If you're looking for evidence of how neo-liberal/conservative politics are destroying
America Americans, you need look no further than the story of Ralph and Paulette, my in-laws.
Ralph and Paulette have lived in their house in Chesterfield, Indiana for thirty years. At some point this fall, they will be giving that house back to the bank. While this is not a particularly dramatic tale, and it is certainly a common story, I've chosen to bring it forward here because every piece of the story serves as an example of how Republican politics affect real people.
Follow me below the fold.
Ralph was a social worker. He supervised a crew of mentally handicapped adults in a small manufacturing plant. Ralph has lots of stories of how this work gave his clients lives meaning. Ralph was highly protective of his clients and, to this day, if Ralph hears someone use the word "retard," you can bet you're about to see someone get educated. I remember last Christmas when Ralph stopped complete strangers in a Best Buy and gave them a piece of his mind concerning the term.
However, during the Republican revolution of the 90s, Ralph's plant became privatized. Rather than being a place that filled a need for people who needed occupational training and health services, it became a place that looked more and more at the bottom line. Workers that had been at the plant for years were suddenly "fired" because their private health insurance was no longer deemed a sufficient supplemental income for the plant. For five years Ralph drove to work in the mornings telling himself, "I will not quit my job today. I will not quit my job today." Finally, in 2001, Ralph walked away.
Unsure of exactly what to do, Ralph looked around for a new job. As their savings dwindled, Ralph realized that he would not be able to find a job in his chosen field. Finally, Ralph and Paulette decided that he would take a big pay cut and go into business for himself to become a courier. They took out a second mortgage on their house, both to repair and renovate, and to buy a cargo van.
Meanwhile, Paulette kept her job with the state's social services department. Now, for the first time in her life, Paulette was charged with being the major breadwinner for her family. In 2004, though, Indiana made a choice to privatize their state social services. In the process, the profit managers who took over the social services slashed their workforce in half. They promised their workers that new information technology would make their jobs easier. In reality, they simply tripled caseworkers case loads. The stress level at Paulette's workplace increased dramatically. Then, in 2005, Paulette was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and a successful mastectomy. However, upon her recovery, Paulette found that there was no way for her to keep up with the case load at work. Her employers were unwilling to reduce her workload, and Paulette was unwilling to do a half-ass job. Instead, she quit. She started to work with Ralph in the courier business.
Immediately, health insurance for her family started to climb. Throughout the rest of 2005 their insurance went from $190 to $290 per month. In 2006, she was "re-evaluated" by their insurance company. By the end of 2007, Ralph and Paulette were paying $1900 per month for health insurance - an expense that they felt they could not ignore, Paulette's health being what it was.
For a year and a half, they juggled bills. They went without central heating, choosing instead to use a large propane space heater, even though it was unsafe. The second mortgage would wait a couple of months while they paid other bills.
Then, late last year, the housing crisis hit. Ralph and Paulette started receiving first notices and second notices in rapid succession. Finally, this summer, they were told that their house was going into foreclosure.
This fall, they'll be moving out.
Any number of solutions could have helped Ralph and Paulette - a nationalized health care plan, a social services system that had remained a real part of the state, hitting the lottery. But, sadly, Ralph and Paulette suffer from the most devastating disease in America - being poor.
In November, we will vote to turn America around. Unfortunately, like millions of other Americans, it will be too late for Ralph and Paulette.