Friday, July 9, 2010

Underemployed And Didn't Have Health Insurance ...


Underemployed And Didn't Have Health Insurance ...

By Dave Johnson


July 9, 2010 - 2:24pm ET


I just talked to an old friend yesterday and got bad news. He was another programmer laid off in the dot com crash, in his late 40s at the time, so he hasn't been able to get anything since then except the odd short-term contracting gig. Certainly not anything that provided health insurance. (This is not the same person I wrote about in Too Old For A Job, Too Young For Medicare Or Social Security the other day. As I said, there are a lot of people in this situation and not just in Silicon Valley...)


He had a heart attack a year ago, probably because he couldn't get regular physicals, advice, cholesterol medication, etc. He ended up $300,000 in debt -- a joke for someone with no income, who had long ago burned through his 401K. Good thing he didn't have a house to lose.


Now it’s colon cancer.


He’s 59, didn’t have health insurance so he couldn’t afford to get a colonoscopy or other screening, and it reached stage 3 before it was discovered. He had surgery to remove a big mass and is starting chemo this week. So we’ll see how it turns out.


He can get Medicare and Social Security in a few years, if he makes it. But there is no way he is going to find a job. You know that, I know that, and if he does what conservatives want and can even find a minimum-wage "greeter" job with no insurance anyway all he would be doing is displacing someone with fewer skills who will have an even harder time finding a job. But he doesn't get unemployment anyway because he was a "contractor" which really just means "employee" but the government doesn't enforce employment laws anymore. Ask anyone over 40 who is looking for work about that.


Conservative and Blue Dog policies have failed us.


So, conservatives and "Blue Dogs" in Congress, what about those COBRA subsidies for all these long-term over-40 unemployed people who Can. Not. Find. A. Job! And what's with cutting off their unemployment benefits? What is the matter with you people? These are the very people who need help most. These are the victims of the banksters who you gave hundreds of billions to bail out, and who paid themselves bonuses with the money.


And, by the way, COBRA itself is also expiring, so these people won't be able to get insurance if they can magically come up with the cash while unemployed. Oh, and what's with that 2014 date for starting health care reform? That's a long way off.


At the request of the previous President you conservatives and Blue Dogs certainly came up with plenty of cash in a hurry to bail out the banksters, who used it to pay million-dollar-bonuses and still are not giving loans because liquidity wasn't the problem, demand was. (Liquidity vs demand translation: they didn't need the money, we did.) Now, after your 8-year conservative orgy of spending like crazy on tax cuts and military and wars and subsidies for oil companies and big ag companies and big pharma companies and big companies and big companies and big companies and then crashing the economy We, the People need some help.


We, the People need some help. But now there is a new President who wants to help the people instead of the big companies and suddenly it's "deficit, deficit, deficit" and "socialist, socialist, socialist." Yet even though every single one of us knows the deficits were caused by tax cuts for the wealthy plus military spending increases, fixing that is off the table, not to be discussed, crazy talk, by fringe leftists.


Here is a fact. We didn't have big deficits and huge debt before the Reagan tax cuts, and we kept our infrastructure up to date, and we had a middle class, and our companies actually made things and served their customers. This is because with high top tax rates it took time to build up a fortune, so companies had to be connected to their communities and their communities had to work. Since the tax cuts everything is fast-buck schemes and windfall profits and the next quarter and sell off assets and privatize good things that served the public, etc. Since the tax cuts everything is greed and short-term.


So if you want to cry about the deficits you caused with your tax cuts, then make the country and economy work again by returning to the pre-Reagan top tax rates. And pass and extend COBRA subsidies and unemployment benefits, until unemployment gets back to 5%. Pass another stimulus, because the last one was too small, and a third of it was wasted on tax cuts that leave nothing behind but debt. Pass job creation programs.


And Congress needs to get things going by passing the George Miller "Local Jobs for America Act!" .


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