Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Musings 120--Death of the Middle Class. Part II

It seems we were distracted by the ups and downs of President Bill Clinton's zipper. Republicans smelled blood in the water, and, since they had nothing better to do, went after "Slick Willie" with a vengeance. I said it then, and I'll repeat it now, that what Clinton did was not worth all the huff and puff. But, my fellow republicans had not had a democrat to kick around since Jimmy Carter locked himself in the Rose Garden; thus, they went after him with great glee, and they let the rest of the business of running the country go to hob.

The heads of the Multi-Corporations were making out like bandits. We should have known what was going on when the top companies were reporting that their CEO's were taking home salaries in the 10's of millions of dollars a year. We should have realized that no one is worth that kind of money. But, hey, the good times were rolling.

The Feds finally came out of their decade long snooze. They went after the inside traders and junk bond people. Companies with fictitious balance sheets were scrutinized. By digging in, the Feds found fraud and dirty-dealing. They found theft and corruption on a large scale. They cracked down...and then came 9-11-01.

With the fall of the towers and the beginning of the War on Terror, our economy took a downward turn. The good times had ended. Businesses were folding right and left. Some hung on by raiding the pension and retirement funds of their employees. They did so because they could. Legally, the monies that had been set aside by both employees and employers were under the control of the company. Bunches of retirees were shocked at the loss of pensions and benefits. People that had been drawing their retirement pay soon found that they were back on the job market, and Wal-Mart and MacDonald's were the only ones hiring.

Health benefits went through the roof. It was nothing for health insurance to go up 20-30 percent. Welcome to the new millennium.

I retired from teaching school after the 2001-2002 school year. On June 1, 2002, I received my first retirement check. My take home pay was $2002 per month. Six months later my take home was $1675 per month. The decrease was due to the high cost of medical insurance for me and my spouse.

Each year since there has been an increase in health insurance. Each year I receive a cost-of-living raise in retirement benefits of 3 percent. Health care continues to go up by double digits every year. If it continues long enough, I will owe the retirement system money.

During this time home heating oil has risen about 30 percent. Gasoline has gone from $1.60 a gallon to $2.47 per gallon (this morning March 8, 2006). When I retired I was definitely a middle class fellow. Now I am spiraling toward the upper rungs of the lower class. At least it is nice to be the upper rung of something...I think.

Part III tomorrow.


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