A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Rage of Mrs. Claus

I'm not suicidal, just so you know. But I no longer have any hope at all of living a long, full life, let alone a nice one with retirement benefits. We'll be lucky to keep a car running, until it needs a new motor or something; we'll be lucky to be able to live in our home past the end of the year, and not be forced into some awful 'low income housing development', full of stairs that I can't climb, and closed in on all sides. Any extra stress = more pain, fear, and frank, naked, hatred towards all Republican bastards who put us [and our country] in this mess.

Yes, this has driven me from outrage to utter hatred. And, since I'm a practicing Buddhist, this is bad Karma to say the least. So I say loads of mantras, and keep the prayerwheel spinning. But that doesn't put food on the table, gas in the car, or necessary prescription medications in my hands.

The above is a comment of Mrs. Claus in an e-mail to a friend. She has given me permission to quote it. It's as good a starting point as any to address a serious moral issue: the sheer cold rage of my fellow Progressives. I have a religious obligation to avoid such rage, personally. So, for that matter, does Mrs. Claus. I have a better time of it than she does because I am no longer afraid.

Mrs. Claus is very afraid.

The Republican war against the poor and helpless is well advanced. They've had 25 years to successfully pursue it. I've talked about it before. If you want to see the evidence of it you can look here and here. If you don't want to see the evidence of it, its a free country. For now.

This is what it has meant to a man like me: Since I am bipolar, I am absolutely medication dependent in order to be employable. I can work for only for 30 hours a week due to the medication itself. I can recieve no Medicaid to either buy the medication or get my condition treated, because I can work. I can only receive food stamps, and the more I work, the less food aid I receive.

We who are poor, and relatively helpless, have born the brunt of it hitherto. But that is going to change. The next people to be ground into the dirt are the people who are not technically poor, but are by no means rich. As you can see if you look at the evidence I have linked to, they have steadily been outanted in the game of American prosperity for the last 25 years.

The first of them to be hit will be the retirees. The new, manditory, Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage will begin January 1. This is what sent Mrs. Claus off the deep end. By being very poor, we got our first notice of it six months in advance.

At first sight, it appeared, from the completely uninformative double-talk of the notice, that sometime around February 1, Mrs. Claus would no longer be able to afford the 20 drugs (costing about $2000 a month retail) she takes for the relief of her many medical conditions, including chronic and unbearable pain.

It would particularly mean the loss of her latest medication, which is the first one to actually improve her capacity to function, affording her new-found freedom, in about 5 years. Cut all this off, and it would push her to the brink of suicide in a way that no one who has not personally experienced chronic pain will ever understand.

I could in no way prevent her from taking her life if she so chose. She is allergic to salicilates, like common aspirin or wintergreen oil in muscle rub, and she is in danger of anaphalactic shock and death from them. One full day of my part-time job and a hidden bottle of aspirin and she could check out without any hindrance whatever. She would be dead before anyone could ever get to her.

If she ever does this, I will be, without question, the one to find her body. I have resigned myself to this. I have no choice.

She wrote the phrase that started this post under this belief about Medicare, Part D. Luckily, after too much digging and too many phone calls leading to circular phone trees, I managed to find out that it might not be as bad as Mrs. Claus thought. It may not run her out of medication. But it will be bad enough--so bad, in fact, that the SSA had to have the explanation booklet pulled because of the massive potential for an explosion from the consumers when they find out, first hand, how bad it's going to be. How they plan to rewrite it to avoid that explosion is anybody's guess.

Starting next year, we will probably have to pay the equivalent of an extra month and a half's rent per year, which we were not paying before, for Mrs. Claus' drugs. But no more than this, I hope. If this is the case, we'll manage. Somehow.

But the barely not poor on Social Security will get the rug completely pulled out from under them--and in the nastiest fashion imaginable. After paying a large premium (as much as $420 annually) , a hefty deductable ($250 per annum), and significantly large percentages of their actual prescription costs (25% for every Rx), the coverage will simply stop.

You heard me. It will simply stop. You only get a total of $2,250 a year of benefits. This lovely little provision of the "Medicare Modernization Act" already has a nickname: the doughnut hole.

Coverage will not start again until each enrollee has spent a total of $5,100 on drugs and a couple will have to spend a total $10,200 to resume coverage for both. In my town this would be equivalent, for a couple, to two year's rent, in a two-bedroom apartment, in a very modest part of town, where the police reality shows don't require you to have cable.

Then the government will start to cover the drugs again at 90%. I wonder how much Mr. & Mrs. Goldenyears will have left to cover that other 10%. I would guess not very much. But then maybe their children, or maybe one of those "faith based charities" we hear so much of, will be able to help out. Maybe.

Sooner or later, I expect to see a great many of the Goldenyears clan sitting in the waiting room of the Office of Jobs and Family Services, along with me, Mrs. Claus, and her rolling walker.

The predation on the nearly poor, and even the moderately well off, will not stop there. A military draft is coming. George Bush cannot suspend the multiplication table forever. His "highly placed sources" in the Pentagon have already made clear, not for attribution of course, that the military commitment to Iraq may easily outlast the Bush Administration.

Daily Kos has routinely generated the Big Horse Laugh about how George's real constituency aren't helping him any with the situation. Look around the Blogosphere. How many of the conservative armchair colonels, with their weekly briefings from the cutting edge of democracy, are beating the drum to encourage the young and restless to enlist?

Isn't Iraqi democracy worth at least that much? Isn't the vision of falling Middle East domino dictators worth that much? Isn't freedom spreading like a prarie wildfire worth that much? Isn't fighting terrorism worth that much?

Apparently not.

Then, of course, a lot of the conservative bloggers out there are of an age to still do volunteer military service, themselves. They keep very quiet about this. They have "other priorities", just like Dick Cheney did so long ago.

Nor, for all their justification of war as a part of God's Law, do you hear, from James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, or David Limbaugh, that young and righteous Christians should enlist for the Cause. I haven't heard it yet from Tom DeLay or Bill Frist either.

Maybe they're afraid of it looking like a Crusade.

I except the Catholics from this stricture, of course. After all, Benedict XVI himself has speculated that there may no longer be such a thing as a just modern war.

You probably don't know about it, but the military actually has access to your child's name, your address, and your phone number, if you have a child still in school. No Child Left Behind, Section 9528, compels school authorities to give the military those names, addresses, and phone numbers. Just a part of the overall effort of the current Administration to bring our children's education up to standard. Can't think of any other reason why they would want it, can you?

Wonderful, isn't it, how our leaders think ahead.

Of course, if a draft comes, I wouldn't expect families above a certain income level to send many young men and women abroad. After all, most of our Senators and Congressmen, most of the lobbyists they are so cosy with, most of the top appointees and bureaucrats of the Executive Branch, all fall comfortably above that magic income level. I expect their children will generally have "other priorities", too.

If a majority of the American people rose up and demanded that any draft be genuinely universal, and not favor the children of the rich, it would probably happen. I don't expect this and I don't think it will happen with anything less.

We went through all this once before, between 1966 and 1973. I had hoped very sincerely that we wouldn't do it again. But, if we do, the public will be far safer from another spasm of civil disobedience and public protest, like we saw back then. The tools the Federal government now has to "fight the terrorism" of anyone who might organize or lead such protests, or even encourage them, have expanded considerably in recent years, in case you hadn't noticed.

This time it won't be necessary to call out the National Guard, and shoot some college kids, to put a damper on the festivities, like it was back then. Apply everything from the RICO laws to the Patriot Act with firmness and dilligence, and any serious collective public resistance to government policy will wither within months.

Not that I much care. My days of taking it to the streets are long gone. And when I consider how many of the barely not poor, and the moderately well off, voted both for Richard Nixon then, and George Bush now, I am far less motivated than I might be to do any such thing again. You pays your money and you gets your choice.

Which leads us back to the moral matter of Progressive annoyance turning to outrage turning to hatred. I have no hatred because I do not fear what is coming, even if it be genuine insurrection and rebellion, the remodeling of the United States along the lines of the sort of garrison state democracy that they have in Israel, and the transformation of our economic and social class structure into a bad parody of Paraguay. I am dilligently preparing for death, whenever it comes, in any case. And I have no more serious monetary assets to lose, so all anyone can threaten me with now is physical pain and discomfort.

Of course we are preparing a new generation of experienced interrogators to bring that to bear as well, if needed, and I have written about it in several posts below. So maybe, when things mature, and push comes to shove, the Party in power can again make me afraid enough to hate them. I hope by then, if then there must be, that my preparations for death will have fully ripened and taken me totally beyond fear.

I think, however, that even if I were totally beyond fear I would weep for my mother and father, who helped rebuild a country that was the envy of the world, and a country which we will never have again.

I would weep for my fellow progressives, including Mrs. Claus, who have been driven by fear to a hatred they did not want, and do not indulge in for fun. I know them well enough to know that they are perfectly well aware of the mental torment in which the hatred places them. That torment is stark and unrelieved for them--unlike some others who have rhetoric such as, "Islamofacist!" to keep the torment of their fear and hatred hidden from themselves.

Mrs. Claus knows what's happening to her, both inside and outside, and knows that the inside struggle is essentially a religious one.

And I would even weep for the targets of Mrs. Claus' hatred--because I know the personal future they are building for themselves, and because they do not realize the religious meaning of what they are doing, both to themselves and to everybody but themselves.


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