Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Vampires Are Real
Today fifty "bipartisan" U.S. senators and President Obama himself were all excited because they're reaching a potential solution to the legislative impasses presented by the need to extend the U.S. debt ceiling that will allow the government to meet its bills. And — surprise! — the solution is some variant of the despicable Simpson-Bowles plan that Obama had contracted out to a bunch of right-wing politicians acting as consultants last year. The new potential deal is the work of the hilariously named "Gang of Six" coalition of conservative Republicans and blue-dog Democrats.
While the actual details seem not to have been formally announced, they don't seem quite so hilarious: the so-called compromise seems to actually include across-the-board tax...cuts, including for the super rich, supposedly offset by a rewriting of the tax code to eliminate deductions and loopholes. And the deal includes cutbacks in all the social programs that Obama claimed he would defend: medicare, medicaid, social security, and even the half-assed healthcare reform. The differences between this bipartisan bill in the Senate and the teabagger/Republican bill in the House (that Obama has promised to veto) are only of degree, not principle.
So what does that mean exactly? Well I will tell you.
A few years ago I worked in the music business. Although I have never been anything close to rich, I had a job — a career even — that paid me more money than I thought I would ever make, at least in my last year there. I worked for that company for sixteen years in the end, after over a decade of what would look to most people like marginal employment elsewhere. I never thought I'd be able to afford to own my place of residence, certainly not in a city like New York. Well strange things happened: my mother was almost killed by medical malpractice. After springing back to life after selling all of her belongings, we had to change from end-of-life planning to planning for the future. It was the height of the housing bubble, and an elderly woman with a microscopic income from a pension and social security, albeit with a lump of cash from selling her belongings, and a middle-aged guy with a terrible credit history but an okay-paying job could get a mortgage and buy a house.
And so we did. The mortgage note was high, but all things considered, it seemed a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and we bought a place big enough for both of us in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood. It turned out we could afford it, although it wasn't easy. It turns out that the tax benefit to owning your own home is what makes it possible for people like me without money to spare. A whole bunch of money would come back in the beginning of each year, just when it needed to: The interest payments you make on your mortgage turn out to be deductible against your income.
Then, after sixteen years at my job, I got laid off. It was at the beginning of what became the horrible recession that the country (world?) still hasn't climbed out of.
I was out of work for five months, and lucky to get a freelance gig that I still have four years later, at something around half my previous pay. We still have the house, though my savings from the good years are just about gone. I pay the horribly ill-named Freelancers Union exorbitant fees for my own health insurance, and money is tight. (Thank God I got out of the credit card extortion racket and have no other debt.) But at the beginning of each year I'm busted: and that tax benefit is the thin green line that keeps me and my elderly and near-invalid mother housed. Here's what this exciting financial compromise means to me: these bloodsucking vampire politicians will take my home. There is no way that cutting my taxes by the amount being proposed will offset the losses from the elimination of the mortgage interest deductions. None. Unlike the rich people in our government, I don't have a cushion of cash. The economic crisis took all that from me already. It will be impossible to continue to pay the note. And guess what: since this is going to be the case for millions of "middle-class" people just like me, owning a home is no longer going to be feasible for anyone but the super rich. Which means my home will be unsellable.
This is the way the politicians want it.
They're trying their damnedest to come up with a pretty way to take our money for themselves. This is not the undoing of the sixties welfare state or the FDR new deal, this is the beginning of the undoing of every social advance since the late 19th-century confrontation between labor and the robber barons of industry.
Vampires walk the earth. And disturbingly, the vampires who want to replace the current vampire-in-chief are even more bloodthirsty. And half the country is cheering them on. And since when are "gangs," of six or any number, on anybody's side but their own?
Welcome to Zombie Land.
(Graphic is not from the government, but from the guilty-pleasure vampire soap opera "True Blood" on HBO).