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Mary Pitt: Nickels And Dimes

Nickels And Dimes

by Mary Pitt

It is very hard for the average American taxpayer to comprehend the figures that those in the administration toss around so deftly. Let's face it, to somebody who lives on less than what has been determined to be a "living wage", a hundred thousand bucks is major money! When you start compounding the number of zeroes by threes, the typical working person simply goes into a zone of incomprehension. What a shock to the system then when a member of the administration, upon being questioned about the 9 million, (or was it 9 trillion? Billion? It's hard to keep up), that got "lost" from the money that was to be used for reconstruction of Iraq, he replied, "It is impossible to keep track of every nickel and dime."

Now, we know that when we work on those infernal income tax forms, we must be very careful of those nickels and dimes, at least until we are asked to "round up" the dollars so the bureaucrats will need not be concerned with them. When we pay our bills, we must be conscious of the nickels and dimes since a miscalculation may cost us serious overdraft charges when the checks hit the bank. But, when you put more than three zeroes behind a number, you are talking big bucks in the lives of most of us. When we are informed that the President has asked for a budget that is trillions of dollars in deficit and then wants another 83 billion for the Iraq War, the usual response is, "Huh?"

Daily we are blasted with words that end in "illions". President Bush wants to spend 11 trillion dollars over ten years to "reform" Social Security because the government "cannot afford" to repay the two trillions dollar the government has "borrowed" from the "trust fund". Do we mortgage the house to make the car payment? Maybe, in a pinch, but we don't borrow five times as much as the car is worth and incur a mortgage that our grandchildren won't be able to pay and then fritter away the excess.. When our money gets tight, we make judgements about how to stretch the budget. We cancel our vacation plans, shop for lower prices, we eliminate buying non-essentials and concentrate on furnishing our families the necessities. A home, food, and medical care head our list with little "luxuries" like buying a pizza and renting a video being put on hold awaiting better times.

It is in this atmosphere, with the government tossing around all the 'illions while the working man's family is truly counting the nickels and dimes, that we are now faced with a plan to "reform" Medicare and Medicaid. We already know that, for a retired couple receiving something less than $20,000 per year and spending about $6,000 for prescription medication, the Medicare Drug Plan is a loser. The premiums that are required, coupled with the percentage that must be paid out-of-pocket do not show any savings at all. This handy-dandy little "reform" only cost the American taxpayer somewhere between four and nine (trillion?) billion dollars to put into effect. Now we are faced with the "mandatory" provision that we MUST accept the plan. Who will profit in the long run? Not the government for it will have to pay the start-up costs. Not the couple who are strugging to exist on their Social Security proceeds. So who? The insurance companies and the phamaceutical corporations who will be at liberty to change their premiums as often as needed in order to retain their precious profit margin. They will benefit by the 'illions.

Is it not strange that those with the power to decide just how many nickels and dimes are necessary for the working family to survive could not live for a month on the typical family's annual income? Many years ago, a Representative from Oregon, (I believe it was Richard Neuberger), took a vow that he and his family would live for six months on the income that was allowed by the welfare system, using "surplus commodities" and only the food and clothing budget that was allowed welfare recipients. At the end of that period of time, the man and every member of his family had an understanding of the trials of being poor and he subsequently became a spokesman for real welfare reform and an indefatigable champion of the poor and working class. It was an experience that is heartily recommended for the patrons of the House and Senate dining rooms.

Now, more than ever, the folks who work in the big white buildings on the hill in Washington, almost without exception, have no understanding of the needs and wants of the ordinary working people. They have learned the words but they have never sung the tune. Those who have are dismissed as "reformers", "radical Liberals", or simply "losers". The rest are so accustomed to their multi-zero incomes and their own style of living that they can casually argue at length about the 'illions while cutting funding for programs that are essential to the rest of us without a thought. They cut taxes by the 'illions for those who already have quite a few of their own while continuing to take the money from those of us who must still account for all the nickels and dimes. We suggest that you let them know that you don't like it.


Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and active in the political arena. Her concerns are her four-generation family and the continuance of the United States as a democracy with a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people". Comments and criticism may be addressed to .

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