Reflections On Being Put Out to Pasture Way Before My Time
Having just finished moving into my new subsidized housing unit, followed by a badly-needed 2-week vacation while I nursed my injured back, I think this would be a good place to pause and reflect on the recent occurrences in my life and my ministry. (Actually, it’s God‘s ministry and not mine. I am merely a conduit through which his Spirit power can and does flow.) Although I seldom talk about myself on this website, this occasion can be one exception because it is so very relevant to what God has done for me in my life. If God can do all he has done for me and through me, then He can surely do it for you too.
I became disabled back in 2008 due to a mixture of medical issues that cropped up at about the same time. After being picked up off a sidewalk by paramedics due to a medical emergency, I spent the next 5 months in 2 different hospitals while my doctors put me back together again. Basically, God put me in his shop for an overhaul, sort of like restoring a vintage car or truck that still has plenty of good miles left. Prior to that, I was an IT worker and former computer shop owner, plus an electronics technician before that, for nearly 23 years. But I fell on hard times starting in 2008 right before the financial crash of that September. By the time I felt well enough to reenter the job market in 2010, it was too late for me and a multitude of others as well. I am in my 50’s and a seasoned veteran of the technology business. Meaning, the corporate world thinks I’m too old and expensive to keep around. Why allow me to remain when they can hire 20-somethings right out of college for less than $20,000.00 a year? I have five degrees, diplomas or professional certifications hanging on the wall above my workstation here at home. In the old days, they were a ticket to my next job. Most recently, however, they have become liabilities instead of assets, which is why I was told, “You’re overqualified” for every single position I applied for. It’s age discrimination, pure and simple, and our country’s lawmakers and judicial branch know it. By not doing their jobs by failing to stop this discriminatory practice, they condone its existence.
There was another factor coming into play here, and that was my credit – or more accurately, the lack of it. I had incurred well over $300,000.00 in hospital bills that I couldn’t pay because I had no health insurance for purely economic reasons. Naturally, this pretty much trashed my credit, and that in and of itself pretty much ended my job search right then and there. The brutal reality is that if one has bad credit, obtaining a job – nearly any job – is difficult at best, and a complete waste of time at its worst. And that is exactly what I ran into, until I was eventually forced to end my job search for good. I didn’t do that for 2 more years, up until about the first year that I was finally, and mercifully, put on disability. But this is not the end of the story.
I felt well enough to return to work at that point, but I was unable to do so. There are millions of older American workers like myself who have experienced the premature end of their careers. We live in the age of the disposable human being, and all of us are living proof. Between so-called “right to work” states like Georgia where I live, the systematic attenuation of the power of organized labor, and the mass outsourcing of formerly American jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar, the American worker has been hammered by a hostile and brutally competitive work environment. Is it any wonder that the sole reason that one out of every three people go to their jobs is only because they have to? Or, here’s another factoid for you. One out of every four US workers over age 50 who are long-term unemployed will never work again. That’s one fourth of all our grandparents, aunts and uncles. It is blatant, in-your-face age discrimination, and it is being allowed to run rampant while government regulatory bodies who are charged with policing this very situation look the other way, or are asleep at the switch.
After some careful evaluation of my situation and the circumstances in which I found myself, I decided that what I needed to do was to go back to school. So I went out and I landed interviews with a well-known local university and with 2 for-profit trade schools. The university refused to give me credit for my 2-year degree, nor for any of my professional certifications. I couldn’t believe it, I was absolutely floored. Then I talked to the 2 vocational colleges I mentioned. Unfortunately my credit score wasn’t high enough for me to qualify for a student loan at both places. And so the die was cast. I tried to go back to work and back to school only to come up short on both counts. All I wanted to do was to better myself, to become something more than I was, but I had been denied the opportunity to do so. This got me to thinking about a statistic I had used in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, which I wrote while all this was going on.
Back in the mid-1940’s, at the end of World War 2, America had hundreds of thousands of returning soldiers from the battlefields of the Pacific and of Europe and North Africa. Their only two jobs skills were marksmanship with their weapons and hiking through all kinds of terrain for very long distances. So Congress passed the G. I. Bill, one of the smartest things (for Washington) they have ever done. It gave every returning infantryman, artillery and tank operator, Navy, Marine and Air Force service member a fully funded 4-year degree as a way to start their careers, and that’s exactly what it did, resulting in the greatest economic boom seen up until that time. Well, if they could do this back then, why can’t they do it now? Why can’t Congress, the US business community and the Department of Education make a joint effort and bring this to fruition? People need jobs, they need to have an income and be self-sustaining. If our old jobs are gone overseas, then fine, train us to perform new ones instead of simply throwing us away! Hey, Congress and Wall Street, we are living, breathing human beings. We are not like a tank of gas in your car or truck. You can’t simply use us until we are all used up and then just go get more, you can’t treat people like that and get away with it for very long. Sooner or later, our patience will have run out, corporate America and Congress and all the rest of you too. What will you do then? What will you do when huge mobs of hungry and enraged people who can’t feed themselves, let alone their families, descend upon your gingerbread mansions that dot the landscape at that private golf course you belong to? What will you do when we storm your high-rise condos and your gated neighborhoods looking for food and anything else that’s not bolted down? And what will you 1% ‘ers become as a result? That’s right. Dinner.
But we can’t afford to do that, I can already hear the arch-conservatives inside the beltway saying. We have a $17 trillion dollar deficit to make up. It’s a financial emergency! And besides, that’s socialism. Well, if this is socialism then so was the G. I. Bill, so was Medicare and Social Security, and so was the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. And Franklin Roosevelt, our president at that time, was no socialist either. What he actually was closer to being is what we would call a Progressive president using today’s political terminology, or a Populist from 100 years ago during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency. And that brings me to my point.
I wanted to return to work, and I still do. I most definitely do not want to retire in my fifties as I am currently. I even refer to myself as “involuntarily retired” sometimes when I blog or post as I am now doing. But instead I find myself forced out of the job market, possibly for good. Do you know what this tells me? It tells me that my government would rather have me scraping by on a $10,000.00 annual disability income because, to their warped way of thinking, it’s cheaper than paying me a living wage. Keep me idle until I eventually atrophy away from a lack of work. We don’t want you around, I am being told by the powers that be, because you cost too much and because you are getting to the age when you might actually need to use that insurance coverage you have been paying for all this time. We can’t take a chance on that occurring because then we would be spending money on you instead of making money – big money – from your labor.
OK then, all you 1% ‘ers, if you don’t want to do that, if you won’t let me work here, teach me some new skills so I can work somewhere else instead. It’s time to speak truth to power, people! Is there anyone reading this who doubts the accuracy of what I am writing? Then I will give you an example taken from the same 2011 book I mentioned just above. If the US military took all the money currently being spent on the pointless and obscenely wasteful war and occupation in Afghanistan for just one day, and then put that single day’s expenditure into an interest-bearing account of most any kind, there would be enough money there to send every schoolkid in America – from pre-K on up – through 4 years of college, fully funded, even including their internet access, laundry, food and transportation, plus a new portable computer for each student. That’s right, my dear readers, we can do this with only one day’s total of the money spent in Afghanistan. So the next time you hear someone or read something that says we can’t afford to retrain US workers who are long-term unemployed, you know that either it’s untrue or that individual is one of those people who can’t stand to see anyone else get ahead except themselves. And they are out there, of that you can be sure.
And so the answer here is crystal-clear. Put Americans back to work. Remember that everybody, no matter who they are or where they are from, has the right to a livelihood and to a living wage, enough for the basic sustenance of at least 1-2 people. And the Bible also says, “The worker is worth his wages”, meaning all workers are worth a living wage, starting in America and spreading world wide from there on outward. If there are no jobs for them, then train them for new ones. The possibilities are endless, and a living wage is Scriptural.
But what do we have instead? A hopelessly rigged economic and political system where no one but the top 1% get ahead, and the rich are most certainly not shy about it. Even healthcare suffers from this malady, having experienced a little of this myself. I get my prescriptions and go to my doctor appointments at a steep discount due to my being disabled. If I went back to work now, I would have to take a huge pay cut. So massive, in fact, that I would no longer be able to pay for my prescriptions. The reason is that if I go back to work I would lose those very benefits that help me sustain myself. In that case I would be worse off than before when I wasn’t working. Ironic, isn’t it? My medical problems are fine as long as I remain as I am, but if I return to work full-time then I can’t pay my doctors and my pharmacist. That’s the way the cookie crumbles in this upside-down, bass-ackwards world that we are all stuck living in. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Having some form of national health insurance (such as single-payer Medicare) would remove the tremendous burden of providing health insurance from the backs of businesses and governments, not to mention individuals. It would give all American taxpayers and US businesses a big boost that would make America’s economy robust again. Besides, the USA is the last developed country in the world that does not have health insurance for its citizens. It’s about time that this is brought to an end.