I got my annual letter from Social Security the other day. Instead of going up the 2% predicted for retirees, I am going to receive $15 a month less. Oh, I got my incremental rise, like everyone else, but my medical insurance rose high enough to eat the increment. I’m not complaining. I’d sold a couple of stocks in 2014, made a profit and the government wants its share.
I’m happy to pay, particularly as the wife of a former student was snatched from the jaws of an invasive cancer thanks to Obama Care. My taxes pay for her and others in need and I’m glad of it. I only wish the designers of medical plans recognized that teeth are part of the human body. The poor need dental coverage, too.
Still, despite my joy that the life of someone I know has been spared, I continue to suffer from the bag lady syndrome (Blog 9/23/14 ). If I live to my mother’s current age, 98, I fear I might outlive my income. Or, that a disease will overtake me and my savings will be consumed by expensive prescriptions. It can happen. It does happen.
William McPherson knows what I’m talking about. He was a middleclass guy, a writer who worked for some prestigious newspapers in his younger days and won a Pulitzer prize along the way. Today he’s poor and lives off the generosity of his family and a little help from the government. So far, he’s managed to avoid living on the street, having been lucky enough to find subsidized housing. But he coexists with a sense of humiliation, ashamed that he’s become a burden to his family and the government. (“When Your Money Is All Gone,” by William McPherson, excerpted from The Hedgehog Review published by the University of Virginia, in The Week, December 26, 2014, pgs. 36-37.) As McPherson describes it, to live without a bank account and find yourself sitting on a park bench without a dime is a very lonely feeling.
McPherson admits he wasn’t as careful with his money as he should have been. He had a good life and some marvelous adventures as he travelled the globe, dipping into his investments without much thought about old age. Maybe the memories are worth the price he is paying. He doesn’t say. But one investment that has kept him off the streets is his education. With it, he’s been able to survive a maze of a bureaucratic red tape that would have confounded those with less schooling or a language barrier. Nonetheless, the money he gleans from the government doesn’t pay for his teeth, nor does it pay for a hard drive when his computer crashes — death to a writer.
What happened to McPherson could happen to anyone. Let conservatives roar about Obama Care. Without it, one day, when old ages taps you on the shoulder, you might find yourself plunged into the icy waters of poverty. To those in the new Congress who propose reductions in the government’s safety net, I say let them give up their lucrative medical perks first and live like the rest of us. If that were to happen, we’d see more benevolent legislation coming out of Washington.