An open letter to people who will show about $150,000 gross or less on their tax form this year.
The present poverty line for a family of four is $21,834, but that doesn’t tell the story anymore. You make a lot more than that. You also have credit card debt and/or equity lines or ARM’s or contracts for services that can’t be canceled. One of you is not making the same as last year. A sane accountant looking at your situation would tell you that you that you no longer have “disposable income.”
Sure, you have a job. Sure, your house is worth more than you can sell it for. Sure, you have assets. You’re vested in your career. But once you pay the what-you-got-to’s, there’s nothing left. You have become the middle class poor. You are the responsible, tax-paying, hardworking, never quit household that is the backbone of our country. You are better off than the unemployed of your same caste, but you are one crisis from being equal to all those other people.
You are going to achieve. Whatever it takes. You pay your bills. You’ve cut back. No more e-bay. Wine at dinner is a memory or an infrequent special occasion. The boutique shopping for the kids has been replaced by trading clothes with friends and family, charity store visits or Walmart. You haven’t been to the dentist in a while and won’t go anytime soon. That 401-k won’t be matched this year. Your hair is longer and a color you haven’t seen since high school. If they say change your oil every 5,000 miles, it’ll probably be okay for 15,000 or so. You are one straw away from total meltdown. You, the admired among the admired, are one late fee and rate change — or, god-forbid, a medical crisis — from the poverty line. Those triple credit score dot com commercials are singing to you in every television break.
This healthcare debate is about you. Forget the poor. Save you.
This debate is framed by spin from all sides, none, not a one, is talking about you. You have healthcare insurance, but please, I beg you God, don’t let me get sick. Don’t make me spend the deductible. I can do a copay today, but a hospital stay? No, save it for the kids. I can’t. There’s a little room on that VISA; what the hey, I can afford to be against healthcare reform. After all, it will bust the budget. Won’t inflation take everything I’ve worked for away?
No. Not like one pain in the abdomen. Or lump in the breast. Or a little blood in your urine. “It won’t happen to me,” you say. “I’m young.” Don’t dance with that devil. He’ll win. It won’t be long before you or yours will hear it. The age of 65 is longer away in medical insurance terms than your mortgage payoff.
Healthcare reform is about you. About that moment, perhaps it is today, when your copay at CVS will mean you don’t have lunch money for the kids. About that moment when you have that follow up appointment you’ve been waiting three months for and your child needs medicine.
Healthcare reform is about what happens to priorities. Your priority list a year ago could go twenty deep. Now it is a list of two. All it takes is a little chest pain to make your priority list a list of one.
You may want to be a bleeding heart: Charity first, save the person on the phone, screw your health, whatever for the other, I’ll make time, I can match that, run for the other and walk for everything important. This is your moment to do something really important for yourself. For your family. For your friends. Because one of you, maybe not today, but certainly a day very soon, will be, for all practical purposes, poor. The working, hard-working, desperate, no place to turn, poor. The I can over achieve because I believe in capitalism and the American way gone wrong, poor. The I haven’t failed, just ran out of money at the wrong time, poor.
This debate, is about you. Your priority needs to be, call your congressperson and senators and light a fire up their asses. Read the bills that are being debated. Decide what makes sense to you for you and tell them. Don’t listen to Fox, CNN, MSNBC or anyone else. They don’t take the crisis calls from your family. Only you can decide. This is your moment.