Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We are living in dangerous economic times...an echo of the great depression. The great depression is what my parents lived through. Mom told of counting the slices in a loaf of bread so my father had enough for a sandwich to take to work...a sandwich a day. In those days, there was no social security to help families when they lost their jobs. My family was lucky. Instead of my Dad losing his job as a police officer, he had his pay cut to half. We made it through those times, just barely.

I heard stories of people having just one pair of shoes. When the sole of the shoe wore out, the lady put a piece of cardboard in the shoe to cover the hole. You could also get soles to glue onto the shoe. That rarely worked right. The sole came off. Flop Flop Flop ...the sound of walking with the sole coming off.

I heard stories of children not paying attention in school. When questioned, they answered that it was their brothers turn to eat that day. The child was hungry. You could tell who was poor by looking at their mouth. Poor kids had lots of cavities, as they could not go to the dentist. Children who did not have good nutrition developed health problems. They had colds all the time. They cought what ever was going around...including polio. They wore clothes that didn't keep them warm. The school nurse looked for head lice and found them. They looked tired, sallow, with thin limp hair. I saw this myself, living in the inner city.

President Roosevelt started social security so that those terrible days would not repeat. Social security is a mandated savings program. I had money taken out of my paycheck and sent to the federal government for safe keeping. My boss matched what I paid into the system. In turn, I am promised that this money shall be safe guarded and returned to me when I retire, or if I am disabled. I am promised a set amount of money every month, with an adjustment for inflation. I contributed a lifetime of working...adding to my social security account.

Unfortunately, the government could not keep its hands off that money. They added it to the tax revenue stream. SOCIAL SECURITY ISN'T A TAX. IT IS A SAVINGS PROGRAM. Social security money should never be used as a revenue for the federal government. Instead, social security money should be separated from the government and safe guarded by a quasi government agency that prevents the US government from getting at that money. That agency should be charged to invest that money conservatively. Overhead of the agency should be restricted, so that positions in the agency do not become political plums to be handed out to those loyal to the party.

Currently, all that is in the social security pot is a big IOU. I think the citizens of our country would be shocked to learn how broke We are. If We could see the actual debit and credit line, We would throw all the politicians out of office, or storm Washington. Failies have to live within their means. So should the government.

In January, I got my social security statement, showing me what my monthly payment will be for the year. There is a new line on the statement. It wasn't there last year. It says "income-related monthly adjustment amount based on your 2007 income tax return". This means that they are reducing my social security payment because I've reached some sort of financial ceiling that I don't understand. This means that my benefit isn't based on my contributions plus cost of living adjustment. The government changes the rules and I have no recourse This means they may change the rules again next year.

I wish that my social security contribution wasn't in the hands of the government. To make it worse, I, like many others, invested my IRA and pension money in the stock market. I got good advice, diversified my holdings, balanced stocks with bonds, sheltered some money in a tax free investment. The result of a life time of sacrifice, is my accounts are down the same percentage points as the stock market is down. Thank goodness I don't have a mortgage. But, how shall I pay my taxes? What shall I do when my old truck...my only means of transportation...what shall I do when I have to replace it? What if I get a serious illness? How shall I pay for medical care?

I understand that good minds are working on these problems. They had better hurry up.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

The pressure of time: So much to accomplish before self imposed deadlines.
I want my income tax records in the hands of my accountant before I take a week's vacation.
I want the living room alcoves painted and put in order before I take a week's vacation.
Did I tell you that I am taking a week's vacation...in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands?

It takes forever before I decide on a paint color. The living room faces north. That means the light is cool. The room was blue and looked much too cold. It needed warm colors and boy did I put warm colors in that room. The old chair that I got from Goodwill is now upholstered in a red and soft yellow check. An ottoman that matches is slip covered in the same fabric. Two pieces of oddly matched furniture, now match perfectly. Throws over the coach are in yellow. I am proud to say that I pieced both myself. One is promised to my daughter, Beth. It is a twin size bedspread, but too fragile to be thrown around by her high energy son. She will have to wait until the kids are grown up. Then she can have my cathedral windowpane spread. In the meantime, it decorates the couch.

I decided on two shades of yellow for the alcoves off to the side of the living room. One is a deep yellow shading to orange. The other is the lightest yellow on the same color chip. I painted the ceiling of one alcove and the outside wall. When I got to the contrasting yellow, I got jiggle lines, not a straight line. To hell with this. I called Spence. He finished the painting and did a much better job than I did. I was only going to paint the walls, but Spence talked me into painting the woodwork as well. That was a good decision. Fresh white against daffodil yellow is...fresh and cheerful.
Then I decided to make curtains for the front door and the side windows...in a yellow print. Did that. They turned out very nice.
Spence never liked the deteriorated condition of my wood floor. I don't like it either, but haven't solved the problem of moving furniture to clear the room...to refinish the floor. Spence says, "How about We refinish just the alcove and see how it looks?" That is do-able. One day of sanding, two coats of polyethylene done and two more coats to go. There was such beauty hidden under the old finish and dirt. It shows up now. I am pumped to do the whole floor...in warm weather when We can leave the doors and windows open.

Making progress. Making progress.

Now for the vacation: Stephen says He will watch Lily while I am gone. Tina says she will be a back up because there is a possibility that Stephen may be in traffic school on that weekend. We don't know for sure. Since Lily is a cancer survivor, I don't want her in a kennel. The kennel requires immunization shots. That makes sense, as I don't want her to catch kennel cough from some other sick dog. However, I don't want her to get injections when We know her immune system is weak. The solution is to keep her out of kennels.

My friend, Joyce says there is room at the plantation on St. Croix. By coincidence, Hat will be there, too. Hat and Joyce are sisters in law. Hat's family will be coming and going that week. Hat's daughter will be on the same plane with Spence and me...last leg of the trip. This is a socializing vacation...not sneaking away to be alone. Spence calls his sister to tell her about his trip. She is delighted, as she says the best vacation she ever had was on St. Croix. She went snorkeling at the Marine Preserve just off the island. She loved it so much, she did it again. Spence is a golfer. There are several golf courses available to him. I think We will be snorkeling and golfing...and just watching the sunset. Think of steel drums and drinks made of fruit juice and rum with a little umbrella in them. Can't wait.

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