So I finally got off of my lazy, support-from-a-distance tush and joined my local Occupy group here in Denton, Texas yesterday. There was a national effort to have all Occupy movements stage protests marches and meetings celebrating the 2nd full month of this movement initiated in New York’s Zucotti Park back in September. With a crowd of about 60 people I thought the Denton Occupy group represented itself well as we all gathered at the steps of the County Courthouse on the town square.
A group of about 15 young men and women marched from their Occupy base at the University of North Texas, about a mile away, and joined the crowd I was with on the square, with chants of “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation”.
All of the young speakers were enthusiastic and determined in their efforts to see the movement sustain itself here in Denton and supporting the larger movements across the country in cities like New York, Oakland and Dallas. Much of what they spoke to addressed the need to hold both political Parties accountable to see that a level playing field between the have and have-nots in this country is not destroyed any further than it already has been.
Voices were raised about the attacks of many who support the 1% who seek to eliminate public sector and union jobs like teachers, fire fighters, police officers and sanitation workers while pointing out the serious discrepancies in pay and the social contributions between them and those of corporate CEOs. One young man spoke to the concern that the Occupy movement is not a place but a list of ideas and grievances that impact the 99%.
It has been my understanding that the movement does not represent an attack on capitalism itself but an attack on those who abuse it as they get richer and richer while the standards of the once vibrant middle class erode more and more each month with jobs shifting to cheaper labor markets abroad and benefits being significantly reduced or eliminated with those jobs that most still hang onto here in this country.
The school district employees here in Denton face such a standards reduction as the budget restraints from a GOP state legislature kicks in at the new year. Their health insurance will change from one that has a 80-20 payout on it as you worked to fulfill your deductible. That means they could expect the insurer to pay 80% of doctors visits, prescription drugs and other out patient services before the deductible was met.
The new insurance package they’re being handed now still expects a healthy premium payment but pays nothing until the deductible is met. Looking at what best serves our needs we thought the package with the $3000 deductible would work best as far as premium payments were concerned. But the notion that either of us will have a total of $3000 dollars in doctors’ bill is absurd which means we have to pay for everything out of pocket with no help from the insurance company who expects to be paid over $700 a month in premiums just for the privilege of being there in case their are catastrophic conditions that do exceed $3000.
Think about that for a second. We would put out over $8000 dollars in premiums each year and never receive any benefits from our insurer for doctor visits and medicine. This is but one indication where the disparity between the wealthiest 1% and everyone else stretches the ability to sustain a normal life. To avoid this cost without benefits I have decided to allow my wife to drop me from coverage because I will be eligible for Medicare coverage in a little over two years. We will take the difference it costs me to be on the policy and stick in our tax-deferred IRA, having it build up equity as it sits there for us if we do need it in an emergency. I can only hope that such a catastrophic situation does not arise before I reach age 65.
Though not publicly aired at this gathering, many of these young men and women have to be concerned that there high dollar education they are working on may not pay off in this down job market, leaving them with high student loans to pay off. There was dismay expressed by one young woman however that the so-called American dream is no longer a reality for their generation.
I was inspired by the energy of these young men and women. They remind me so much of the generation of my youth as we too fought the status quo that suppressed minorities and women’s rights and allowed a war in Vietnam to go unchecked for too long. It took years for our movement to accomplish what we did but change did come. I am hopeful that the same can be achieved through the efforts of this generation who seek to keep alive the aspirations that my generation sought to establish.
They are firmly and properly planted in the belief that there is power in the actions of individuals coming together and pushing aside what seem like immovable obstacles. I am encouraged by their vitality that they will succeed and am also more resolute now to be there to support their efforts in deeds as well as thoughts.