Late Night Ramblings

March 6, 2010 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Colonel Girdle

Dayton, Ohio, 3:30 a.m.

Since I could not sleep because of worry, I got online to find-out how to apply for a job with the U.S. Census. I have applied for job after job, even the ones that would probably not pay enough for me live. So that means I’ll have to work at two crappy jobs… or maybe three. I know people who are already doing that. Once upon a time, I was middle-class. I had worked my way through college and then, with 22 years of hard work, had made my way up into management at one of Dayton’s many solid, large companies. Then one day nine years ago, I was downsized along with hundreds of my co-workers. The company went away to greener pastures of cheaper labor/fewer regulations, and also there went my insurance, vacation, & retirement; all casualties of the only developed nation that ties everything to a person’s job.

Since that day, I have worked at jobs far worse than the crummy ones I had in my youth. For just one example, for about a month I was a subcontractor (that is like an employee, but they are not responsible for anything bad that happens to you) for a company that “recycled” the boiling-hot oil from restaurant deep fryers. I would pull the greasy van up to the back door, trundle a 200 lb. filtering machine on tiny wheels down the slippery ramp and into the building. There I vacuumed the 350 degree oil from the fryer so it could circulate through the filtering machine while I used putty knife & steel wool to scour char off the scortching cooker (all the while praying I wouldn’t get badly scalded), shoot the oil back into the fryer, then head to the next location. By the end of the day I was covered with reeking sour oil & sweat and could hardly stand-up because the bottom of my shoes were slick as snot.

In between the crummy jobs I owned a few small businesses. I sold natural pain cream at a flea market, I had a janitorial company where I did 90% of the janitoring, I sold used CD’s & DVD’s at a flea market. If any of those things were once a good way to make money, they sure aren’t now. Myrtle helped me with these, as best she could, while working at her own jobs.

I wound-up working in a convenience store and from that experience my desperation gave me the really awful idea that taking all our remaining assets and buying a store was a good idea. Blinded by love, Myrtle went down that bumpy road with me. I will not go into further detail recounting that four-year-disaster and the constant 100 hour workweeks we put in. Memory of it brings on a sort of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Suffice it to say that it was not too big to fail. It went belly-up during the late 2008-early 2009 crash with nary a peep from the Bush nor Obama Administrations.

As a result, I am more broke than I have ever been in my life. Actually, I’m far, far into the negative net worth zone. At first, I still hoped to find a way to dig myself out of debt. But I soon learned that was the impossible dream when, for instance, the credit card company I had for 15 years lent a helping hand by increasing my interest rate to 29.99% – when I had never missed a payment. Now they are getting 0%, since I’ll be filing for bankruptcy (guilt-free I might add) just as soon as I can finish the paperwork. I am far from alone in my struggles. My circle of friends & family recommend good bankruptcy lawyers the way we used to recommend good restaurants. People I know who used to “have it made” are sinking and everyone under them is drowning or already drowned. I personally know (and try to help) people who have taken to living in basements, cars, and tents! (By the way – See our “Friends” link to A Voice for the Commonwealth)

Being poor wasn’t a huge adjustment. Myrtle and I had never been big-spenders. We did not believe in materialism. We’ve never had a desire for trendy clothes or the latest electronic gadget. Instead, we put our spare time, money, and energy into charity work and enjoyed the simple things in life. However, I was used to paying the bills and having money left-over. Now buying a cheap bottle of shampoo is a financial decision that requires thought.

Our system will collapse, probably soon, from its own crushing weight. Every time I see, hear, or read about the latest actions of our business-government “leaders,” I derive comfort from knowing I am speeding that collapse along: My lack of spending denies money to the military-industrial-entertainment-healthcare complex and I’m too poor to pay taxes to the rotten government it owns.

But I don’t mean to sound bitter.

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The Twenty-First Century Criminal-Class

February 7, 2010 at 8:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I miss my stepfather. But there have been many times during this past decade when I’ve been grateful he died back in 1999. Because, if he weren’t already dead, the new millennium would have probably killed him. I mean from the sheer aggravation of it all.

The 1990’s were tough enough on him. By then he had retired from his workaholic life as a plumber. That gave him time to finally read the newspaper and watch tv shows like “60 Minutes” and “20/20” and they’d get him all stirred-up. I’d stop by to visit him & mom and he’d be gritting his teeth and swearing at the “scum,” his term for politicians and business moguls who were crooked.

He was born on a farm in Greenville, Ohio, in 1921. He’d slogged through the Great Depression and World War II and seen the difference it made when working people had finally got a piece of the economic pie. He would turn red-in-the-face and rant mightily at the thought of ordinary folks being cheated, lied to, or otherwise kept-down. Good gosh, what would he think about today’s America. We no longer seem to know any other way of life!

Here in the 2000’s the average American is so inundated by double-dealers, con-artists, and crooks of every size that it is impossible to fight against all of it. The phone company deliberately bills customers for services they don’t have and credit card companies put phony fees on their bills, figuring that a few customers will notice and demand removal but most customers won’t notice and just pay. Doctors & hospitals send bills to patients in hopes of getting paid twice, by said patients & the insurers. Speaking of insurers, nowadays the insurance companies expect to only collect premiums without paying claims. Employers fiddle with employee time cards to screw them out of wages and gasoline giants openly gouge the motorists. If you watch closely next time you go through the supermarket checkout, you might find that the sale items are ringing-up full-price on your bill (it’s happened to me often enough that I no longer believe it’s just a mistake).

True stories: in the past few years I’ve received three notices that I could join in class-action lawsuits against the following thieves:
My life insurance company was chiseling its policy holders.
The stock broker I used was shaving a little bit off each of its clients’ transactions.
Until recently, I owned a convenience store/gas station (for that sad tale see my essay, “And Then the Financial Tsunami Hit.” One of the items I sold was propane tanks. Well, it turns out that the major oil company that supplied propane to thousands of stores was padding its costs.

Last night, a friend of mine was late to our dinner appointment. Seems he was online entering a contest held by a popular magazine he subscribes to. When he got to the end of the form, he told me, he clicked “submit” and was informed that he’d thereby signed-up for a subscription to an additional magazine, which would be charged to his credit card. He spent the next half-hour phoning the company demanding to cancel the new subscription.

My real point is that our casino economy is hooked on this sort of crumb-bummery. It seems to have become the lifeblood of Capitalism, along with endless war and the reverse-socialism of taxing the poor to subsidize banksters and Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

The problem is so widespread that one could spend one’s entire life doing nothing else but guarding against being ripped-off. It’s like being out in the woods and beset by a huge swarm of hungry mosquitoes: while you’re slapping at one bloodsucker another dozen put the bite on you. Up until a few years ago, I believed we could count on the authorities to make an effort to catch and punish those who prey upon the innocent. Unfortunately, the authorities now line their pockets in exchange for looking the other way and increasingly they even cook-up schemes of their own.

So keep your eyes open and your wits about you. Defend yourself. But try not to get too angry while you’re doing it; otherwise you might blow a gasket, die, and then the Twenty-First Century criminal-class wins.

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