It's been just over a week since I wrote about my ongoing adventures with "the best health care in the world" (many thanks again to those of you expressing support!), and the hits just keep on coming! While the American medical system remains on my short list, they are not the main problems of which I relate in this post. They are just the mitigating circumstance which make the new problems worse.
To set the stage for one side of the Rock-and-Hard-Place condition in which I find myself, I present this article which related the findings a study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. This study found a correlation between workers not having sick days and the spread of the swine flu. One such employer -the infamous Wal-Mart, world's largest exploiter of low-wage labor — has such a convoluted sick day policy that I'm amazed that it's even possible for one of their "associates" to take off sick. You can't take a sick day until three conditions are met: 1) you have to have worked for Wal-Mart continuously for six months, 2) you have to use up your personal leave day (if you have one — an "associate" doesn't earn one of those until after a year of continuous employ) AND 3) that your supervisor approves your absence. You know the drill here: "If you KNEW you were going to be sick, why didn't you schedule this day off four weeks ago when I was making up the schedule? Now we're going to dock your pay!"
Wal-Mart's policies are so Dickensian, some people have quit their jobs rather than try to keep up with Wal-Mart's ridiculous policies. Wal-Mart reserves the right to terminate "associates" if they accrue too many demerits for being sick, no matter what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend. So if you know you aren't going to get well quick, your job dies quicker. How Republican! Just try to get reimbursed when their desperate employees make a mistake which costs you YOUR job!
I only raise this issue because I just received a letter from my employer practically accusing me of faking my illness, threatening to find me conducting "an unauthorized absence", and making me subject to termination. My doctor is to submit a report justifying my absence (in progress), and they reserve the right not to believe him. They also reserve the right not to allow me to come back to work even if I'm better, and to compel me to visit a doctor of their choice (at least they will pay for the visit!) should they reject my doctor's explanation.
But Wait! There's More! Having introduced you to Rock, I now present Hard Place!
On a completely unrelated issue, my homeowner's insurance is trying to force me to make expensive repairs in the next six weeks or else they will drop my coverage. The repairs must be made by a licensed contractor, and photographic proof of completion must be submitted along with the invoices. Even if I wasn't off work as I have been, I couldn't meet this schedule and remain solvent. The entire function of my home would be disrupted for weeks, even if I found a qualified contractor to do the work. I know that few vendors are stocking many of the supplies they would need (I know – I've begun the repair work myself just prior to my ailment striking and I always had to wait for delivery). So there is little likelihood that the repairs would be completed in the time frame allowed, even if I took off work to spend full-time locating and overseeing the necessary craftsmen. This puts me back to having my job be at risk due to a lack of attendance.
I only have one possible outcome for this, and that is to not renew my insurance. I will also be taking away the numerous auto insurance policies we have with the same underwriter. It's the only thing I can do to protest the shoddy treatment I've been handed by an ambitious agent seeking to score points with the higher-ups. At the risk of being a bit petty myself, I hope her Scrooge-y actions cost her HER job!
That's enough about my personal issues. The family has taken a couple of hits as well. Mrs. Realist has been notified that her employer is to conduct layoffs, and she could be among those affected. We just went through this process last year, and repeating the experience isn't doing her sense of well-being any good. Somehow this is all my fault. Enough said about that.
My son Bookseller just got his hours cut again. His management has instituted a point system for sales, yet they have not been scheduling him for any sales work. He's been called in for every shift but sales, and thus has "earned" the lowest point total. It smells like they are trying to set him up for termination, not that he's alone in that category. The 20-something moron who's currently running the place is after everyone who is hourly. What he's going to do when he runs everyone off remains to be seen. All I can see him doing is living there and doing all the work himself!
Meanwhile, daughter Sensei has been selected to have her financial aid "examined" to verify that she qualifies for continued support. I have to submit detailed tax returns and other information just to prove that she is in need and not ripping the system off because her parents don't reside in the top 1% income bracket. Never mind that they said her top grades merited that support and that they were going to give her a full-ride scholarship (upon which they immediately reneged, forcing me to co-sign several loans for her variances). Considering the various income issues now facing the household, it is becoming possible that I will not be able to continue to support her educational plans. That issue is also still in doubt.
I don't tell you all of this to ask for alms (although I appreciate that someone thought enough of my welfare to consider raising some donated aid), so please don't go there. You just might need to help yourself at some point soon. I only relate all of this primarily to get it off my chest, and to let those out there who read this know that they aren't alone. Maybe their situation isn't as bad as mine, or maybe it's worse. The point is that many of us are in this situation, and we need to be in contact with each other. Maybe we can make some good come of it.
There is allegedly some good news on the employment front, according to Intuit's online payroll service. They claim that an average of 800 jobs are being created daily based on the increase in payroll that small businesses are registering on their online bookkeeping service. What this means in American is that the 50,000 businesses with fewer than 20 employees — 87 percent of the total private employer base in the United States — have each increased their payrolls by an additional 3 employees since June of last year. This means that just over 260 private businesses hired someone each and every business day since July 1, 2009! I'm sure that this will be seen as a soothing balm for the 8.25 million Americans who haven't yet recovered from a job lost in the last two years, and who are now smarting from the knockdown spitballs repeatedly thrown at their heads by Hall of Fame ex-pitcher Jim Bunning this week. That pain isn't going to stop opportunists from taking advantage of them even more.
Speaking of opportunists, one has to wonder what prompted the Wall Street Journal to print an article advocating that people walk away from their mortgages. Says the author, "Do you think your lenders would be shy about squeezing you for an extra nickel if they thought they could get away with it?"
And this is the paper now owned by Rupert Murdoch, a man who has always promoted business über alles and to hell with the little people?
The only thing that remains undiscussed is what happens should we lose the house, as many have in this nation. I'm not yet in danger of having come about so please don't panic! As a technologist involved in engineering activities, I know that one does have to consider worst-case scenarios. They do sometimes arise.
All over the nation, from New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to St. Petersburg, from City of Big Shoulders, to the shadow of the Rockies, and even next door to the Corporate Games in Vancouver, people are returning to living much closer to Mother Nature than we have since the 1930s. Just not by choice. Dictator Circumstances insists!
Bush-Obamavilles are sprouting up everywhere — well, not quite everywhere. Not yet. There are no reports I can find just yet of a tent city emerging on Wall Street no matter how loudly the banksters there complain about how the threat of a special tax to be imposed on them makes them feel impoverished. Boo-freakin-Hoo!
But there are tent cities nearby to where I currently reside, and I happen to own a tent. Most of our vehicles are paid for, so we can survive in our cars if we have to. There are wonderful deals on used RVs, many in great shape. I can stay in one (assuming I could pay for it) at what California State campgrounds remain open after Arnold's recent budget cutting. All I have to do is move to another one no longer than 28 days after I check in — if I can get a reservation in the first place. I could also wander out into the desert and find a place where no one cares if you park on the side of the road. I know this happens on the way to Death Valley even in good times. The only problem we would have there is food. At least winter is coming to an end!
But long before I get to this stage, I have two appointments this week with my doctors. There is a good chance I will be able to get back to work — assuming my employer chooses to allow me. I hear they are going after everyone they can, an action which goes against their public statements to hang on to everyone they can "in these trying times". But like our government, it wouldn't be the first time they didn't quite mean what the words they used appear to say. That changes day-to-day as do the conditions which prompt them.
So keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck. I'm sure I'm going to need it!