I don't normally get political because politics gives me heartburn. People in my life who are political seem to be wildly unhappy whether their "party" is in power or not. So, generally I avoid the topic.
As a writer, and all writers know this, I have to justify every action, every word, every scrap of dialogue in what I write. There has to be a purpose for building block in a novel. There cannot just be "throw away chapters" or paragraphs that do nothing to move the plot forward. Writers have to justify the existence of every word they write.
At my day job of office drone, I also have to justify my job. Each day I have to keep track of the number of phone calls I make, what type of phone calls I make, what the result of each phone call was, and what my next phone call is going to be. I have to send an email to my boss every afternoon, basically proving to him that I did, indeed, work to move the company forward.
Regular people have to justify themselves every single day. We have to follow laws, we have to prove ourselves over and over and over again every day that yes, we do deserve to be employed, to be read, to be. Regular people have to pay bills, every month, and if they don't have enough money to cover the bills, they can either make more money, generally by getting another job where they have to justify themselves, or by cutting things out of their budget.
Government, I'm finding, does none of these things. Those in government talk a great deal about standing up for the little people, representing their constituents. Oh yes, we Americans, we love the illusion that we are being represented by the people for whom we vote. So we vote for the person who looks good in a suit, speaks well, says all the right things, and doesn't do something really stupid like have an original thought, a controversial opinion...(or any really strong convictions on any topic)...or any sort of black mark dating all the way back to childhood. And those lucky few people get elected where they then...
Well, they then do NONE of the things they promised they would do. Instead of working together to move the country forward, they sit along part lines and for grid lock. Nothing gets done. To make sure nothing gets done, they don't show up to vote. They hide in closets, they go on fund raising trips cleverly disguised as...well as really nice vacations. The good news is, at least in this country, our government really only works part time. See, half the time they have to go home, to the districts they represent. They have to listen to their constituents.
Or, more likely, they have to go on some tax payer funded trip to far off lands. No, they tell us, these aren't vacations, oh no. We're doing important political work representing you.
Really? Because the last time I checked, your trip photos of you and your loves ones frolicking on the white sand beaches of any place outside the US had nothing to do with my healthcare costs.
And let's just talk about that for a minute. As I understand it, and no, I haven't read the bill, but then, neither have the people who voted for or against it, so there's that, everyone must, by law, have health insurance. Ok. Fine. Who's going to provide this insurance? Well, the businesses the people work for. By law, everyone who works 30 hours or more is considered by the government full time (and only the government would consider a 30 hour work week full time) and therefore the employer must pay for insurance.
Hey, guess what, employees of every fast food place and every retail place in this country...you either just lost your job or you are never going to get more than 29.5 hours a week. (I know this for a fact...it's happening to my son, a long time employee of a small, regional, fast food chain.)
So, hey, if my employer doesn't offer me health care, then what?
Well, by law, everyone must have it, so I guess you're going to have to buy it for yourself.
Um, well, okay, but I couldn't afford it when I was working 40 hours a week. Now I'm only working 29.5 hours a week and you're telling me you're going to send me a penalty at the end of the year if I haven't gotten the insurance I couldn't afford when I was making more money than I am now because my employer can't afford it so he's cutting my hours?
Tell, me, oh wise Government people, did you 'public servants' get laid off or have your hours cut? Hm..congress? Did you with you suits and your aids and your $400 haircuts, did you get your hours cut?
Did you lose your healthcare?
Why not? I mean, I keep hearing about how the government is TRILLIONS of dollars in debt and can't pay this bill and can't pay that bill and has to shut down homeless shelters and soup kitchens and cut funding to food programs for mothers who can't feed their kids on 29.5 hours a week. How come your company, you know, the Government, how come YOUR EMPLOYER didn't cut your hours or take away your health insurance and then demand you buy your own insurance?
Well, see, we're the government. So we have this whole other healthcare system all for ourselves.
So...let me just clarify: You are paid by the tax payers of this country?
Your health insurance is paid for by the tax payers of this country?
Your pensions, your travels, everything, that's all paid for?
I mean, we have to do some pretty creative accounting, but yes. Pretty sweet, right?
And you can't really be fired, right?
Well, we can be...if we don't get reelected, then we're out.
Yeah, but how's that pension?
Oh it's awesome. I serve two years in the House of Representatives, and I'm pretty much set.
So. you can't be fired. Your hours can't be cut. You don't have to live with the same high cost low care insurance. You get pay raises, I suppose?
Well, that's a delicate subject. See, one time we admitted we voted ourselves a pay raise. People didn't like that too much. So now we don't give ourselves as big a pay raise and we call it a pay cut and people cheer for us.
Really? People cheer for you? You and the President haven't sniffed a 50% approval rating in more than a decade.
Okay, people don't cheer for us, but we keep getting reelected, so it's the same. What do we care, as long as we get reelected?
Let me ask you this: Has anyone ever asked you to write down, every day, exactly what you did, you know, to prove you actually did something?
I'm sorry, I started laughing too hard when you asked something about doing something every day.
I suppose you show up five days a week, forty or more hours a week, right?
Please, the important stuff is the voting and then the speech after the voting. I do pretty well. I showed up for almost half of the votes I was supposed to cast. And I always make sure I'm on camera...a lot. That's how my constituents know I'm working for them.
Truly a great American right there. So what are you doing when Congress isn't in session? Which, according to my research, was 206 days in 2013? (Congress was in session 159 days in 2013, so I'm going to just assume you were in your seat doing your job all of those days.)
I was representing my constituents. I was at listening sessions. I was at town hall meetings. I was at fund raisers.
So you can get reelected to a job that takes 159 days out of your year and get paid, on average, $174,000 a year?
Do you know how many hours I worked last year? For most of 2013 I worked a 40 hour week...below average compared to many Americans. A "typical" work week is five days, fifty weeks a year. (Again, many Americans work way more than that.) That means I worked 250 days last year. That's 250 "Ass in Seat" days where I had to write down minute by minute exactly what I was doing and if my approval rating slipped below 95% I was called into my boss's office and written up. I get no sick days. In fact, I have to use my vacation days if I'm sick, so I generally show up to work sick. I haven't taken two weeks off in a row since my son was born in 1993. And last year my take home after taxes and insurance was less than $20,000. And I'm one of the fortunate ones in this country because my employer, at least until August first of this year, provides health coverage for which I pay 40% of the premiums.
(I should add, the Federal Government, who did NOTHING to make my job any easier in any way, scooped 27% of my paycheck away from me before I ever saw it. And then the state Government got a cut, Social Security...which I will never see because it will be bankrupt, took a cut, and then I had to pay sales tax, property tax, renewal fees on licenses all before I've fed my family.)
That doesn't sound like too good a deal for you. But rest assured, I'm fighting for you, the little guy. We'll get equality for you!
Well, I need to be reelected before I can do anything, right?
And then I'll be equal to you?
Oh please, no. We're public servants. We can't be expected to actually live by the rules we make.
Friends, if you aren't angry about this, then you're probably dead and you should get yourself to an emergency room. Just make sure you've paid for your insurance first because, you know, the government is going to find out if you're uninsured and they are going to make you pay.
Someone has to pay for all those trips to white sand beaches and the completely free, platinum healthcare.
Maybe if Congress and others up there in high government had to justify their jobs every day like most people do, or justify all of their words, like every writer does, maybe we'd be in a better place as a country because maybe, like so many writers I know, they'd realize real cuts have to be made for the good of the work.
But then again, they're all too busy trying to get reelected.