A couple of things on my mind:

The first is the poor treatment of today’s employees, especially when it comes to age discrimination. A decade or so back, firms started letting older employees go and this practice accelerated with the 2008 Great Recession. It appeared then that workers above the 55-year-old range were prime targets. Today this practice continues, except that the ages affected are approximately 45 years old and above. 

More and more businesses have gone to the business model where temp agencies are utilized to provide “contract” employees to fill the companies’ requirements. These “contract” employees get hourly wages, normally without benefits, no off days without loss of a day’s pay and, most importantly, no health care. That sums up a large segment of today’s work force, with no change in approach apparent. Get the flu, no pay; snow day, no pay; holiday, no pay. That’s what these workers face in order to live and support themselves and their families. 

Secondly, the resulting health care concerns. A family member who grossed less than $50K (and that’s more than many) as a contract worker in 2018 uses ACA for a medical plan (BCBS). Her actual net take-home pay comes to less than $35K from which her health care portion of approximately $20K must come. That amount includes the ACA payments, a few doctor visits over the course of the year, and required medications. Note that (fortunately) there is no hospital stay or major illness in this scenario. That leaves a maximum of $15K for housing, utilities, food, transportation, etc. 

You get the picture. In the previous year, her take-home pay was about half of that! This individual has some major health concerns, including macular degeneration, but still has no choice but to troop out daily by public transportation so that a day’s pay can be earned. 

Before age downsizing took place several years back she was making $71K with full benefits for basically the same job. This is a disturbing situation, but many face worse and have to work multiple jobs. As a side note, while she normally gets a tax refund this year (thanks to the billionaire tax plan), she’ll end up owing an additional $2K and doesn’t have a clue where that money will come from: monthly payments to the IRS? Half her pay each month goes to health care and this is without being hospitalized, just for ACA and medications.

People claim Medicare-for-all is socialism, but it’s not socialism when businesses get every tax advantage (Amazon made hundreds of billions in 2018 and paid no FIT) causing regular people to pay more? The environmental controls that have been in place for many years are rapidly being eliminated so that giant firms can pollute this country without any restrictions and gain additional profits. That’s not corporate socialism?

One gets to the point where you wonder whether it’s worthwhile to continue. You get to the point where you get weary of the fight against your own government and just want to face the alternate of eternal oblivion. 

Without strong changes in our government, the future of this country is really in great peril.

Jim Agin is an Oak Park resident. 

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