Thursday, September 15, 2005


Some facts and figures from MY life:

  • My husband and I now pay almost $5000 annually for health insurance. That’s what WE pay. God knows how much husband’s employer pays. And this is Kaiser health insurance. Traditionally one of the worst HMO’s around. Remember the story a while back about the surgeon in Australia who was finally removed from service due to gross negligence? Like, that he sewed people up and their wounds reopened and their guts fell out? This guy worked for Kaiser in Portland for twelve years.
  • Yesterday, my husband finally saw his Kaiser optometrist for his "10-day follow-up" appointment. The original appointment was May 6. Do the math.
  • This past spring, we purchased the most expensive vehicle we have ever owned. We paid over $20,000 for it. And it is five years old. If it wasn’t for the fact that my business is making the payments, we wouldn’t have bought it at all.
  • Yesterday, a house down the street from us that is exactly the same model as ours, went on the market for almost $100,000 more than we paid for our house a little over four years ago. That is almost a 50% increase over 52 months.
  • Gasoline costs nearly $3 a gallon. An increase of slightly over $1.00 (or 50%) over a year ago. Diesel fuel, which is what my business vehicle runs on, is OVER $3 a gallon. (In southern Oregon, it was going for $3.50 a gallon. Two weeks ago. God knows where it’s at by now.)
  • Grocery prices, including the wholesale groceries I buy for my business, have risen at least 10% over the last six months, and will continue to rise along with the price of gasoline.

My husband grosses over $75,000 a year. Kick in another couple of thousand in income from my little business. Okay. Eighty grand a year. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Especially considering that, ten years ago, we were grossing less than $50,000. Shouldn’t we be on easy street? Or at least circling the neighborhood?  (Instead of the drain?)

For the last three years, come time for husband’s annual performance review and raise, he has been limited to a 3% "costof living" raise. (And happy to receive that, as the company he works for is struggling to find its footing in the import-flooded textile market.) But obviously, with costs rising as meteorically as they are, a 3% increase doesn’t even keep us treading water. We’re being swept backwards, and none too slowly, by the current of rising costs.

Maybe this is not the time to complain about this. Maybe I should be counting my blessings, in view of the hardships that Katrina victims are facing. And in view of the horror that the people of Iraq wake up to every day.

But these are the facts of MY world. These are the challenges that make it that much harder for my hot-flash-wracked brain to turn off in the middle of the night. I lived through the Carter Administration. I lived through the days of double-digit inflation and a 20%-plus prime rate. We bought our first house during those years. And bought two brand new vehicles. And were able to afford the payments, on the salaries of a K-Mart department manager and a kitchen manager at a family restaurant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index has not shown more than a 3.5% annual increase for any of the last ten years.  But husband and I are going backwards on three times what our gross income was twenty-five years ago.

It’s obvious that the government's "Consumer Price Index" numbers have absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in the real world. Once they "factor out" seasonal fluctuations or volatile commodities, what they have left are these fantasy numbers designed to make it look like the economy is chugging along smoothly and everything is hunky-dory. Theoretically, this is done in order to avoid exacerbating a negative situation by causing a panic. Okay…I can buy that. But when these useless numbers are used to calculate "cost of living" raises, everywhere from Social Security, to the military, to government workers, to the private sector, they are doing us an immense disservice. In short, if they have to publish bullshit numbers, why publish any at all?

Iraq and Katrina aside, what is the Bush Administration doing to address any of this? Cutting taxes. I have news for you, Mr. Bush…you could completely eliminate what my husband and I paid in federal income tax last year, and it would not cover what we have to pay out annually to keep crappy health insurance coverage. So, you have compromised your own agenda in the Middle East, and short-changed the domestic coffers enough to produce the anemic disaster relief effort for which you are now receiving so much (well-deserved) flack…for what? I, and millions of other "Average Jo(sephine)" citizens, are not enjoying any great windfall produced by your largesse.

If this isn’t a hellish mess… If this doesn’t get the American people seriously thinking about "regime change" here on our own shores, I don’t know what will.


  1. wow......

    See this is the stuff I get learn from you....I had no idea.

  2. I'm not sure what the mix is in the CPI. I do know they tinkered with the items in the inflation market basket several years ago to take out the things most likely to inflate. Insurance for one thing. Too bad the current pols don't even care if we exist until it's time to trot out and vot the party line.


  3. everytime I hear about inflation on tv they say, "taking out the gasoline increase the cost has only risen XXX this month"....and I think, who the heck isn't effected by gas prices? I did not vote for this administration and stood in horror as my friends and business associates sang the conservative republican rhetoric. I think "am I better off than I was five years ago...."hell no!

  4. Hi Lisa,
    OMG, I remember that article about that doctor, it was in the NY Times on a Sunday. And it wasn't too long ago either, maybe a month ago. If I digged hard enough it's probably around my house here somewhere. That man was a dam monster. Our health insurance is PacifiCare and it's not a bad HMO, but it's costly. I would say yearly through the Union Bob pays about  $3,500, maybe just a little more. But you guys paying five grand, good grief! And for bad insurance. I know about Kaiser, it's not good.

    By the way I am sitting here watching Bush give on of his Ra Ra Ra speeches on rebuilding and a strong economy. What a nin-con-poop!I think he has used the word "minority" and "jobs" about 50 times in 5 minutes. What a joke this man is! But the "Urban Home Steading Act" was the biggest joke of them all.

    Great entry as always Lisa,

  5. I think the middle class is really being squeezed and many (if not most) families are struggling to make it.  We currently pay $5300/year for our health insurance premiums.  We do have excellent coverage though.  Until recently, when our oldest graduated from college and took over her own car insurance, we were paying $6000/year for auto insurance.  I recently re-did our monthly budget to inlcude a gasoline category since the cost of gas is now close to our monthly car payments.  I've heard that we can expect to pay 60% more this year than last year to heat our home with natural gas.  All the financial experts say we should have an emergency fund of 6-12 month's income put aside for emergencies in addition to saving an adequate amount for retirement.  Oh and college savings accounts for our children.  It is simply impossible to cover it all.

  6. health insurance kills us Lisa...12K a year.  disgusting.  but you have a house and you cant take the risk to be uninsured.  it's my biggest bill, bigger than the mortgage.  barely affordable.  it's scary!

  7. I don't know anybody who is better off than they were 5 years ago.  I'm not sure I know anyone who has stayed even.  It's a disaster.

  8. What a great entry.  I couldn't agree with you more about those numbers.  I'm currently unemployed and paying $7200 a year to COBRA my health insurance for me and my two sons.  I have a PPO with Texas Blue Cross Blue Shield, and it's pretty good, but even so, a visit to the ER and an overnight stay in the hospital by one of my sons a couple of years ago resulted in a bill of almost $13,000, of which my ex and I had to pay about $4,000 out of pocket for costs that weren't covered.  I think we got billed by every doctor who so much as drove past the hospital while my son was there.

    Regarding coverage of dependents, my policy clearly states that only full time students are covered.  Well, one of my sons is a full time college student, but his twin brother is taking a year off.  He has a full time job and is working long hours as an apprentice locksmith.  He earns $6.50 an hour, and he isn't even offered insurance coverage at his job, so the only option may be to buy additional coverage for him.  Still, at $6.50 an hour, he can't afford that, and to add an additional cost on to what I'm already paying isn't feasible.  

    I feel like this country is going to hell in a handbasket, and I don't know what the solution is, but I don't for a minute believe that Bush knows either, or for that matter, that he gives a damn.


  9. Thank you - things just seem to be getting worse and worse.

  10. I"m from the East, the Jersey shore, to be exact, and I couldn't agree with you more!!!!  My husband is an accountant, controller of a private company, and I'm a bedside RN, working for local hospitals for over 30.   Our oldest child, at the age of 21, was diagnosised with cancer, maglignant melenomia of the lymph system to be exact, and the nightmare I'm living with just my health insurance.let alone with trying to deal with him, his illness, and treatment is an absolute nightmare that I dont' wish on anyone.  People think because I'm an RN, health care will be easier and cheaper...NO WAY!!!  In some ways, it's worse, because I KNOW what they are SUPPOSED to be doing, and have to fight tooth and nail for this do the right thing by him and us.  First and foremost we had to go out of network,and try to get my insurance to cover this.   I was LUCKY that they were willing to pay 80/20, even thu, the state I live in can not..CANNOT offer my son the treatment that they could offer in the University of Penn.   He finished chemo this summer, and is on the mend, thank God, now the bills are just starting to come in, and it's a total mess.    
         Your right, my husband and I made more 15 years ago then we are making now....what I mean more is, cost of living wasn't as high....our salaries have increased, but the cost of living here is ridiculous....try to keep a saving account...HA!!!  I just keep on plugging and smiling...not much more ya can do....god bless  Debbie