffiss Business and Technical Park. They want to expand but there are no knowledgeable fully trained aviation repair people available here. We have a wealth of computer tech folks out of work and 0 jobs for them. Many of them have gone to work for the local casino who pays little more than minimum wage unless you're trained as a dealer, croupier or pit boss. We have Walmart, and other retail positions and they don't pay very much so anyone working for them needs help financially. They aren't likely to do the septic tank maintenance since they can't afford it which leaves Hubby with no way to make any money from the business.

Today I used the New York State Official Health Plan Marketplace to see what I could afford for health insurance. Hubby has Medicare and I will on September 2014, but unless I want the feds to keep any tax return I qualify for, I have to have insurance before Feb. 15th. So I registered and answered all the questions. When I got to the point where I could begin to compare insurance policies I was told I couldn't shop since I qualified for Medicaid. We are at 109% of the poverty level, a place we wouldn't be if the Republicans and Tea Party members of our Congress had done something besides focus on "no new taxes" and 41 attempts at repealing the ACA. Like maybe if they'd taken a good look at Big Oil and the high prices their corporate welfare creates, we might have an economy that is improved instead of creeping along at a snails pace?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Halls of Congress The Stench Of Shame

It seems that Tea Party Congressman Blake Farenthold (Texas) has no idea what a sacrifice is. During the government shut down and near default, Disabled American Veterans expressed concern over their loss of services and the loss of their VA disability checks. You know, the checks and services they EARNED by SACRIFICING years of their lives and in many cases limbs or mental health to serve the people of the United States of America? He told them they must LEARN to sacrifice.

He, of course, is "serving" the people of the United States of America in the House of Representatives. For which he earns a 6 figure salary and doesn't have to stand guard on a post in excessive heat, snow, or driving rain. He doesn't have to concern himself if the person walking towards him carries a weapon, nor does he have to worry that he will be blown up on the drive to another base where he has a job to do.

He doesn't have to live in some godforsaken outpost in the desert away from family or friends. He doesn't have to wonder how his wife is making out back home, whether he'll ever see his kids or her again. He doesn't have to wonder if the baby his wife will soon have will know him when he finally comes home. IF he comes home.

It's very easy for someone of his privilege to tell someone who suffered through those hardships that THEY  must learn to sacrifice. Something that he clearly doesn't seem too keen on for himself. He never served in the armed forces, and he obviously hasn't ever denied himself anything he wanted. Yet he seems to feel that disabled veterans who became that way because they put their life on the line to protect the Blake Farentholds of the world should be deprived of basic necessities of life because Mr/ Farenthold doesn't want to pay taxes.

Congressman Farenthold voted no on the bill to reopen the government and avoid default because every one but him and his cronies need to learn to sacrifice. People like Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann were all quick to use the veterans as a photo op to get their names in the papers and on TV, but none of them did a single thing to assure those self same veterans that they would be helped even if the government did default. No, making the news was the agenda of the day, not caring about those who sacrificed and served our country with honor even when the wars they might have been sent to weren't all that honorable.

All of these people who are unwilling to address the concerns of the disabled, the poor, the elderly claim membership in the Christian Religion. A religion formed by the teachings of the son of God. Teachings which in no way glorified the rich, suggested that taxes were unnecessary or praised the mistreatment of the poor. Yet that is exactly the path that the Christian Tea Party Republicans chose.

There is nothing I can do about that except cast my vote at election time. I'm not responsible for the behavior of anyone but me. For my part I can only be sure that I not demand something from others that I'm unwilling to sacrifice myself. And I can say to those Christians who think we don't see them behaving as less than they should, we see you, and so does Jesus.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum And Our World Has Gone Crazy

I must say that now is not the time for someone with high blood pressure to be working in homecare. Between the misinformation and lack of knowledge some of my people have plus the actual knowledge of what may happen to them if the GOP default, I'm stressed. Very stressed.

Senior apartment buildings are HUD subsidized. The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in those buildings without heat or utilities is $550 per month. If you're a senior with a higher income, say from social security and maybe a pension you aren't subsidized very much unless you have high medical bills. Your rent might be around $350 to $400. You get a little bit towards your heat bill and your medical copays.

If you are someone with nothing but your social security check and it's small, say less than $900 per month you pay just under $200. HUD pays the balance, only HUD can't pay right now, nor will it be able to pay until this mess is straightened out. If this shutdown goes to default, HUD may be gone entirely which means these people MUST pay the full $550 or move.

You can forget moving into a cheaper apartment unless some slum lord who doesn't take care of anything including mice or roaches (they exist) takes pity on you and rents you a hovel for $400 to $500 range. That range will leave them $400 to $500 per month to live on. Since we are coming into the time of year where heat is needed, they can plan on paying close to $400 per month there.

The SNAP benefits they USED to have have been cut to $125 per month and will be gone with the default. For all but one of my clients, meals on wheels is a thing of the past, so they are relying on their caregivers to do the cooking they can't do and then portioning it out to be put in the freezer. They can put it in the microwave to reheat and at least have 1 hot meal a day. When you're over 80 and have serious health problems like congestive heart failure, stroke disability, or breathing difficulties, standing isn't quite as easy as it used to be. Walkers require two hands to operate, last time I looked, people didn't have any more than that. And if we default, the caregivers are gone since we're paid by what the Tea Party calls welfare.

We're talking 5 buildings full of these people or 500 to 600 seniors and disabled. There are also 3 senior buildings that aren't subsidized since those are higher income. Rents there are $750 per month which they can comfortably afford, but they too will be hurt since default means no income for them in a month or two. My problem is that the GOP has no idea who they're hurting and nothing in place to protect these people while they take down the government.

We all know the faces of those who game the system, they exist, but aren't nearly as widespread as the GOP and their supporters believe. The GOP keep saying that SNAP benefits have increased while our economy is improving. This is true, but when you were making 80K a year and now work for 35K a year, someone has to feed your kids.

I don't know any employer who hasn't advertised for help and gotten less than 2 to 3 hundred responses. Local job fairs have people lined up inside the buildings and some of them have spilled over to waiting outside. Most of these people aren't qualified to take the jobs they're so desperate to have, they just keep hoping that a prospective employer will look at what they can offer to the position if they're trained. Frankly there are disabled people who would love to have a chance at getting a job if they could be trained to do it.

I haven't worked for a client through the agency I work for that has had more than $1400 a month in income. They weren't employed when the minimum wage was too much higher than $4 an hour. Some of these people lost their homes and all their savings to catastrophic medical bills. All they have left is their Social Security check and whatever subsidies the amount of income they're left with make them eligible for. They aren't the problem, nor is the single mother in a low paying job who needs SNAP to feed her kids. The problem is the failure on the part of businesses who like the big bucks they can make through tax shelters and moving jobs overseas. And, has anyone taken a good look at how much money the Pentagon wastes? You should, it's appalling.

In addition to the planes that are being sent to Arizona to the boneyard because after buying them, nobody has a use for them, there's the 1 Trillion dollars spent by the Air Force on a computer system that had to be scrapped because it wouldn't work. Then there's the 34 million dollars the Army spent on a state of the art headquarters in Afghanistan that never should have happened because we aren't being given the right to have a permanent base there. It's built, and nobody ever used it.

It's always business as usual at the Pentagon. The night before the shutdown they signed 5.5 billion dollars in contracts with 94 suppliers. While Congressional GOP are threatening our seniors and low income citizens, the Air Force thinks it needs a 6 or 7 million dollar gymnasium at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. Staying fit doesn't have to cost that much. We need to slash the Pentagon budget by 30%, use that money for education so people can receive training to take the jobs that they don't have the skill sets for now. Then give tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the US and not east overshoe or wherever these jobs exist.

Maybe if our government would get over the trickle down tax breaks create jobs economy they keep foisting on us and do the right thing, we wouldn't have to keep borrowing to pay our bills? More working stiffs mean more in the coffers to pay our bills with and it's really just that simple. Oh! And one other thing, GET RID OF THE DAMN TEA PARTY, THEY'RE DESTROYING OUR LIVES.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Finding Refuge In A Storm

The world has gone crazy. People lying, people fighting, terrorists taking hostages and that's just in Washington DC. It's the apocalypse, the rapture, the end times, the somebody needs to pull their heads out of their asses time. I've been driving myself crazy looking for a corner where I can sit quietly out of the fray and wait until someone comes to their senses.

I was sitting here minding my own business last night and I got a call from the oncall coordinator asking if I'd do a couple of cases today. I took a deep breath to say NO! and heard myself agreeing to it. The reason I was going to say no was one of pure childish spite. I'm not sure what's going on but it seems I'm being bypassed for new cases in favor of the younger aides. Younger aides, I might add, who can't seem to make it to work on a regular basis. While I, old and decrepit as I am, have had to take time off once and only for part of the day all year. Am I being discriminated against because of age? I don't know and probably can't prove it even if I believe it.

I probably agreed to work today because I was in a mellow mood. I never bothered to get dressed on Sunday and wonder of wonders got to watch my favorite movie of all time. "The Godfather" followed by part 2. I spent the entire afternoon and early evening curled up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn getting lost with some of my favorite characters. Never saw the news, never turned the computer on just spent my time watching fictional bad guys behave badly. There is something sort of satisfyingly final in how they deal with those who threaten their lives. Imagination is a wonderful thing isn't it?

Anyways, for whatever reason I agreed to work today, I met some really nice people. And a cute older gentleman canine. When I arrived at the clients, he was curled up in the chair with her. He's 14 and quite timid. Never barked at all which is odd since he's a Chihuahua. She told me he'd probably go hide under her bed since that's what he does when her other aide is there.

The care plan said for me to fix her lunch and feed the dog which I did. Did the dishes, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, made her bed and at no point did he leave the room. Near the end of the shift I went and sat on the sofa to do the voucher and he got up next to me and just leaned in to my side. I put my arm around him and of course, he started "kissing" my chin.

The client gasped and said that he'd never done that with anyone before. I just commented that I believe dogs know when people are real. It probably helped that I was relaxed and happy today. I was wet from the rain that came up suddenly and a little bit cold, but those are physical discomforts, something that I don't find stressful. Once I left that client I could come home where it's comfy to warm up and dry out.

Life is too hard right now to waste any of it's precious moments driving myself crazy with the inflammatory rhetoric that is spewing from our nations capital. I'm disconnecting from the not so social media that  is rampant on the internet. I'm going to stock up on popcorn, Saranac Root Beer and let the world chase it's tail until someone comes to their senses.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For, You Just Might Get It

If I can find any good in this government shutdown, it's the fact that Republicans can no longer claim they are the party of fiscal responsibility. Depending on who you listen to, this shut down will cost the taxpayers  $100 or $200 million a day. So in essence, this shutdown becomes another one of those GOP debts that they aren't going to want to pay. Where I come from, if you don't want to have to raise more revenue, you don't run up more debt.

These past 2 days I am remembering all the lovely people who thought, back in 2007, that the path to fixing our problems was to vote everyone out of Congress. In essence that's what happened, eventually, and we are now in a much bigger mess than we ever were to start out with. I wasn't too popular back then, I kept saying that we needed to be careful about how we voted since placing people in Congress who have no idea what they're doing could get dangerous. Apparently I was right, and apparently no one has a clue that they are part of the problem, since I'm already hearing opinions on what's going to happen next.

I was talking to the son of one of my clients today. He's someone who is a supporter of privatizing Social Security. In the next breath he spoke about losing his pension from the company he worked for due to an unstable economy that put the company out of business. He also lost his shirt in 2008-2009 stock market. At nearly 60, he has nothing left EXCEPT his Social Security, but he wants to privatize it. I looked at him, and apparently my face said more than I wanted it to. One of my 'OH DEAR GOD THIS MAN JUST GREW TWO HEADS' looks must have occurred since he got somewhat annoyed with me.

After being treated to some of his anger I finally spoke up. I asked him how on God's green earth would a privatized retirement fund not be subjected to the same unstable economic effects that caused him to lose both his pension and his portfolio? I am, some 5 hours later, still waiting for an answer.

I don't know where or when we started thinking that Life was a question that required very simple one size fits all answers. I also don't know why people seem to think that doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results will work this time. I've always thought that was a measure of insanity. I'm not very bright obviously.

I am bright enough to form my opinions not on what some cable news pundit said on FOX, CNN or MSNBC. My opinions are based on what I see with my own eyes and what problems I have to deal with on a daily basis. As far as I'm concerned our problems exist because of who we are as people. We caused our own problems when we stopped caring about our neighbors and started caring more about the things we could buy with plastic money. Well, the bill has now come due, and like it or not, you're going to have to pay it.