Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How America Treats Its Elderly

George Bush has brought shame to this country in a lot of ways, and if anyone doubts that rot starts from the top down, all they have to do is take a look at how America is treating its aging population. As the days go by now that Christmas is over and the mean people are back in charge, look for more homeless on the street, more utility shut-offs causing more old people to freeze to death, more hunger that stays hidden because the former middle class, the aging boomers without retirement accounts or financial cushions are too proud to go to food banks or beg for a break from banks, credit card companies, and other poor people's traditional means of being propped up in lean times.

We've been hearing a lot lately about the sub-prime mortgage mess. There's a reason for it, not the least which is to build a sympathy buzz to bail out the mortgage lenders to keep them from eating the cost of their greed. After all, during the first Bush administration, daddy bailed out Neil from the Savings and Loan scandal. Which Bushie is going to get his or her butt saved this time? I'm sure it's not the poor suckers who fell for those loans so they could fantasize the American dream was really and truly within their reach. They're just the smokescreen to keep us from looking too closely at what's happening to our own neighbors.

It starts simply enough as it did to my own neighbors. For many years they worked in the social services, the lower end of the middle class. They struggled to pay their bills and maintain a decent credit rating because without it they were out on the street. They worked hard and got by. They were the real foundation of America. Not the super rich. Not the very poor. Not the solidly middle class professionals.

Six months ago the private care facility they both worked for shut down because the funding dried up. The patients were sent to various institutions run by the state that received the minimum of public funding to say open. And my neighbors went on unemployment.

But they were smarter than the average rat and started their own business. It started slow and for months they relied on their good credit history to get by during the months that sales were quite enough to pay expenses. They had worked hard for twenty years and they had excellent credit with their bank. They were given enough overdraft protection to get them from month to month. At first.

The third month their protection was lowered to half of what they were used to. But they knew they would survive because business was finally booming and by the beginning of the new year they could get caught up and not have to rely on the overdraft protection to get them through the month. They always covered the amount within the 30 day period. They were never overdrawn for more than a week. They blessed their good credit that allowed them to survive and they splurged for the first time in months on a bottle of wine to celebrate the huge check coming next month from Christmas sales. It was a victory they achieved from 12-14 hour days putting together the product they sold in astonishing quantities. They began to look forward to a better life and leaving the bad times behind.

But today, with three weeks to go before they get their hard-earned check, their bank cut off their overdraft protection. It didn't matter that they have all this money coming. It didn't matter that they made sure to pay all their bills. It didn't matter that not once did they violate the rules. The bank didn't care. It had an arbitrary time limit where such "help" could be provided. And that limit was reached the day after Christmas, today. And there was no use in trying to talk to the bank. As my neighbor told me sadly, banks don't care unless you have a huge amount of money. Then they care. They care when your name is Bush and you've screwed thousands out of their homes. They care when your name is Halliburton and you've stolen more in a day than most people will ever earn in a lifetime. But the average person who plays by all the rules and needs a small break, that person can rot for all the banks care.

I emptied out all the food I had in the cupboards and gave it to them. I maxed out a credit cared to get some cash so they could at least keep their heat on. And I know they will pay me back when they get their check next month because they are those kind of people, the working class people that make up the myth and culture of America. It's too bad that the only people who care whether they live or die are other poor people, other people like me living from check to check and hoping no one gets sick. I also know they will succeed because they have a good product, a strong work ethic, and people who care whether they live or die.

To keep them in the focus and to help other people with their same story and keep the truth out there that gets buried by the heartless many who are the gears of these callous institutions, I'll be using THE FLIES ON THE WALL t0 tell the story of an elderly couple who got evicted on the day after Christmas.

I don't personally know these people, but they are a composite of many working poor, especially in a town like Bellingham, Washington--a town that prides itself on being an All-America city winner, but is probably the cruelest and less compassionate toward the poor and working poor than any place in this country. The only medal this place deserves is for being the most shallow as they perfect the ability to talk out of multiple sides of their mouths and asses. Stay tuned. It will be an interesting ride for the flies.


LisaRenee said...

Very well written post, and I agree with you that we don't treat our elderly the way they deserve to be treated. The longer I blog, the more stories I read/see and the more research I do the more angry I get at times at the lack of compassion in this country towards those who not only should receive compassion but be protected.

Some Crazy Bear said...

It's a problem that will just get worse in the coming years when you consider that the average social security payment is about 1000 dollars per month.

Most of the people I know who worked all their lives and paid into social security are now faced with the prospect of being homeless, hungry, and unable to afford even the most basic of health care.

And if they spent most of that life working for themselves or as independent contract employees, temp labor, or freelancers, then it's a good chance they won't even get that since it would have required paying into social security from their own pockets.

No matter how you look at it, the threat of America becoming a nation of homeless old people is a very real future nightmare.