2012-02-24 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Anger Over Being Told I Am On The Dole
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Bob Turner became a Congressman because of the incredible stupidity of former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandal as well as by the stupidity and cupidity of the Democratic Party in thinking we would vote for a political hack like David Weprin. If I sound angry about Turner and his Republican colleagues this week it is because I am.

In a recent press release, Turner said, “We must repeal Obamacare in its entirety and start over. The bill, which was passed before it was even clear what was in it, has resulted in the daunting realization that it will increase premiums and taxes, cut $500 billion from Medicare and lead to violations of civil rights.”

Turner and his Republican colleagues, who are so opposed to government intervention in the lives of American citizens, believe that people on Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Disability and who have school loans are “on the dole,” a British term that means to live off the government. What Turner does not understand is that he, personally is on the dole as well. His mortgage payments give him a tax deduction that is funded by apartment dwellers, who get no such deduction. His taxes are lower because so much of his income comes from capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate, subsidized by those of us who cannot afford to play the stock market.

In fact, I wonder, with all of the energy company stocks he holds, why that industry seems to get all the subsidies it needs and still manges to charge us more than it has to for its gasoline and heating oil. Let me give you one story about what Obamacare means to one middle class family, and it is the story that is shared by millions of Americans who can breathe a little easier financially this year because of Obamacare.

Being old, my wife and I are both on Social Security and Medicare.

I guess, by Republican standards, that means we are on the dole. That is the Republican complaint, over and over again, that a fifth of all Americans are on the dole because they get money from the government.

They don’t count people like Turner, who gets a tax break on his mortgage and on his taxes because he happens to be rich enough to own both a Breezy Point home and lots of stock.

They count people like me and my wife, and that angers me.

I began working full time when I got out of the Navy in 1965 and have worked continuously since that time. For those Republicans that don’t have enough toes and fingers to count that high, that amounts to 47 years. For most of that time, I worked for the New York City Public Schools and I earned a pension as well. I am not sure whether or not a pension coming from the government adds to my “Doleability,” but that’s the way it is.

For all of those 47 years, I put money into Social Security and FICA, pension, health care as well as paying taxes. In my mind, I have a contract with the government. I put all that money in, and if I live long enough I will get my fair share back. That is not at all like sitting around on a couch and letting the government support me, and that is what the Republicans do not understand.

They want to do away with Obamacare. Thanks to Obamacare, this was the first year that, even with Social Security, Medicare and a pension, I was not thousands of dollars in the hole for my family’s medication.

Unfortunately, when you get old, you get sick as well. The mind is not as quick, nor are the reflexes or the steps you take. You will need medication and it is expensive.

Two years ago, before Obamacare, we were deep into the dreaded Donut Hole and had to pay nearly six thousand dollars out of pocket for our medications. The Medicare Donut Hole was designed by Republican lawmakers who did not want any prescription drug care paid for by the government. They are the same people who passed a law forbidding Medicare from negotiating with the drug companies for lower rates. Under the donut hole, when a person reaches a certain amount of payments, about $2,000 for the year, the government stops paying for the drugs until the cost gets to the “catastrophic” level where nobody wants to go, when it begins paying again.

To give you an example of what that means in real terms, a person who uses Lantus insulin pays about $120 for a 90 day supply at the beginning of the year and nearly $800 for the same supply when he or she hits the donut hole. For many seniors, that means the difference between eating or taking critical medication. The Republicans want to repeal that subsidy and force seniors into that Hobson’s choice once again. That’s effectively what Turner wants. Then, there are the families with kids who graduated from college and can’t find a job. Turner would like to repeal the law that allows them to stay on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26 and force all of those young people back to a position where they have no health insurance and cannot afford to go to a doctor even for the most dangerous illnesses.

That’s what Turner and his Republican colleagues want. Subsidies for those who can afford a home and to buy stocks; who can own their own planes and lavish vacation properties.

But, not for those who are middle class and ill. They can go fend for themselves.

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