Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Lethal Arithmetic of Now

“This must be how it feels to lose a war,” a friend remarked on the morning of Nov. 9.

His perspicuous remark haunts me as the names and faces of our new regime emerge.

One can almost see the lines of occupying troops marching into our cities and towns, barking commands in a strange language, flying unfamiliar ensigns over our public buildings and places, taking obscene advantage of our wives and daughters, looting and pillaging at will from the bombed-out shells of our homes.

We are now the subjected, the oppressed.

A friend of my vintage was doing his personal arithmetic the other day.  An aging retiree, he has up to now been able to meet all of his basic needs with enough money left over to travel a bit, visit the kids and grandkids.  His income consists of Social Security, a modest defined benefit pension and the required minimum distribution from an equally modest IRA.

The new regime means to do away with all restrictions on the financial chicanery of corporations, which puts my friend’s pension fund at risk.  It has announced its plan to do away with Social Security, which would further reduce his income.  It will eliminate government involvement in health care, taking away the insurance that now covers 60 per cent of his prescription medicines and virtually all of his doctor and medical bills.  His IRA is invested in a conservative mixture of stocks and bonds.  It plunged precipitately in 2008.  In the volatile financial market to come, the billionaires in the new government will do just fine; my friend could be wiped out virtually overnight.

Even before the election, the pharmaceutical industry warned us to expect a 19 per cent increase in the cost of our medications.  Now, with no government restraints at all, the increase almost certainly will be much greater.

My friend, like so many aging retirees, requires life-sustaining prescription medications for a condition that only a few years ago would have meant certain death.  “We may come to that again,” he said.

If the new regime simply takes away his prescription insurance, he will be required to spend every penny of his Social Security income, plus a substantial portion of his pension income, just to buy medicine.  If either of these sources of income vanishes, or is significantly reduced, he will have to choose between eating or getting the medicine that keeps him alive.

If the new regime eliminates Medicare, as it has said it will, my friend will no longer be able to go to the doctor, or to the hospital if his condition worsens.  Medical care will become, for him, a luxury he can no longer afford.

He will die.  Painfully and ignominiously, for his is a condition that, if unmedicated, is accompanied by severe pain.

Every day when he looks out his window at the quotidian parade of mankind, he knows that of, say, every ten  passersby, at least five voted in favor of this new regime, voted to put him to death, slowly and painfully, in the hell that used to be the United States of America.

Do you hate them? Are you bitter? I asked him. 

“Maybe not bitter,” he said, “but sad and fearful.” 

Like the Poles after Hitler took over their country eight decades ago.

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