Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

An Update, a Rant About Medical Insurance, And a Plea

I haven’t been posting much here lately.   I literally have dozens of writing ideas stashed away in my blog research notebook, but I just haven’t been able to get anything written. 

The main reason is that I lost my job a little over two months ago.  We’ve been lucky so far in that we have some financial resources that we have been able to draw on to keep us afloat, but these are quickly running out.  Unemployment barley pays the bills and will leave nothing left over if that is the only thing we have to live on.  Food stamps help, but $100 a month is hardly enough to feed a family of four.  

I suffer from Bi-polar II and depression.  I take medication for it.  Still, the depression has been acute and this makes it very hard to concentrate, so writing anything of substance is difficult.

I’ve been using what little concentration I have to concentrate on finding a new job.  The medication I take at least gives me enough stability to do that.  I’ve had several interviews that didn’t pan out, and I have three more companies who want to interview me, but the Holidays put that off.  Next week will hopefully see a lot of movement on the jobs front.

Going back to the issue of medical insurance, Medicaid covers the kids, but for my wife an I, we can’t get anything until we have met a $1100 monthly deductible.  That’s almost as much as we are bringing in.  I’m lucky.  Being a veteran, I can go to the VA hospital here and get my medication for only $8 per prescription.  My wife’s medication, on the other hand, we have to pay out of pocket.  These run to several hundred dollars a month, making it even harder to make ends meet.

All of this makes me wonder, if I didn’t have access to the VA, and can’t afford to pay for my medication out of pocket ($300+ per month), how would I ever be able to look for a job?  Without my medication I would almost surely be so bad off that I would either never get out of bed, end up in an inpatient facility, or dead.  Seriously.   Before I was diagnosed as Bi-polar II and got on the medication to treat it, I was suicidal.  The only thing keeping me from killing myself were my kids.  Since they live with me, I somehow managed to keep it together enough to care for them.  If I didn’t have them, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here now.  

So, back to my point.  If people like myself can’t get the medication they need to function, or in some cases even live (think diabetics who can’t afford their insulin, heart patients who can’t afford their heart medication), how can we be expected to function well enough to actually find a job?  Job searching is hard.  It is time consuming and incredibly depressing.  Every rejection, or even every non-reply, is a slap down .  How can you be expected to perform well at an interview if your mental state makes you anxious and jumpy, or depressed and lethargic (something all in the same day)?   What if your diabetes or heart condition make it impossible to even get out to an interview?

Eventually, you could end up in the hospital (on the government’s dime), or worse.   The least the government could do is to cover medications that people need to function while we are collecting unemployment and looking for a job.  Otherwise, we become a burden to the state for much longer than we might otherwise, not to mention the terrible toll it can take on ourselves and our families.

Anywhoo, I still have some stock in my old company that I can sell if a job doesn’t come my way before the end of this month.  It isn’t much, but will mostly cover rent.  

Not being able to write is really bothering me.  I have an article being published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine in a few months.  I hope to use the exposure that I get from that to find other writing opportunities, not just to boost my ego, but to make some extra money.   Even one paying article per month would help pay a car payment or car insurance.  To do this, though, requires that I can be seen to be able to write not just well, but consistently and constantly.  That is something I’m making a priority, now that I’m starting to feel somewhat better (was without meds for a while until I could get things going at the VA).

Given this, I’m making a plea to anyone reading this.  I don’t want you to send money or anything like that, but if you know of anyone or anyplace needing some writing done, please let me know, or let them know about me.   I know I said I’ve been having a hard time writing, but if I have a deadline I always have been able to deliver the goods.  It would be a job, after all.

You may be asking yourself how I am able to write this if I’ve been having so much trouble.  Easy, it’s about me.  No research needed.

 

 

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Right to Work (i.e. the right to be poor)

“Right to Work” laws are bullshit. We already have a right to work, that’s what a free market supplies. What “Right to Work” really means is the right for companies in the states that have these laws to compensate their employees as little as the laws possibly allow. It lets them keep from giving employees benefits, and lets them fire employees at any time for no reason without any legal repercussions.

The “Right to Work” laws should be called “The Right for Employers to do Whatever the Fuck the Want” laws.

“Right to Work” is one of those propagandistic phrases, like “Pro Life”, or ‘Voter Protection” that the right uses to make it sound like they are doing something that really is the exact opposite of what they say it is.

According to Wikipedia:

A “right-to-work” law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-three U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act.

Proponents claim that companies in states that have Right to Work laws have higher employment rates. While this is true, many of those jobs pay less than in non-Right to Work states and many are part time.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the ills of Right to Work:

Opponents argue that right-to-work laws restrict freedom of association by prohibiting workers and employers from agreeing to contracts that include fair share fees, and so create a free rider problem.[15][16] The absence of fair share fees forces dues paying members to subsidize services to non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union). Thus, these individuals benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues.[15][17]
The AFL-CIO union argues that because unions are weakened by these laws, wages are lowered[17] and worker safety and health is endangered. For these reasons, the union refers to right-to-work states as “right to work for less” states[18] or “right-to-fire” states, and to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states.
Business interests led by the Chamber of Commerce lobbied extensively for right-to-work legislation in the Southern states.[15][19][20][21] Critics from organized labor have argued since the late 1970s[22] that while the National Right to Work Committee purports to engage in grass-roots lobbying on behalf of the “little guy”, the National Right to Work Committee was formed by a group of southern businessmen with the express purpose of fighting unions, and that they “added a few workers for the purpose of public relations”.[23]
The unions also contend that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business,[23][24][25] and other groups.[22]
A final argument against these rules is that they place limits on the sort of agreements private individuals, acting collectively, can make with their employer.
A February 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found:[11]
Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.
The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states, after controlling for individual, job, and state-level characteristics. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive ESI at this lower rate, 2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered.
The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states, using the full complement of control variables in [the study's] regression model. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.

To be fair, there are other arguments for Right to Work that are stated in that Wikipedia entry and I encourage you to read the whole thing and come to your own conclusions.

I support unions because I believe that it helps all workers, not just those who belong to unions. When I worked for Boeing, I received excellent benefits including health, vacation, and a paid week off between Christmas and New Years. The same was true when I worked for Sun Microsystems. Since I was a salaried employee, I couldn’t join a union, but it was the unions that the hourly wage workers belonged to that helped get all employee these excellent benefits.

Other benefits we have all gained due to unions are the 40 hour work week, paid vacations, health insurance, retirement packages, holidays off, a minimum wage, and a safe work environment. Without unions many workers would still be working 60 hour work weeks in unsafe conditions for pennies an hour.

If you don’t believe that many employers wouldn’t pay you next to nothing, think again. There is a reason many jobs have been moved overseas, because in places like China and India, terrible working conditions and dirt poor wages are the norm.

As it is, families who rely on the bread winner who makes minimum wage are the ones most likely to be in poverty and rely on government assistance programs thereby costing all of us more in taxes, not to mention the drag on the economy from less people spending their income on consumer goods rather than basic subsistence.

If every worker made enough to have extra to spend on goods like TVs, cars, and homes, the economy would boom like it did after WWII when the GI Bill allowed millions to get good educations and good jobs and spend the extra income above subsistence on lots and lots of stuff.

When all of use earn a good wage and benefits, we all benefit.

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Social Justice | , , , | 4 Comments

   

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