Friday, December 28, 2007

I brought my car into the garage for an oil change. The mechanic, George, told me that I needed new brakes and that it was going cost me $500. $500 seemed like a lot, especially for my car, and the brakes didn’t seem to be that bad in the first place. I tried a different garage down the road. They had a team of mechanics look at my car. All of them agreed that I didn’t need new brakes but that I should get my starter replaced. A new starter coincidently cost $500. The mechanics explained that I could pay for the new starter by not getting the brakes, so all it would cost me is not getting the brakes I didn’t need.

Before I changed my oil, my car both started and stopped just fine. Now, it had some real issues. Perhaps, I thought, I should look into getting a new car before I put any work into this one. Besides, I was getting afraid to either start or stop my car. At the car lot, I fell in love with this beautiful convertible. It was sleek and handled beautifully on the test drive. It had the highest horsepower on the lot, the salesman said. It was also $50,000. When you look at how much money that was per horse, $50,000 was pretty reasonable.

Unfortunately it wasn’t practical for the family man I’ve become. Reluctantly I led the salesman over to the minivans. Cup holders and built in DVD players didn’t quite compare with so many horses but automatic sliding doors, hidden storage and many more cup holders won the day. My family is going to have to drink a lot more to fill up all of those cup holders. Finally I asked the salesman for the keys to the minivan because I was going to take it home.

He started asking questions about financing. Financing? No, I told him, I’m going to pay for the minivan by not buying the convertible. By the way, since the minivan is so much less expensive, please add the remote starter to the minivan and any other extras you have. When can I pick it up?

No, he told me. It doesn’t work that way. I still had to pay even though I wasn’t going to get the convertible I loved. This was very different than what my mechanics told me. I rushed back to the garage, although I must admit I started slowing down a few blocks ahead incase my brakes weren’t up to the task. Leaving my car running, I asked them for my new starter and sought assurance that it wouldn’t cost me anything more than not replacing my brakes. Apparently I was mistaken. Not only couldn’t I get the brakes they wanted money too. They wanted $500 to be exact. This was a much different story than they told me originally. The new starter should have been free, other than not getting the brakes I did not need.

They had a T.V. in the garage and were watching one of the presidential debates. Candidate after candidate said the same thing. They were going to give me all kinds of great things and it wouldn’t cost me, the taxpayer, anything. Well, the politicians would have to cancel to programs that we didn’t need and that would pay for many new and wonderful programs. I pointed it out to the mechanics. If such a policy made sense on the national scale, why shouldn’t it work here? They were not convinced. They said it didn’t make sense.
In the end, I didn’t get the brakes I did not need. I do not have the new starter, although my car continues to start. Maybe I didn’t need that either. The convertible is still in the lot, next to the minivan I did not get. Apparently, not getting things I did not need was the only way to not spend my money. I wonder if the candidates will ever learn that.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My five-year-old daughter keeps a journal and a diary. I don’t know what makes them different other than the journal has a picture of a fairy on its cover and the diary is pink with a lock on it. Three or four times a week she will sit on her floor for twenty minutes writing furiously in one or the other of her books. Occasionally she will use letters and copy writings from other things in her room. More often she will cover each line of each page with a complex pattern of lines, swirls and squiggles.

One day she announced that she was going to write a story and that it was secret. For three nights in a row, she filled page after page of her journal (or maybe it was the diary) with her own complex writing system, her forehead twisted in concentration. After the third night and more than thirty pages of lined paper filled with her particular writings, I could not take the suspense. I walked into her room and asked, “What are you writing tonight?”

She looked up at me for the briefest moments and said, “I’m still writing my story, Dad.”

“Wow,” I said. “You are really putting in some nice work. Can you read me a little bit about your story?”

She actually stopped writing and gave me one of those looks. The looks that say I know you are a grownup and that you are my father and that I love you but how can you be so stupid. How can you actually make it through the day without my supervision, Dad? I waited in fear, knowing that I had made some foolish mistake and knowing that she was about to let me know what is was. She finally answered in a matter of fact tone, “No, Dad. You know I can’t read yet.”

I slowly backed out of her room and into the bathroom. I looked into the mirror for a very long time and gave myself one of those looks. The looks that say I know I’m a grownup and that I am her father and that she loves me but how can I be so stupid. Who is going to take care of me when she goes to school because I can’t make it through the day without some sort of supervision?
I finally left the mirror and told my wife how foolish I was for asking my daughter who can’t read to read me some of the story she was writing. I thought my wife might take some pity on the village idiot I was becoming. She had no pity or sympathy for me. She simply reminded me that I can go to work the next day and be with other addle minded adults. In my own peer group, I could regain some self-respect and self-confidence. My wife has chosen to stay home and raise our kids. She gets looks like that everyday all day by both of our children. I am her main peer group and luckily I am foolish enough as measured by our four and five year old children that I protect my wife's self-respect and self-confidence.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hillary healthcare's attack on the young

Hillary Clinton wants to mandate that every individual has health insurance. She brags that her mandate would insure an additional 15 million individuals beyond other democratic plans. First, United States was founded on principals of freedom, responsibility and choice. A mandate destroys that freedom. Additionally, who are these 15 million Americans? Some qualify for a heavily subsidized program but have chosen not to enroll. A mandate will not force these people to apply. Some are young, healthy adults who don’t use much healthcare and don’t have much money. They are choosing to spend their limited money on something other than healthcare. Camp Hillary argues that forcing these young people to pay for insurance that they are likely to not use will lower premiums for the rest of us. The effect is yet another tax on young people to subsidize baby boomers and older generations.

In my late twenties, I was one of these uninsured people thankful that there wasn’t a mandate. The company I worked went out of business. My wife quit her job so that we could relocate closer to family. We had saved a little money, lined up three or four job interviews in the new town and moved in with my in-laws (thank you Sheila and Howie). We expected to be back in the work force in a few weeks. None of the interviews worked out. What was planned to be weeks turned into months. We had to cancel our health insurance to continue to pay the bills. Those months almost turned into a year. Did I say thank you Sheila and Howie. With their help and going without insurance, we where able to continue to pay our bills, finally get jobs and buy a house of our own. If we had a mandate, we would have had to declare bankruptcy. Credit checks may have prevented us from getting the jobs we wanted and would have made buying a house much more difficult.