You Won’t Need to Visit Me In Jail, Afterall

jailLast fall, during the Government Shutdown Fiasco, I made a decision.

Come 2013 tax filing time, if the powers-that-be dictated I owed them tax payments,

“I’m Not Giving The Money To Them.”

I made plans to donate any amount specified as ‘owed’ to our local Fire Department, Road & Bridge Department, Food Bank, Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion  – in short, I was going to give the money to the folks that actually provide the Emergency and Social Well Being services federal & state governments claim they provide to the vulnerable members of my community –  namely, children, the disabled, elderly, those injured/maimed from service to our government and families left without a Head of Household due to those Killed in the Line of Duty.

I gleefully imagined making a photocopy of said donation checks and Photoshopping in Red over the top of them,

“I gave my taxes directly to my local good-works organizations, eliminating the need for you to budget, argue about, hold umpteen votes in Congress & Senate about, shutdown operations during a stalemate, regulate and do associated accounting for – please send me the $2.8 gazillion I just saved you by streamlining your processes”

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get much work this past year, so I don’t owe any taxes – My “Cut-My-Nose-Off-To-Spite-My-Face” stand against those who fail to do their duty will have to wait…

or be fulfilled in some other outlandish manner…

Still, the thought of actually doing this brought a smile to my face and cheered me every time I thought about it the past 3 months – I got vast enjoyment envisioning the posting of what I did and having untold thousands of others downloading the Photoshop Red Overlay to attach to their own tax filing documentation –

Ah well… it was fun while it lasted…

I’m somewhat relieved because I don’t like orange and look a fright in it…

My mother is vastly relieved – she has to live in this community and having a daughter in jail for non-payment of taxes is not in keeping with her idea of ‘maintaining a good reputation’.

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On the same general topic, it turns out Colorado did finally approve me for Medicaid under the new guidelines – I received my card, but have not used it for any services.   Basically, because this coming year, if:

  • I get the hours at my part-time job that have been promised AND
  • I pick up any new website customers or get new work from existing ones AND
  • My brother or mother share their good fortune with me, via a gift as they have done in the past AND
  • My ex shares his good fortune of overtime with me, as he has done previously

THEN – If All these things happen in one month, I could end up over the maximum amount I can make and qualify for benefits.  Funny, because if you average out my yearly income to 12 months and strip away gifts from family, I never even come close – but that’s not how they look at it, best as I can tell.

(You have to report ALL income – and oops! forgot to include the $7 I won from stocking-stuffer scratch tickets – who cares, that was in December and thus, not countable towards 2014 – – Santa, probably best not to bring me lottery tickets, in case I won $500 and had a heart attack, all at the same time….)

My doctor doesn’t take Medicaid…

My one prescription for thyroid medicine is doable, without using Medicaid benefits.

I live in fear of using my benefits and finding out I used them in a possible overage month – I can see the headlines now –

“Jailed for Medicaid Fraud – How One Woman Cost Taxpayers $626”

The above amount calculated thusly:

  • Regular doctor visit ($73 /visit, pay-at-time-of-service discount rate as a goodwill, community support gesture from my physician)
  • x2 (annual visit in August 2014, oops, I got mastoiditis in January 2014)
  • x4 (to account for regular fees charged by providers to cover associated “f**cking with insurance/Medicaid filing costs“)
  • Annual prescription costs

Alas, I’ve decided to keep that card tucked away – to not scour the slopes & plains of Colorado for the one doctor who will take new patients who have Medicaid.

Instead, I consider my card a sort of Life Insurance Policy (which I cannot ever get real life insurance affordably, because I’ve had a stroke).

I no longer worry some unforeseen catastrophe will happen and the EMTs will disregard my DNR tattoo, leaving my mom and brother with untold medical bills which exponentially accumulated before they mercifully pulled the plug on me –

I just need to remember not to have any catastrophes in the same month small good fortune arrives – if great good fortune should arrive, I’ll do my patriotic duty regarding rising government healthcare costs and dutifully purchase regular health insurance  – –

🙂

I did have to laugh – the paperwork accompanying the Medicaid card made sure to inform me, repeatedly, how illegal it is for me to use my card to pay for the treatment of others – heck, a cursory search last October didn’t net  anyone locally who will accept it as payment for me, let alone someone else…

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My Liberal/Democrat friends are disappointed the changes to healthcare law didn’t make huge changes for me – although I try to make them see how much I am benefiting – I no longer have to pay a healthy premium each month for insurance that doesn’t really pay anything until I’ve satisfied a $10,000 deductible.

And, I’m not getting fined by the powers that be, for being irresponsible and not having any health coverage at all – –

On the other end of the political scale in my circle, I believe there is some quiet glee that the Affordable Health Care Act is costing gazillions of astrobucks without making any difference – again, they choose not to look at the issue as I do.

The nice thing about having a diverse circle of friends is your ability to see the world from a myriad of perspectives.

I still think my perspective is best, but it’s nice to know I’m not narrow-minded because I failed to broaden my horizons –

I do it on purpose with a full knowledge of vast, opposing opinions….

🙂

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Things must be getting better for some, because I’ve had the opportunity for more work these past few weeks – I hope the trend continues throughout 2014 –

I’d love to make HUGE donations to my local community next year –

I’m sure you’re disappointed there will be no need for you to bake brownies and bring to the jail for me…

And, I still have the Photoshop Overlay – which took me around 30 minutes to make –  would hate to see that time wasted…

Never Fear, there’s always Next Year!

P.S. Yes,  I’m still slogging away at archives of those blogs I follow – if I wasn’t so rusty at writing, I would have made it to a few more today – alas, 25+ revisions of above article and time to log out and get ready for work – – -25?  really?   Man, do I need to get back to writing – – – and quit Saving Draft every whip stitch…  🙂

Wow, Really?!?

This blog is for entertainment purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by WordPress, Bill Gates, Dell Computer, the local electrical or internet companies, the guy who built the house this article was created in ( who is either over 113 years old or dead), nor any of the multitude of ensuing remodel and maintenance contractors over the past 100 years, local waste management personnel  or even, the author of said blog.

I’m absolutely loving the freedom from litigation fears by  including disclaimers instead of the costly and tiring processes of  either incorporating myself, keeping attorneys on $10,000,000 per month retainers, hiring lobbyists or running for public office.  Why, oh why did I not think of this sooner? And did I cover all the bases?

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Yes, I know, I was going to dive back in and get manuscript 2 ready to deliver next week as well.   No, the dishes are still sitting in the sink with now-lukewarm soapy water soaking them (a little while longer and I shan’t have to scrub loose congealed ketchup at all!).

I did run downtown to check the mail and pick up a six-pack of Miller Lite because I want to celebrate having completed my first manuscript – at least until the beta-readers and proofreader laugh and say, “Really? You really think you’re done?  Amazing!”

I did not shower, but I did doff a pair of jeans instead of sweatpants – best to re-enter the world of reality a step at a time, says I.

Good News at the Post Office!  My Jerusalem Artichokes arrived for fall planting.

Less than good news – My current insurance provider has sent me information…

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Yes, yes, we’ll get to the artichokes here in a minute.

In January of this year, I received notice that the organization through which I purchase my insurance, in fact, the only place I could even get insurance through after my stroke and divorce (thanks, Colorado, for being proactive with your implementation of Affordable Healthcare and allowing me to not burden my child, my mother, brother or the guy I shagged in 1989 with anything more than, say, $30,000 – $100,000 debt, should I suddenly die from a precise strike of lightening from above and be tended to by those who choose to ignore the DNR I have tattooed on my chest – yes, that’s Do Not Resuscitate), sent me a notice that insurance premiums would not be increasing this upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2013.

(State budgets have been allowed to change their fiscal years to run from July 1st – June 30th and federal budgets from October 1st – September 30th – however, my local utility providers and bank do not like it when I try to move my ‘monthly obligations’ out by even 3 days, because I’ve run out of money before the end of the month – where, oh where is the justice?

I also recently asked if I could just not pay my bills for awhile, because I’m filled with doubt over how well currently passed legislation is really going to serve the nation and consider it my patriotic duty to renege on said obligations – a standoff which will magically result in me knowing all and figuring out the mathematical formula that explains the entire frickin’ universe and will result in Utopia!  Take that, Einstein!

Sadly, they didn’t buy in and support that story either.)

Back to the original story – sorry about that….

January 2013 – “Good News!  No increase in premiums to the only health insurance you qualify for”.

(Ladies, and perhaps gents too,  if ever you go through a divorce, make sure not to have a stroke until after you’ve been kicked off your spouse’s policy and your new one has been in effect for 100 years or more – this gives technology upgrades time to erase your pre-existing condition and every statistician who knew of your bad behavior time to die, leaving you golden..)

August 2013 Financial records account reconciliation – “Hey, DumbArse – you’re off by $34.98!   Scratch “CPA” from your possible careers list.”

HA, In Your Face, software!!  Not my fault – my insurance premium EFT went from $154.76 to $189.74  (and before you start thinking about how lucky I am – this coverage carries a $10,000.00 deductible and while I can go to the doctor and pay $25 for an appointment to see what’s wrong, it does not cover any of the blood labs or other expensive tests needed by the doctor to guess at what’s wrong….Happily, my doctor agreed to see me sans insurance if I just pay him $70 cash per visit – If I can keep some semblance of healthy, his deal is a better one than the insurance companies…)

The following is a paraphrase of actual communication – I can do this because I placed the disclaimer at the top of the page and if you skipped it and read the rest, not my problem.

Me:

Dear Insurance Company – I received notice earlier this year there was not going to be any raise in premiums, and yet your recent EFT draft reflects a $34.98 change in price – an EFT you demanded could only come from my personal checking account, not a credit card where I could actually cancel my subscription and have some actual rights regarding a disagreement in charges and contracts – while I realize this may seem not that big a deal, it is severely testing my budget and combined with electrical usage to keep fans running so my house is a comfortable 96 degrees instead of 120 this past month, I’m struggling to cover all bases.  Can you please advise if this is a mistake (yes, please say it’s a mistake and you’re returning that $35 dollars immediately) or explain why the increase?

Their reply:

If you would have fully read your 4pt sized font manual regarding your coverage, you would have realized that now that you are 45 years old, you are much, much more unhealthy and thus a higher risk for us, which means we can legally deduct electronically from your checking account any durn amount we want, because we warned you and quite frankly, now that you’re over the hill and not likely to snare a billionaire playboy for a husband, you’re lucky we charged you only $34.98 extra.  (Where is the gratitude these days?)

It does not count that you’ve already had a stroke and no explanation given as to why and for all we know, you might just drop dead (after $237,000 worth of intervention care trying to keep your worthless carcass alive, of course) at any moment – the fact remains, because you will be 45 years old for approximately 18 days this month, we can now charge you $34.98 more for this month and every month following.

Me:

Thank you for the information.   Alas, I cannot go into further debt and realize that though I’m too late to cancel my coverage in the manner you require (30+ days notice) for the month of September, which I pre-pay you for the end of August, please cancel my insurance, effective for the first of October.

And the waiting for the cancellation letter began.

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September 30th – the insurance company attempts an EFT for the premium of insurance I cancelled over 40+ days ago.    I pay the stop payment fee to the bank.   I use the extra money saved to catch up on my utility bills and buy better food for consumption.

I take full responsibility for spending days writing, in some small attempt to put some product into our capitalistic society that is worth something to another consumer.  I confess to using a portion of my grocery budget to purchasing dirt and seeds to grow a garden at some point in time and to willfully wasting $84 on booze and nicotine to calm my stressed nerves.  I figure it’s cheaper, in the long run, than storming a local business that receives government funding, and really, wouldn’t you agree,  bullets are so expensive these days….

October 1st – I try to see what insurance I can get now – If I am truthful about my monthly income, I’m directed to another website to apply for Medicaid.   If I lie and buy insurance, will they cancel it because I lied about how much I make?

I decide not to risk it.

I apply for Medicaid via another website and check the “Food Stamps” and “Back to work Assistance” program for the hell of it.   Heck, aren’t all my Liberal, Democrat, Republican, Protestant, Catholic, Agnostic friends urging me to take advantage of tax-based benefits I’ve worked for many years to support?

Funny how friendship and knowing someone’s story crosses every political and religious divide….

I decide to apply for everything and let the chips fall where they may.

I find out, once I’ve submitted my application and am now actually allowed to view the secret caverns that tell you what the Poverty Line is and what actual income qualifies you for what, that the Return to Work Program only applies to anyone making less than $248 per month.   Hmmm…don’t want them to think I’m some deadbeat trying to work the system (exactly, how many workable hours a day do these deadbeats have to work this system?   I’m worn out already….)

I try to amend my application and have crashed the system. 

I call to confess my sins…

“Please, please, just let me get good enough health coverage to protect my family from my sins and give me enough money to hire an attorney to draft a request that will stand up in court stating, “I’m no longer of use to the common good.   Please, please, just let me die – preferably by an injection that allows me to float on the magic carpet ride – do not make me die of slow starvation.”

That is all I ask for.   The Social Services lady is not impressed.   She sternly warns me of the implications of trying to get more than is my due.   I’m instructed to amend my application.

Hey!  I can log in now!   Apparently, the state has used WordPress and W3 Total Word Cache and forgot to set caching from 3,000,000 years to 15 minutes –

Yep…um…no… still not letting me change my application to just those things I qualify for – Medicaid –  and I’ll have to prove that in my best month for the last year, I’ve sustained my household of 2 housed in something other than a card board box under a bridge on around $1,300/month – The New Medicaid charts say I can actually make double that for a household of one – Nearly Quadruple that for a household of two – but, alas, $1,000/month is my only guaranteed income for the forseeable future and I don’t qualify for much beyond Medicaid and some politician with a vacation home and the means to take a frickin’ vacation has put my friends out of work in order to deny me the privilege of allowing my family to stay out of debt and the option of blowing me away, because ya know, every life is precious…

Today – I receive a notice from what I consider my previous insurance company, informing me that I really ought to make sure my cancellation request is submitted by December 10th, to ensure I will not be required to fulfill 2 deductibles in 2014.

Wait – –

You’re no longer providing coverage as of January 1st, 2014 – at midnight.   For months you’ve informed me of this.   But if your records do not indicate that I’ve submitted a cancellation prior to December 10th, 2013, I will need to fulfill the deductible requirements for my new insurance plan AND the deductible of the plan that is no longer serviced or even in business come Jan. 1st?

I don’t get it.

True, I’ve had a stroke.

True, I’m somewhat an activist who just waits for the powers that be to say something stupid or illogical or irrational in order to point out to them how ridiculous they are being.

True, I’m sometimes biased and blinded by my own beliefs and perspectives.

Still – I didn’t say “Wow” or “Really” upon reading the latest missive –

I just took a chug of my celebratory beer and mumbled, “WTF?”

😀

P.S.  The Jerusalem artichokes, dutifully purchased out of my grocery budget will be planted Sunday,  I’m thinking – cuz tomorrow, I’m volunteering my time for the benefit of a local organization that benefits our local community – – The ‘chokes are purported to not be too fussy regarding growing environment, should not get me in too much trouble with my local water provider – can double for potatoes or water chestnuts depending on how you consume them (raw or cooked), are a starch that is so miraculous, my diabetic neighbors can eat them without fear and will put up tall stalks of sunflowery looking greenery to hide my recycled tire walls from the offended glare of my affluent neighbor (who actually lives far from me, but owns a business lot one block north of me that doesn’t actually hold a business that benefits the well-being of our community in way I can see – but what do I know? )  He also, supposedly, was considered a hard working, stand up guy by my Dad – but I’m thinking probably not so much anymore.  I hope his sanctimonious ways lands him in heaven – so my Dad can kick his ass….

There – I think this little tirade is complete…

I Did Do It…

Sometime ago, I admitted to taking on a job I wasn’t sure I was qualified for.   The hard drive for the laptop arrived, I took a couple days to gird my loins and then, much to my surprise, the job went smoothly and a working laptop was delivered to the customer, along with the old hard drive, in case they wanted to hire a real expert to retrieve their files.

You may wonder why it’s taken this long for me to post the update…

I was waiting for a call informing me that my repairs were short-lived and a demand for a refund…

This self-improvement stuff is not always a walk in the park.

Since nearly a month has passed with no phone calls and no dirty looks when I walk by each morning during Oakley’s exercise time, I conclude it’s safe to surmise that I did, in fact, do it.

Next item on self-improvement list:

“Learn to suppress the urge to wait for the other shoe to drop.”

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In a somewhat related topic, one of my email accounts was hacked.   Or at least I think it was.   Which is funny, because I’m pretty proactive about complicated passwords and frequent changing.  My customers complain when they receive their initial set-up information and password(s),

“I’ll never remember that!”

To which I reply,

“Fine – change it to whatever you want – just please, please do not use “password1234”.

So yesterday, I spent the day deleting accounts, setting up new ones and doing a thorough scouring of my computer.   None of which revealed any source of the fraudulent email sent from my account.

I found some cool new tools.  I also realized though I may have downsized my material possessions, my bookmarks menu, as of yesterday, qualified me for ‘hoarder’ status.

I only re-bookmarked eight of the long list of folders/links.

I’m feeling pretty purified this a.m.

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Many years ago, I spent my working time between two state agencies.   With duties that required 4 or 5 different log-ins and passwords, at each place.   With strict instructions to not repeat anything, anywhere.  And the requirement to change said passwords every 30 days.

I took these instructions to heart.   At home, with yellow legal pad on my lap and cold beer in hand, I thought about how to accomplish this feat without having anything written down anywhere…

The system I came up with has worked for 15 years – in fact, it worked until yesterday…

And so, I came up with a new one.

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I admit to having fallen behind on what’s what in computer world.   Like most everyone I know, I learn what I need to and cross my fingers for the rest.   The only reason I’m sought out for help is my life experience has been varied enough to have dabbled in quite a few different venues.

And also because my financial status means I have to learn how to fix things myself, rather than hiring an expert to do it for me.  Yesterday’s events made me take a good look at what I know – what I need – and what can be let go.

Simplifying my life means I’m tuning into how complex a new object is – do I understand how it works?  If it breaks, can I fix it myself?   What if the electricity goes out, can I still use it?  Can I maintain my daily needs if all that is supplied to me and under the control of someone else simply breaks or disappears?

Sadly, sections of my life remain that can still be knocked for a loop by outside forces.   Or can result in a wasted day, fixing what someone else decided to destroy for their own benefit, or just for the fun of it.

Much like the peasant in Dark Age Europe, I can arise each day, minding my own business and doing what I need to do – all the while aware that unseen forces may strike at anytime, to lay waste to the little bit I’ve achieved.

Rather than losing my life, virtue or survival needs, I only lose my reputation, financial status and worthiness to participate in modern society via a three digit number –  666 doesn’t get you much in way of shelter, transportation,  work or insurance to protect you from Life’s little hiccups.

It also seems you may not even be able to get a date now, unless your three-digit score is of sufficient value.

Life, Love and the pursuit of things that bring you the experience of happiness are now in the hands of someone else…

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It occurs to me that nothing much has changed in 1,500 years.   Only the methods and means of devastation have.   Instead of a quick thrust of the sword and a blessed end to a life spent waiting for the next catastrophe, you can now experience the devastation of your livelihood with the added benefit of being guilty of planting your crops in an area where Bad Guys are known to roam and not putting up a tall enough fence.

You not only get to live, but you also get to shoulder the blame for the marauding behavior of others.

Which makes sense –

People who are dead don’t pay banking fees, taxes or support our medical system.  They have no need for insurance or global investments.

People who are blameless have no need to purchase security or back-up options.  The also don’t pay fees to change or hide the listings which reveal their crop locations.

Welcome to the new Dark Ages.

But, Why?

Here’s the answer to “Why on earth did you buy a pack of cigarettes when you quit smoking years ago?”

I was mad.   And worked up and frustrated and any number of other uncomplimentary, non-peaceful things.

Instead of trying to find a temple to throw the money changers out of, or a grand palace to destroy by pushing over the great hall support columns, or even grabbing a weapon and a clip full of bullets, I smoked, by myself, and inhaled deeply so as not to let too much smoke escape into the atmosphere, thus endangering my fellow man.

See?  I can think of others, even when in a toot –

Here’s the source of my anger:

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There is a phenomena in our financial systems that has long eluded me and if you don’t live paycheck to paycheck, or if you have some savings and credit cards, you will most likely be in ignorance of:

I call it the “Mysterious Cyber Float”.

Here’s what happens – If I’m paid, either by check, credit card or PayPal, upon deposit or transfer, the money, if small in amount, magically appears in my checking account the next business day.

If I write a check to another, even if it’s for a large amount, the day after they deposit it, it shows up as a withdrawal from my account.

But let me receive payment in an amount that may, when added to other like amounts, really rack up some interest in a day or two of sitting and a magical thing happens –

The money floats somewhere, for anywhere from 3-5 days.

The issuer will swear it has been paid – my recipient bank will swear they first received it four days later.

And, I will be told, I cannot access the funds, until they make sure the funds have ‘cleared’ while in the next breath, they assure me any checks I write will clear within 24 hours and if there are non-sufficient funds, woe to me.

I cannot argue or disagree with any of these points – they were all spelled out for me when I signed on the dotted line.   Just because small amounts magically transfer and can be put to use within 1 business day, consistently, time after time, does not mean anything – the fine print says the funds should be available in “3-4 business days.”

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The only reason I was reminded of this phenomena was that I wrote a check from business to personal the day after I ‘transferred’ online funds – the check showed up for payment 2 days before my ‘online transfer’ was completed.   And was returned – –

Thankfully for me, the returned check was to myself and I won’t be charging me a fee…

I accept full responsibility for writing a check against funds I had not confirmed had arrived and for not calling the bank to see if I was allowed to use my money yet.

And I will pay the resultant fees –

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I’ve long believed that I exist in a system that is not to my favor or even neutral about my existence.   I see idiosyncrasies such as the magical “24 hour clearance for you” vs. “3-4 day wait for us”  in many other forms and I’ve come to the conclusion –

I want out.

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Another example of our current system that burns my arse is the Labor Market.

For some time, Temp Hiring has been gaining favor with big businesses and has, in my estimation, become another form of indentured servitude and is further hurting the laboring populace – as if the current labor market wasn’t damaging us enough….

For an hourly wage of $15, I can work at your business, putting my life’s blood into helping your business succeed while you see if I fit in and work out, without any fear of lawsuits, should you decide to let me go.  You get help for your business, I earn a paycheck and the temp agency makes money for taking the time to evaluate me and the risk that you may not like me.

I will labor long and hard to streamline and make efficient your operations, even if all you originally wanted me to do was data entry – yes, if I think I can help, I’ll offer.  If you say “It’s a Go” I go and work – 12 hour days, if necessary.

The money I just saved your business would  have paid the $15/hour wage AND benefits for three years into the future.

But once everything is running nicely, you ask me to come on board, permanently, for $8/hour and no benefits for the first two years.

And when I politely decline, asking for the $15 and/or benefits, you inform me there are plenty of folks that are willing to work for that, even if I’m not – somehow inferring that I’m asking for too much.

Well, yes… you can get any number of people for $8/hour – but they won’t be me.  Had I not streamlined your procedures and cleaned up your processes – you would have to hire 3 of those someones to do what I can do in one day – is that not worth something?

This is the reason why the “Consulting” industry is taking off – people like me have figured out that it is way less riskier to start your own consulting business than it is to invest in a company and find no loyalty whatsoever in return or be permanently in the ‘temp hires’ category, because you can’t afford to accept permanent work.

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So, with this little history lesson on why I think the way I do –  I’ll share what was on my mind yesterday as I puffed away and imagined the demise of unfair and unjust systems –

Ready for this ‘too much nicotine induced rant’?

“To all banks, insurance companies, politicians, empire builders and others of your ilk from a Working American –

You need me and those like me –  we do not need you.   If we are not working to produce needed services and goods, there is nothing for you to transfer, charge fees on, regulate, invest in, tax or bet on whether we succeed or not.

If we are only worth $8 an hour and you are worth $62.2 million per year, then obviously, you’re a much better worker and you don’t need us, anyways.  Good luck building your empire all by your lonesome.

I may never recover my footing enough to be of any consequence to you, but you’d better hope you finish the job in destroying me.

For know this – I’ve dedicated my life to building a sustainable and resilient life – not just for me, but for my community as well.   I seek any opportunity I can to cut you out of the middle, where you invent ways to make money that is, at best, trying to sell air and at worst, larceny on the grandest scale.

And if ever given the chance, I will destroy the system you laud, admire and acclaim, brick by brick.

Those who labored within the system, not knowing it’s true form will be welcome to eat at my table.

But for those who knew and found ever new ways to systematically transfer wealth from the disadvantaged to the privileged…

Well, you can starve and I won’t shed a tear…

Capitalism, In Crisis?

Why working within a system designed for no-limits clashes with sustainability efforts

David Harvey’s “Crisis of Capitalism” got the grey matter (stardust) between my ears going.  It really filled in some gaps in my thought processes that had been going full-throttle since entering Thomas H. Greco Jr.’s world of “New Money for Healthy Communities”.  (I read it in May.   Still filling in the blanks.   Should have a workable plan soon… if my stardust doesn’t blow away)

(I highly recommend viewing Mr. Harvey’s full lecture (31 minutes).  And don’t tell me you don’t have time…I Facebook – I know how much time you spend on reality TV and computer games… lol)

The material jam-packed into this little clip will get you from “Capitalism is Great!” to “Is It Sustainable?” in 11 minutes or less.

Now, before you fly into a tizzy of disbelief, please remember I’m not a socialist or communist or ….what have you.   But I am a firm believer that what we ARE doing is not working and is not sustainable.  Therefore, it’s time to look at why and can it be fixed, or do we need to start anew?

Some of Mr. Harvey’s observations on what is needed to make Capitalism (in its current form) a viable system are:

  1. Investment of capital needs to take place at precisely the right time, in the right area, in the right amount – everytime
  2. Investment must move continuously through geographical and industry sectors, in order to keep stability.
  3. We must realize at least 3% growth each year.

Investment of capital needs to take place at precisely the right time, in the right area, in the right amount

If it was possible to consistently invest in needed products and services, in the appropriate place and amount, at the right time, it wouldn’t be called gambling ( I mean Wall Street)  Therefore, I believe hoping for this to come true should be placed on the Utopian blueprint, for future reference.

Investment must move continuously through geographical and industry sectors, in order to keep stability.

This is just an educated and financial sounding way of saying, “Spread the Wealth.”   Again, historically, we are very piss-poor at doing this.   We also have natural forces to contend with.  For example, in order to move large amounts of people, goods and services to the Sahara, we need to wait for the next shift of the earth’s axis, guesstimate is 6,000 to 15,000 years from now (or in 2012, if you’re a doomsdayer…and if you are, you’re not reading this, cuz, hey! you only need enough money to last the next 26 months or so.)

So I think we can place “spreading the wealth” in the Kumbaya world too.

3% growth every year

That’s easy.   It’s called population growth.   New consumers are born every minute.

Until you realize that population growth peaked at 2.2% in 1963 and is now at about 1.1% growth, with a continued decline expected.  (Since most Americans don’t need all those extra hands for working a farm they don’t own  AND  a $40,000 college education is expected for each child unit, me thinks the decline will continue.)

(I know all you Ph.der’s out there wondering why I’m drawing a direct correlation between population growth and the needed 3% growth needed for capitalism to work.   I’m not going to explain, because this is really just an asinine way to draw attention to our propensity to expand unchecked in a variety of areas.)

So, just to be optimistic, let’s say that even-stevens, we get 1.1% of our needed growth from newborn consumers.   That leaves us with a 1.9% shortfall.

How much can you eat, wear, do, in a day?   C’mon people, 3% growth isn’t easy (unless it concerns my weight and waistline.)   In order for capitalism to work, we must all do our effort to consume 3% more of viable goods/services each year.

Let’s look at some of the creative ways we have realized gains in the past decades.

Technology

Technology has carried the ‘growth-load’ for some time.  Given Moore’s law of accurately predicting double the transistor capacity every 2 years or so, innovative folks  learned how to design new devices that weren’t even possible at the time they were brainstorming, but were by the time  manufacturing began.   The boosts to the advertising market is just icing on the cake. (I mean really, who would actually buy a Furby without their kids being blitzed by the media?)

But this trend will not continue – projections expect the peak around 2015 or so.  (I can’t wait!   I’m really tired of having to figure out how to work all the bells and whistles on a new phone, software or computer every year or so!  Remind me to tell you the story about converting from Access 2003 to 2007 in the middle of building a database sometime. User-friendly Ribbon Bars my arse…)

On the bright side, technology and space travel should continue to see some growth – we need to find a way to rocket off to the moon or Mars, once we’ve made Earth uninhabitable.  And there are those optimists who are working on space travel just in case we don’t destroy ourselves prior to the sun turning into a red giant.

Housing

My brother and I were raised in a five room home. (yes, we did have an indoor privvy…)  Neither of us joined gangs, went to wrack and ruin via drugs, alcohol, etc.   My family of 3 currently resides in a home nearly 5 times the square footage.  (I say we need to downgrade – males in the house like all the extra floor space to drop socks and set dirty dishes on…)

My dad, a plumber, said that in his experience, people who ‘added on’ to their house because their current one was overflowing with ‘stuff’ didn’t keep the nice, organized environment for long.   They just filled the new empty space with more stuff.   (See?  We are trained well to do our part in realizing 3% growth in spending every year.)

The ‘mortgage industry crisis’ is, in a word, funny.   No, not ha-ha-look-you’re-homeless funny, but how-did-they-think-loaning-more-than-a-house-is-worth-was-going-to-work funny.

Apparently, there wasn’t a dependable Moore’s Law for doubling of home value every 2 years or so.   And how much living space do we really need?   And if we have some extra space, does it just drive us to spend, spend, spend to fill it up?   And can we sustain both the increasing house payments and the decorating expenses non-stop on our current employment?

I also find it entertaining how greatly house prices vary from different perspectives.   From an individual viewpoint, I’d be fine if the realtor and mortgage company of a potential buyer thought my house was worth what the county assessor and my insurance agent have valued it at.    Heck, I’d even be happy if what my insurance agent said I should insure it for was what the insurance adjustor states they will pay when I’m standing next to rubble.

Mr. Harvey states that capitalism is a never-ending race to get past ‘ceilings’ – it functions only in an environment of no limits.   Our recent housing and mortgage industry woes are excellent examples of what happens when we try building a stand-alone staircase to skirt the ceiling.

Financial Services

The financial services industry is, in a word, ludicrous.   That you need an entire industry to oversee and manage a symbol of actual goods and services seems ridiculous to me.    Bottom line, our Washingtons, Lincolns and Franklins are simply a symbol for goods and services which are either currently or shortly (about 60 days)  available for consumption.    (See Money, The Great Hoax, coming soon, for more on this topic.)

We have become so detached from what money actually is that we see It as a commodity.    And many an industry has been built on this commodity.

When you spend your money to make more money, then you are spending a symbol to make a symbol.  But what does it symbolize?   Gold?  Um, no.   Many of the world’s countries that were on a gold standard suspended it to finance wars and found out they couldn’t afford to re-instate it later (I reiterate, wars are pricey).    I also cannot resist adding that having a gold standard is silly.   If you’re hungry, you can’t eat gold.   I’d prefer to see food crops as the standard of money.   But, hey, what do I know?

The financial sector is big business.   Like politics, only those immersed knee deep in that world can actually keep a straight face while expounding on how the system works.   The day I found out that people can actually place bets (oops, sorry, “invest money” is what I should have said) on whether another person or company will actually pay off their loans, and those who bet against people making good made more money than the flip side, was the day I realized we’ve all gone insane.

Granted, I’m sure there are some who would be happy to loudly and aggressively explain to me how this betting (sorry, “investing”) works, why I’m naive and how I should learn more before downing the system.   In my defense, I do not enter the political or financial worlds often – I’m afraid if I read enough to learn all there is to know about them, I’ll become hypnotized into believing their dream world is a good reality.

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Now I’m going to go out on a limb and say I believe our most recent attempt to create 3% growth is in the Insurance industries.   Maybe it’s always been this way, but seems to me I see way more insurance commercials now than I used to.  I can insure my car, house, pet, computer, life, long-term care……..you name it, I can insure it.

There are several things about the insurance industry that bother me.    First, they are in the business to make a profit – just like casinos.   Making a profit means taking in less than you pay out.   Since they are both in the business of telling you what the value is when they are collecting the premiums and what the value is when they cut the check to replace/fix the insured item, or compensate for the loss, seems to me there is quite a bit of  space for the Company to make decisions in their financial favor.  Health insurance premiums vs. when they will release the money and to whom they will release it to for your well-being is a prime example.

Second, I’m required, by either law (car) or to make some purchases (financed home/car) to have.   Yet there doesn’t seem to be legislation in place to keep them from raking you over the coals any chance they get.

Car insurance is a good example.   Years ago, I  worked a short walk away from my lodgings.   Engine in my car blew and I thought, heck, why don’t I just walk for awhile?   So I canceled my insurance, since I no longer had a car to insure.

BIG Mistake!  Huge!   About 18 months later, when I decided get a car, off I went to visit my insurance agent (of course I went back to my old one, like a good neighbor, they are there?  right?)   Imagine my shock and surprise when I found out that although my driving record was even better than before (not driving greatly reduces the chances of speeding tickets!) my premium had almost tripled in size.  Why?   Well, because obviously, I was Uninsured for a reason and there are penalties for that.   (Not owning a car, is apparently, not a good reason.)

Third, most policies have an exclusion for ‘acts of god/nature’ – – if the industry gets into deep financial trouble, I’m thinking a deer running in front of my car or lightening striking my house can probably be placed under that exclusion, even though those scenarios are precisely why I got insurance in the first place.  Add to that the exclusion of life insurance payments, ‘during a time of war’ – and our current inability to solve differences peaceably, and you’ll see why I also place insurance in the ‘heavy house favor’ category of bets.

Fourth, when you take out insurance, you are actually placing a cover bet that something traumatic, devastating and catastrophic is going to happen to you.   The insurance company is betting it won’t.  In essence, you are betting against yourself.  I mean really, who wants to live with that world view?

But I’ll share with you the real (secret) reason why I’m not into insurance being our new way of gaining 3% growth.   On my dark days (yes, I have them often, can’t you tell?) I enter a Twilight Zone state where I’m pretty convinced we are wobbling towards total destruction.   Mother Earth shedding a few pounds, if you will.    And I ponder on who all Knows that’s what’s going to happen.   Just imagine raking in billions in premiums and there not being anyone left to pay out to…

That can finance a pretty good life for the short time we’ve got left. (if you believe it’s all going to end in 2012…)

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I’ll close with repeating the sentiments expressed by Mr. Harvey.   No, I don’t have the solution.

But I do think we can explore other ways to either A.)Move to a different system, or B.)Find better ways to realize our needed growth.

Given our history, we love to gamble.

Maybe we could open a chain of casino/spas.    Combine our love of wagering with the trend towards being healthier (reducing our need for health insurance).   Just think, acupuncture followed by blackjack.

Works for me.