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Commentary :: Social Welfare
No Country for Old Men
25 Oct 2008
The particular problems of the old in the US version of unregulated capitalism.
The Hollywood movie titled "No Country for Old Men" was about a drug deal gone bad and its effect on old people, particularly an old sheriff in the American Southwest. I have a different interpretation of the term "No Country for Old Men." I think it applies to a great number of old people in the United States. Suppose for instance that there is an old man living on only 650 dollars a month in Social Security checks. This is indeed chickenfeed when it comes to the cost of rent, gasoline and food. Then, the government wants to take roughly one hundred dollars out of this old man's check for Medicare Part B, which is a scam to enrich the insurance companies and continues to rise every year. This is paying twice as Medicare tax is already taken from a person's payroll check. After paying his rent and utilities, amounting to about 500 dollars, this old man is left with the incredible sum of 50 dollars to subsist a whole month. This is indeed living high on the hog after a lifetime of hard work. This old man is also enjoying the pleasures of major depression and degenerative disc disease in the spine, which causes weakness, tingling, burning, aching and numbness in the legs and feet. Needless to say it also requires a number of prescriptions for antidepressants and pain killers, which cost an additional incredible sum under our lovely capitalist system. It is obvious this old man must either go back to work or die. That is, if he can even find work in this extremely depressed economy.

Capitalists do so love desperate poor people. They work for much lower wages. They hate old working people lying back and enjoying their so-called golden years. They would like to work you right up until you fall in the grave, and if they could resurrect dead people, they would work you some more. Maybe there are people who think I am exaggerating the disgust and hatred of the ruling class for the poor. Let me give three examples. There was Marie Antoinette's famous statement before the French revolution of "Let them eat cake." Moreover, there is railroad baron Jay Gould's statement: "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill off the other half." Finally, there was the statement of the mother of George W. Bush that the poor people in New Orleans never had it so good when they were living in a football stadium after Hurricane Katrina. There is the fictional example in Charles Dicken's Hard Times where a capitalist named Bounderby is always complaining that the poor want to be fed venison and turtle soup with a gold spoon. The rich don't give a damn about the poor and have always hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt's programs for the old, poor and sick. They are continually trying to destroy even the miserable amounts people get on Social Security. For his compassion, the ruling class of the United States had a coup plot against FDR that was turned down by Major General Smedley Butler. However, the ruling class evidently do derive enormous pleasure from spending incredible sums on weapons and bombing into oblivion the recalcitrant poor populations of other countries in order to extend their empires. If an old person could just dress up like an advanced weapon and go to Congress they would get more money than they could use in a million lifetimes. It is estimated that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost nearly 3 trillion dollars.

The argument is often made that Social Security is separate from other government expenditures because it is composed of contributions from employers and employees and the government can't add or detract from it. Well, they certainly can detract from it because they use the surplus from Social Security to cover the deficits caused by their wars. They could just as easily add to it and give every retired person a decent amount of money to live on. Congress won't do it because they are a bunch of corporate whores and would rather give large subsidies to corporations. We are under the rule of unaccountable, tyrannical and psychotic entities called corporations. Unless we want to go the way of the dinosaur, this must end and soon.

Returning to the case of the old man, this particular old man was an activist for many years against the Vietnam war and all wars since then. He was in many demonstrations and the writer for a group in Sacramento that distributed leaflets against the war in many districts throughout the city. He became active again after the Panama invasion and wrote radical letters about not only war but other social injustices to nearly all the newspapers in the United States, nearly 1600 in number, and nearly all the student newspapers on various campuses. This old man even engaged in the futility of grouping some very important letters and sending them to various radio and TV stations, asking them why there were no viewpoints like these aired on their stations and why they continued to make unverifiable and unreasonable assumptions in their arguments. He would receive in return either no letters or form letters thanking him for his concern. This experiment proved conclusively that the media is indeed under the control of reactionary elements and the functionaries in it would indeed let their children's future go to hell as long as they could
continue to receive their appreciable salaries and live the good life.

Then began the second strategy to educate the public in this old activist's life. He obtained a flyer from Zeitgeist films advertising the film Manufacturing Consent about the activism of Noam Chomsky and another advertising the audio and video tapes of lectures by Michael Parenti. For about ten years he went door to door distributing Xeroxed copies of these flyers by attaching them with rubber bands to people's doors, handing it to them directly or even leaving a second copy on a sofa or chair on their porch. He estimates he visited at least 600,000 homes in the cities of Bellflower, Long Beach, Downey, Lakewood, Cypress, La Palma, Lynwood, Los Alamitos, Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach. For those who don't know, these are all suburbs of Los Angeles. He also made up bags of the videos he had purchased and included his own writings and gave them to about 30 or 40 people at work. Needless to say, this whole effort cost tens of thousands of dollars in postage for the letters and the cost of making thousands of flyers at Staples. He used some money he made investing in Amgen. Even though he doesn't believe in capitalism, he rationalized that Amgen was doing research on diseases and the money obtained therefrom and spent on peace and justice was justifiable. He wrote articles against the Iraq war for several years on a web site called The Black Flag but finally the operator Rougy grew tired of the effort. For many years he put many articles on indymedia all over the world .

I guess most people have figured that the old man being talked about is me. My life savings have been depleted by doctors and particularly by dentists who continue to make bridges with a marked propensity to break, claiming all the while that I have a "bad bite." I have neglected to get Medicare Part B because it leaves me with too little money for the necessities of life and also because I consider it a scam benefiting the insurance companies. I figure there are a lot of old activists in this country in the same boat as me. What I am wondering is where is the solidarity among people on the left? The Russian revolutionaries of Narodnaya Volya had many nobles who would contribute their life's fortunes to other revolutionaries in trouble or to the revolution itself. The radicals of the sixties had solidarity and would help each other. I just don't see it today. Where are the rich Hollywood liberals when it comes to helping poor activists at the grass roots level?

I worked in pain the necessary three months to get my PPO insurance, but I found out that the laser spine institute that I want to attend is so-called out of network and that I owe 30% of the cost of the spinal laser therapy costing $80,000 or $24,000 for my part. In addition, they want a downpayment of $30,000 up front.
and they will refund the remainder. Their liberal financing terms are a lien on a house or my total bank account if it amounts to enough. This type of spinal laser therapy works and is not a con game, but the doctors that invented it sure are a bunch of greedy individuals or they are living in a dream world where they think everybody makes the kind of money they make. In addition, my wonderful PPO plan for which I pay 60 dollars every two weeks will not approve any modern antidepressants, until I can get my doctor to verify that I have tried every other antidepressant of a lesser cost. I sometimes feel like pulling my hair out by the roots. I wish I could just go in and present a card and get the most advanced treatment possible. After all, health care is often a matter of life and death and should not be just a luxury for the rich. I am beginning to feel like Timon of Athens in Shakespeare's play by that name.

In the United States there is little reverence among the population in general for old people. They are not honored for their lifetime of experience like the Oriental peoples honor their old ones. If one is an old man, then one is just an old fart, regardless of one's knowledge or brilliance and can just fade away into oblivion. It is little better with young people. They have a choice of a minimum wage job or going overseas to kill other poor people. The middle class can go deeply in debt, pay obscene amounts for gasoline to enrich the oil companies or lose their home to foreclosure. No one benefits except the ruling class who don't care what the price of food, gasoline or anything else is because they have so much money they never could spend it all in a thousand lifetimes.

This is indeed No Country for Old Men or for a lot of others.



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