The other day I received an email from a follower of my blog. He is 47 years old, a consulting engineer. He wrote the following:
"As a current business owner for 17 years, the last four years have been extremely difficult. Our health insurance costs have gone up over 100 percent and we are healthy people. All other costs have increased drastically and business has decreased substantially.
"I don't mind helping people in need as all people need help in some point in their life. However, where do you draw the line? It seems that when we were young, if you got laid off from a job you went out and got another job. That doesn't happen today. People will milk the system until they are forced to get a job?
What do I not understand about your views? Please enlighten me."
Here is the gist of my answer (edited for the column):
It appears you have a disconnect with what is going on in the lives of so many unlike you or you would not ask that question.
When we were young there were other jobs to be had. The past 10 years and the Great Recession changed much. Lay-offs, downsizing and long delays in finding another job have left gaps in income and unforeseen financial struggles. Medical care has become much more high tech and expensive. The major cause of bankruptcy is medical bills and most of those going bankrupt had health insurance, but inadequate insurance that did not cover co-pays and time away from work.
Life has changed since you started your business. The middle class' income has fallen (per a PEW Research study). College is no longer $10,000 a year ... $20,000 to $40,000 is not an unusual cost for an undergrad degree and advanced degrees are astronomical.
Examples of a family I have been following closely: two 40 year old-plus adults have pre-existing conditions, one a cancer survivor, and unless they worked for an employer who provided insurance, they could not afford health insurance now. Two have master's degrees; the other has a skill in demand and a college degree, too. One is going insurance naked because he is self-employed and he cannot afford the premiums. (Fact checkers agree: Increased insurance costs are not due to Obamacare and 97 percent of small business will not have to provide insurance).
For their children, loans are the only option for college. However, before Obama readjusted the pay back schedule, they were faced with huge debts they could not afford to pay back for years. Two 40-somethings have been in and out of a job since the Bush crash. Fortunately at least one at a time had employer-provided insurance. None of them has been on unemployment; none has resorted to food stamps or welfare. All hated to be unemployed, but all have been able to hold onto even their diminished status by hard work and running up credit cards. Now all are employed, though one underemployed still waits until 2014 when Obamacare kicks in.
However, they see hope in Obamacare so they can always afford health insurance regardless of their employment status. They already are experiencing help in sending their kids to college; and an improving economic situation. None is "milking the system until they are forced to get a job." Even those on welfare are there temporarily; welfare reform is still in effect.. Those able to work are still required to find a job. (Even at the depth of the recession, average time on food stamps and unemployment was nine months, per government figures).
It is time to see life as it has become; not as it was. Others did and that is a major reason why November went blue.