The View From Your Recession

A reader writes:

My partner and I have both lost our jobs at a mid-sized metropolitan daily newspaper. Given our ages (54 and 46) and our last combined salaries (topping six figures) we've been deemed by the marketplace as unsuitable candidates for even minimum-wage positions here in the brutal economic climate of South Florida. We have sent out hundreds of resumes to little effect. Our retirement savings have been depleted. I've managed to get the occasional freelance reporting gig, but other than that our sole source of income has been unemployment compensation — supplemented at times by caring and understanding siblings.

And depending on what the U.S. Senate does later this week, that source could possibly dry up very soon. I am one of those 1.2 million people standing to lose those benefits in March should Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell fail to reach accord.

Our home of 17 years is now in foreclosure. We have been offered some relatively generous loan-modification options, but given the size of the mortgage and our current income stream, we have not been able to take advantage of those options. I suppose we're among those who fell under the spell of rising home equity values during the go-go years here in South Florida, and we're now paying — or more precisely, unable to pay — the price. It was my poor judgment over time; I understand and accept that.

But what I can no longer accept is our inability now to receive basic health care, while Dick Cheney gets life-saving Cadillac treatment at the direct expense of my partner and myself. Yeah, we were offered COBRA benefits, at a price tag of more than $900 a month. I defy anyone to make that number work while on extended unemployment.

Six weeks ago, while walking home, I was struck by a hit-and-run driver. I lost my glasses, severely impairing my ability to drive, broke my nose, and most importantly, lost most of my teeth. Sheared right off. Fortunately, my dentist of long-standing — as in, back when I had employer-provided insurance — was willing to pull out the dental fragments left behind and stitch it all up, and is allowing me to pay that huge bill over time. But I can only push his generosity and forbearance so far — there will not be replacement implants or dentures in my near future. I'm learning to love soup. And dealing with a now quite pronounced lisp.

My point being: The Dick Cheneys of this country continue to deny me and mine the very health care they enjoy on my dime. As I wrote above, our income for many years topped six figures, which indicates how much in federal taxes we've paid over time — tax money that quite possibly saved Cheney's life this last weekend. Tax money that gives our current and former government officials excellent health care. Yet so many of those same officials — of both parties — refuse to return the favor.

I'm not asking for a handout. I'm asking for basic fairness.