Bread, Goldfish and the Fiscal Cliff

15 seconds. A very short span of time – unless you’re, say, a goldfish. A very short span of time that happens to be about how long a piece of bread needs in the microwave to extend its edibility beyond the expiration date.

I’ll give you a minute…

…Are you back?

If bread + microwave = extending edibility is not an equation you’re familiar with, two things are possible: you’ve never been truly hungry and you’re currently debating the “fiscal cliff” on the floor of Congress.

Your self-imposed debate and negotiations are about to worsen a nightmare for those without work. Two million Americans are slated to lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year with another million right behind them during the first quarter of 2013. If a deal can’t be reached, the financial crisis created in the summer of 2011 when you and your colleagues utilized the debt ceiling to pass the buck on the budget until after the November election is going to slam head-on into your constituents.

That’s a whole lot of people who are about to learn how to stretch a loaf of bread.

For those not about to fall off the unemployment insurance cliff, don’t worry – Congress has plans for you too, lest you feel left out.

While House republicans fight to prevent tax increases on the wealthy – Speaker Boehner wants to raise Obama’s tax hike income level from $400,000 to $1,000,000/year – food stamps and other programs for low-income parents are facing cuts. Why? Because white men of privilege held Planned Parenthood funding hostage and threatened not to pay the national credit card 18 months ago, thus teaching Americans the meaning of the term “debt ceiling” while also expanding on the phrases “out of touch” and “empathy deficit.”

Medicare and Medicaid have made more than cursory appearances in negotiations. It seems republicans are making headway at convincing President Obama to accept the label “Medicare cutter” that he was falsely given during the campaign. Apparently, putting seniors and the poor in more medical debt is part of the solution to a crisis that its creators claim is about debt.

And if all of that wasn’t an exciting and inclusive enough belt-tightening, a program that doesn’t even contribute to the debt is apparently on the table: Social Security. It seems grandma’s cookies are made with a little too much sugar and far too many chocolate chips. Better start modifying that handed down family recipe, ladies. Legislators think you’ve been doing it your expensive, fancy way at least one generation too long.

Cutting benefits outright isn’t the only option being discussed. A new inflation formula designed to halt the minor cost of living appreciation Social Security payouts are subject to would result in the average recipient receiving $6,000 less over the first fifteen years of implementation. That’s approximately $35/month. I suppose that doesn’t sound like much to the privileged legislators pushing for the cut back, but I’d wager it does mean something to the man whose pen would sign the legislation.

Mr. President, your background is very different from the men across the negotiating table. I’ve read your book; I’ve heard you and your wife speak about where you came from. I’ll bet you know a little something about the bread-in-the-microwave trick. I need you to remember what grocery shopping is like at a discount store or a dollar store. I need you to remember Ramen noodles and PB&J without the J. I need you to remember the stories you heard organizing on the south side of Chicago from students who relied on the free meal at school and parents who struggled working three jobs.

And Mr. President, if you can’t remember – if it was too long ago, I’m here for you. Millions of Americans are here for you. If you need us to remind you about poverty and economic hardship, we’ve got about 15 seconds free until the microwave dings. 4…3…2…1…

Let the White House know how you feel about possible cuts to vital programs like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance. You can email, write or call through:

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Categories: Finding My Voice

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