Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And now for a complete change of pace

The humorous poet and the poetic humorist are both gone away for the day, folks, and here to entertain enlighten you is that very little tiny quiet part of me that is political and opinionated. Okay, the opinionated part isn't particularly tiny, nor is it at all quiet. But you know what I mean: sometimes a person just has to get serious. This essay has been a long time in the writing, waiting for just such a day for me to finish it and put it out there. Whether it is finished properly, or well, I might never know. I just know I got tired of its unfinishedness and decided to have at it. Consider it a chapter in my also-unfinished Unfittie book (see the very beginning of this blog). I hope this link works:;postID=7604473981018666483;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1638;src=postname

Once upon a time, there was a revolution whose rallying-cry was “no taxation without representation” and when I think of such a revolution I wonder about North America’s homeless, and about the very-very poor. Who is representing them at the highest levels of power?

Who in the US or Canada says, “I represent the people sleeping under bridges. And my constituents want clean clothes, hot food, warm beds, medical care, and jobs”?

How many lobbyists whisper into the ears of the powerful, “Pssst, my guy says you won’t be sorry if you help him out here. He’ll be a big man some day, but right now he needs a bath”?
I have always taken the position that everyone should pay taxes according to his or her ability to pay: no tax for the very-very poor until they get established and begin earning more than a subsistence wage; but much higher taxes for the rich because—make a note of this—they're still going to be rich after paying their taxes.

It's so simple. What kind of people believe the rich “deserve” tax cuts? Oh, yes, those who believe the theory that Big Business always provides jobs, that’s who.

Okay, then: how about a business getting a tax break for every new job provided, but a tax penalty for every job downsized?

It isn't, of course, that simple. I remember feeling sorry for the newly-re-elected US President Obama because the punters were predicting another downturn in the US economy if he were to win, and I thought it might translate into a downturn in our Canadian economy because our fate is so irrevocably linked to theirs.

I worked for about 30 years. I worked hard. I worked a lot of unpaid overtime, and a lot of paid overtime. I was good at my job and had a good background in, and understanding of, the industry in which I worked.

I paid taxes. And when I was paid for overtime, I paid more taxes, in a higher tax bracket, so that my take-home pay was less than it would have been if I had not worked overtime.

Is that fair? Probably not.

Did I complain to my Member of Parliament? No, I did not. Educated tradespersons are, almost without exception, grateful to be earning a good living wage.
So where do we go from here? If I were in any position to do something, I would probably campaign for a political party that promises to take from each citizen based on his or her ability to pay, and to give to each citizen according to his or her inability to pay for such necessities as food, shelter and clothing.

Would some people give up their jobs in order to earn a subsistence pension from the government? That possibility does exist, but for most people it is not a probability. Very few working people want to voluntarily end up on what Brits call “the dole” because it actually is subsisting, it isn’t really living.

How do I know? Because I had a job, as I said before, and then I got sick. I belonged to a union, with a contract that provided for two years of long-term disability pay. At the end of the two years, however, the international corporation which, by then, owned the nice little local newspaper for which I’d been working, fired me, and refused to pay me my severance pay. It would have been a nice sum, because I’d worked there for quite a few years, but they refused.

So, there I was, with no income. I tried to find other work. I cashed in my Registered Retirement Savings Plan. I tried to find other work. I sold my house and much of my furniture. I tried to find other work. I didn’t give away my cats, however, because my union and I were taking the company to arbitration.

Time went by. I tried to find other work. I saw many doctors, including one hired by the company (he was supposed to disprove my disability). I did find part-time work. I lived in a travel trailer. A lovely trailer, in a very nice trailer park with a river and a duck pond, but it was a travel trailer nevertheless.

Then I got sick with a whole 'nother kind of illness. I was so sick with it, my parents moved into my trailer so that Mother could take care of me. Mother learned that putting frozen chicken on the kitchen counter to thaw is fine when you just have a small dog, but not so good when there are also two cats. The squeaky noises I made when in dire pain upset Dad, but he learned he could retreat to their truck camper where he was writing a book.

The cats were very happy, because they could tease my parents’ dog. I was miserable because I’d given up my bed to my parents, and was sleeping on a narrow bunk in the back of the trailer, with a cat on either side of me, but I was very grateful I’d thought to buy a two-bedroom travel trailer.

The medication for the second illness had dire effects on what remained of my health, but I did win the arbitration. I got my severance pay, and eventually the federal government accepted the word of the doctor hired by the company—instead of disproving my disability as the bigwigs wanted, he said the job had caused my condition. So, with both health problems still active, and several new ones brought on by the cortico-steroid (not exactly performance-enhancing drugs) ordered by my doctors, I sold my pretty little trailer and moved into a mobile home in a drier climate, hundreds of miles from the ocean.

Do you want to hear about the accountant who messed up my income tax return and left me owing half of my severance pay to the feds? No.

Just be assured, however, that I know to have, and to have-not, from both sides now, and I know to have is better, even when I didn't have very much.


Penelope Notes said...

Having an opinion is not a crime and I thoroughly enjoyed this recap of some of the ups and downs of your resilient journey. As for taxes … the country that has the most jobs gets the most taxes for infrastructure, etc. But I would rather build a shelter any day than pay for the incompetence of some politicians or give senators free trips to puff up their images and lifestyles. Rich or poor a hard-earned dollar is a terrible thing to waste.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Kay, kiddo, you are singing my song.When I got sick, the standard response from insurance company from hell (Co Operators? not very aptly named)was Claim Declined. I fought them for years as I simultaneously tried to find out what was wrong with me. My doctors would send a report, they would then send me to a doctor THEY paid to disprove my claim, this went on and on. I lost my trailer and my life in Tofino. I found a knowledgeable specialist and finally got my diagnosis and my claim, which was half of what it was supposed to be but I couldnt fight them any more. They made me access CPP early for the rest.

I have been poor my entire life, was a child living in poverty, a single mom living in poverty, a single mom working three jobs to subsist on minimum wage, and have now achieved my Reward - the old age pension which is the same monthly income I "enjoyed" in 1972 (but at least I could LIVE on it then, just barely.)I have enormous compassion for the have-nots because I am one of them. (But I am still luckier than most of the women on this planet!)

I, too, believe more tax should be paid by the rich because, as you say, they will STILL be rich after paying taxes.OUR taxes come out of our "discretionary" (read "food") incomes.

Do people realize that old age pensioners living on a thousand a month (me) pay TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH income tax, in order to not have to pay at the end of the year?

Well. You have hit a nerve here. I have always maintained that if people paid a proportion of their income - the portion increasing as the income goes UP - we could solve a lot of budgetary, societal and ethical problems.

Sigh. Like THAT'S ever gonna happen!

Fran said...

This is a thought provoking essay. I too have been in a have and a have not situation and again I too know where I would rather be x

Joyful said...

I enjoyed your post, Kay. There is so much truth in what you say. Sadly money is power and power controls those who have no money unless you live in a socialist state. I too would like us to do more for the very poor and for those who live on the margins. Don't get me started on the waste (and fraud) of tax dollars in government. The Senate debacle comes to mind but there is just as much in the MPs and at the management levels of governments. They always tighten belts but they do it at the expense of those that don't need any more tightening and ignore those that know how to "work the system". Those are my opinions anyway. Thanks for listening and I hope your health can get better now that you are far from the ocean. Hugs. xx

Gattina said...

I agree to 100 % that the wealthy people should pay more taxes, but when there is a tax increase it's always the poor or retired who are the target. We even pay taxes on our pensions and have payed already taxes all our life ! What a terrible time you went through. A very touching post !

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
A heartfelt write-up Kay. This is another global issue which affects the individual at local level everywhere. It is also the complaint of all history. It is the sort of thing that has brought on revolutions.

Which work fine till those in power forget the purpose and cause of their being so.

So it goes on... *< YAM xx

Mama Zen said...

I could not agree with you more, Kay.

Jenn Jilks said...

You are a beautiful person.
You have the wisdom of experience.
I anger hearing of your physical issues.
Good for you for fighting.
I am so glad to know you and know we are kindred spirits.

Phil Slade said...

Good to see you got that off your chest Kay. It's sad nowadays that people aren't allowed to voice an opinion without being labelled this, that and the other. More of us should be a lot more honest about what we really think - especially where the great "no-nos" politics and religion are concerned. Take a look at my blog to cheer you up with a hearty plate of fish and chips.

Margaret said...

Nobody can argue with your last sentence! In American, many poor do not pay income tax, but sales tax and all the other "gotchas" do add up. I have a few qualms about the "rich" (and that needs to be properly defined) paying a higher %. I also believe healthcare needs to be addressed by people who understand it ... not politicians and Obama's plan has so many holes and problems ... it is a mess and will get messier. Yes, USA needs a fix and quick - but this, IMO, isn't it. The problem is -- it is and probably always will be - political. And you address that wonderfully in the beginning of your poem-prose.

Leslie said...

I had no idea you went through all of this, but I knew you were brave, and a fighter. I've sort of given up on politicians doing anything more than lining their own pockets, but I applaud you for taking the time to write this thoughtful essay.