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Archive for June, 2017

The way it looks to me is that, as a nation, we’ve just about come full circle. We began by acclaiming a man who couldn’t tell a lie to a man who doesn’t seem to be able to tell the truth and who lost the popular election. Kind of a tough one to take on an empty stomach, isn’t it…hell, even on a full stomach, it sorta makes you want to empty out! Of course, we didn’t have television, social media, or hackers of all kinds in good old George’s day. Heck, things were so hush-hush back in that time that even today, we do not know the names of all six of President Washington’s infamous Culper ring of spies. The way things are today, it appears that all you have to do is give the incumbent a classified briefing, and after he tells Putin, he’ll find a way to put it out in a Tweet. I can see it now, “Mika Brzezinski, you low IQ co-anchor of the most low-rated program on television, let me tell you what I just told Vlad…” and he’d go on to reveal more of America’s secrets.

In announcing that the US was pulling out of the Paris Accord, Trump noted, “We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.” Excuse me, but there was no such thing as negotiation. Each nation set its own commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and those commitments were non-binding. One of the real kickers was his announcement that, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” That’s just not true. An article in the Washington Post says, “There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives the permission to China or India to build coal plants. In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.”

In spite of all of Trump’s lies and his tweets that demonstrate his insecurities, narcissism, bullying tactics, and his willingness to throw friends as well as former friends under the proverbial bus, Trump is not the first egotist to occupy the Oval Office. Jack Kennedy, somewhat of a roué in his own right, reflected to an aide about Lyndon Johnson, “You are dealing with a very insecure, sensitive man with a huge ego. I want you literally to kiss his fanny from one end of Washington to the other. While doing a bit of research for this little essay, I came across this interesting point, “In his memoirs, longtime Johnson aide George Reedy painted an ugly portrait of LBJ, accusing him of being a womanizing, perverted drunkard who delighted in having conversations with people while he sat on the toilet for the sole purpose of making them uncomfortable and bullying his staff to the point of sadism. Johnson was especially fond of whipping out his manhood, which he’d dubbed “Jumbo,” in mixed company. There is even a story, possibly apocryphal, that he urinated on a Secret Service agent’s leg, claiming it was his “prerogative.” Johnson’s behavior could be so reprehensible that it has been suggested that he was likely mentally ill, possessed of more “‘grandiose narcissism” than any other president in history.” Can it be that history might be repeating itself on an even grander 21st Century scale?

While his supporters appear to approve of his “fighting spirit,” what Donald Trump is demonstrating is a lack of presidential qualifications. As Maine Senator, Susan Collins, said, “The President of the United States should not have to dignify remarks made about him.” Every President, from George Washington on, has had to suffer the “slings and arrows” of an outrageous press. From William Howard Taft’s weight to James Madison’s height – he stood a magnificent 5’4” – and from Jack Kennedy’s womanizing to Richard Nixon’s Watergate antics, US Presidents have come under fire from all sides.

It is apparent from his inability to handle any type of criticism that Donald Trump doesn’t really know what the hell he’s doing in the Office of the President. Perhaps the Russia investigation will blow over. Perhaps the lies he’s told about James Comey and others will pass like the clouds overhead. Perhaps he will not lead us into another war, this time with nuclear abandon that will destroy the world. Perhaps none of this will happen, but I can almost guarantee that by the time Donald Trump leaves the White House, America will need decades, if not a new Century, to correct and repair the damage that he will have done to this nation, its people and its image around the world. He gets my vote for America’s number one homegrown terrorist. By his actions, he has denigrated this nation in the eyes of the rest of the world and made the Office of the President, a laughing stock.

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Since 1912, Norway has had universal health care for all its citizens. That’s all well and good, but let’s examine this closely. Norway has a population of just over five million while the US population is around 324 million. The Norway plan is called ‘single tier,’ meaning that “The government provides insurance for all residents (or citizens) and pays all health care expenses except for co-pays and coinsurance. Providers may be public, private, or a combination of both.” In this system, “The National Insurance Scheme is funded by general tax revenues. There is no earmarked tax for health care. The Norwegian tax burden is 45% of GDP. The government sets a global budget limiting overall health expenditures and capital investment.” Other countries with single tier systems include Japan with a population of 126 million, the United Kingdom, 65 million, Kuwait, Sweden, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, and Iceland. I mention all these countries because it is rather obvious that no single tier system country has the population of the United States, and for us to adopt such a system would, quite frankly, bankrupt the nation. To give just one anecdote, let me cite a Canadian I knew who had to manage by walking on crutches for two full years before he could have a knee replacement. His pain was constant. His medication of choice was, as I remember, a single malt scotch whiskey and, according to his wife, who was also a friend, he was not an abuser.

In the two-tier system, “The government provides or mandates catastrophic or minimum insurance coverage for all residents (or citizens), while allowing the purchase of additional voluntary insurance or fee-for service care when desired. In Singapore, all residents receive a catastrophic policy from the government coupled with a health savings account that they use to pay for routine care. In other countries like Ireland and Israel, the government provides a core policy which the majority of the population supplement with private insurance.” Countries with this plan include New Zealand, Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Hong Kong and Israel. Using Denmark as an example, the cost of the system is paid by taxes, and yes, that means that the wealthy are paying for the poorer or indigent members of the population. While I’m somewhat hesitant to quote the Huffington Post, let me tell you what one of their writers reported, “The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.”

A third type of universal health care is the insurance mandate. In this system, “The government mandates that all citizens purchase insurance, whether from private, public, or non-profit insurers. In some cases, the insurer list is quite restrictive, while in others a healthy private market for insurance is simply regulated and standardized by the government. In this kind of system insurers are barred from rejecting sick individuals, and individuals are required to purchase insurance, in order to prevent typical health care market failures from arising.” Countries using this system include Germany, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece, South Korea, and Switzerland. The current – as if that word still means anything – Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the US is considered to be an insurance mandated system.

So, there you have what other countries do. Should the US adopt some of the taxation plans of other nations? Should the ACA remain in some form? I really don’t know the answer. To pretend otherwise would be folly. However, I was long under the impression that the men and women who make the laws in this country were reasonably intelligent people. When I say, “…long under the impression,” that would be until I was about 22. Since that time, I have observed that people who serve can be loud, obnoxious, irrational, criminal, idiotic, and in some cases, certifiably insane. All that being said, there are still some people with a brain in the Legislative Branch of our government. What I don’t understand is why these people, perhaps even a mixed group of donkeys’ and elephants studied the strengths and weaknesses of other countries with universal health care to determine how our own country might benefit from such a study. The immediate answer, of course, is population differences and diversity of the population in the US versus that of other countries. Attempting to mandate a health care system with a population as diverse as that of the US creates incredible problems. While there is no question that the ACA has its own share of problems, I cannot see the wisdom in attempting to repeal it and putting in place another form of health care that will prove to have just as many problems. In other words, neither the House nor the Senate have done their homework. They are just being loud, obnoxious, irrational…oh, wait a minute…that’s how many of them got elected. Ah, that explains a great deal.

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Individual responsibility. You, yes, you, are accountable for actions taken in your life. And every action you take has a consequence. Or, to quote Sir Isaac Newton, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Study hard, you get an A+ on the test. Slam your fist into a wall, it’s going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch and you stand a good chance of breaking some bones. Take certain drugs while you are ill or in pain, you will feel better or get well. Continue to take some of those same drugs, you will become addicted and chances are pretty good that you will die.

Okay, so perhaps I took a bit of liberty with poor old Sir Isaac, but do you see what I’m saying? You are responsible for your actions, particularly when it comes to taking drugs in what today we are calling a world-wide opioid epidemic. If you are an adolescent or an adult and doing drugs has been your “thing” in life, great, that’s something that you have elected to do, and you are probably aware of the consequences of your actions. If you’re strung out all the time, you may not give a damn about the outcome. To hell with your family and friends who care about you because you’re doing what you want to do. Besides, if you happen to overdose, some EMT will probably have some naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, to bring you around…maybe…or maybe not. So, if you wish to continue to get high on Percocet, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, or perhaps heroin because it’s become cheaper than some of those prescription medications, you just go ahead. I would remind you of one thing…you are the one who elected to continue to use opioids.

For those of you who may know someone with an opioid addiction, please, please do not give me excuses for their addiction. Yes, I’m certain that they had pain. Yes, I know that the doctor prescribed the drugs to which they are now addicted. Yes, I know the prescriptions ran out but by that time they were hooked. Yes, I know that they turned to the street drug, heroin, because it was cheaper and more available than Oxycontin. Yes, I know, I know, I know. However, who chose to continue taking the drugs? Who chose the feeling of euphoria over saying, “Wait just a minute here. I’m gonna be in some kind of trouble if I don’t knock this off?” It’s called individual responsibility. It’s called not-making-excuses-for-a-bad-decision. Oh, we can blame Purdue Pharma for creating the drugs, Oxycodone and Oxycontin as an alternative to morphine, codeine, Percodan, or Percocet. And we can blame our doctors who prescribed the pills for the pain, but…when it comes right down to the bottom line, did that individual really need to take something as powerful and addictive as Oxycontin? I have had over twenty surgeries in my life. My back has been invaded three times, both of my shoulders have been opened and closed, as have my knees, elbow, wrist, hand, and on, and on, and on. After my first knee surgery, I was given Percocet. It was terrific…took away the pain and the world was a great place…whoopee. I didn’t move my bowels for damn near a week, and when, after multiple doses of laxatives…well, I won’t tell you just how bad it was. When I asked the doctor why that had happened, he had one word…”Percocet.” No two ways about it, Percocet is a great drug, but I really would prefer not to have the cramps that I suffered getting away from it.

When Oxycontin came on the market, one of the advantages being pushed by Purdue Pharma was that it was “abuse resistant.” Later, when the company had been given the go ahead to create 80 and then 160 mg time release pills, its marketing materials claimed that the potential for addiction was “less than one percent.” Many articles have been written about how Purdue Pharma duped the FDA, built dossiers on doctors more likely to prescribe opioids, and segmented the country for its promotional campaigns to increase its profits. If you would like to read more about Purdue Pharma, I invite you to Google them but I will warn you ahead of time, I believe they bring ethical behavior to a new low.

Pharmaceutical companies and doctors who freely prescribe opioids as a pain medication are such a small part of the epidemic in my own mind that I just cannot bring myself to write more about them. Certainly, I have only my own experiences to go by, what some may call a single case study, but those people who allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of easy pain elimination without regard to the addiction consequences are abrogating their responsibilities to themselves and to their families and friends. I really find having sympathy for them to be difficult.

It scares the devil out of me to think that we are becoming a society of people who refuse to take charge of their lives, who believe that there will always be others to cover for their mistakes. Pain is a part of life, both physical and mental anguish. Disappointment is a part of life; learn to live with it. It’s so much easier to place blame elsewhere rather than accepting the fact that the fault lies right at one’s own front door. Why do people get medals just for participation? Why are trophies given to everyone on the team? I’m all for teamwork and cooperation but within that team, each member must shoulder his or her fair share of the burden, responsibility, or whatever term you may wish to use. It is time we recognize that making excuses for others, defending the actions of others who create problems, is not what we are about. Big pharmaceuticals don’t care if you die. Doctors who continue to prescribe opioid pain pills obviously don’t care if you die. It’s up to the individual to know and understand the consequences of just how bad opioids are and to stay as far away from them as possible.

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“Everyone wants to live longer. Now you can by taking our $%^&@, you can be with your family longer.” What horse manure is that? Sure, we’d all love to live longer and Optiva or whatever the hell it’s called tells us that we can. Okay, but what about the quality of our life. If I take this or whatever other placebo they’re offering this month, will my quality of life be what it was before I contracted whatever the hell it is I have that’s killing me? I may be a bit cynical on this point, but my answer is, “fuck, no!”

Coarse? Of course, it’s coarse. So am I when it comes to talking about television ads that show drugs that can prolong one’s quantity of life without describing exactly what the quality of that life will be. Nine years ago, my wife died of cancer. She was told that she was in Stage IV. There is no Stage V. They told her that chemotherapy would allow her to be with her family for a longer time. She went through two – I think it was two – sessions of chemo before she said, “Un-huh, thanks, but no thanks. Take me home and just ease my pain.” It was an absolutely horrible 13 months, for her…for me…for everyone who ever knew or loved my Joan. Yes, perhaps chemotherapy might have prolonged her life, but would she have been the same bright, smart, funny, intelligent lady we all knew or would she have suffered even longer. They, the doctors that is, told us after her diagnosis that there was nothing they could do. They told us that she was terminal. Why, in the name of God, would one wish to take drugs to prolong the quantity of life without preserving the quality of life?

I see the ads on television foe these life-prolonging drugs and I have to believe that the pharmaceutical companies aren’t telling the whole story. “Oh, but new cures are being found every day,” doctors will say. It may be tomorrow that we’ll find the cure.” No, no you won’t…because the minute you think you have the cure, particularly in the case of cancer, it will mutate, and it will strike again, and your supposed cure will not help that next person.

Fact of the matter is, I see ads on television now, and most of them make me sick. So, a young person is about to graduate from college. In all probability, they have incurred a certain about of debt. That’s fine, but why are these car companies enticing them to buy a new car by offer a certain amount of the MRP for new college graduates. They don’t tell you that the excise tax on a new car can be a back-breaker, or that whatever the amount is, you’re still increasing your debt…and they aren’t as polite about collecting their money as some of your college loan folk might be. Just another bunch of half-truths to fleece you out of your hard-earned cash.

But, enough about television ads and the crap that they try to push on it, let’s get back to the whole living thing. Families should really talk together – as a family unit – about the seniors and how they want their lives to be lived. You, yes you, have you talked with your Mom and Dad about what they want in their senior years. Do they want to be kept alive by all means possible? Do you want them kept alive by all means possible and how do that feel about that? Oh, and Mom, Dad, have you made your wishes known to the children? What do you want, because, after all, it is your life we’re talking about…yes, and your death as well? People don’t seem to want to talk about these things anymore. Look, let’s get one thing straight…you, me, the kids, everyone, we’re all going to take that last breath someday. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to think about it right now. After all, you’re only, what, I dunno, how old? Maybe you still think you or your folks are among the immortal few. It’s not unlike people I know who are in their forties, fifties, and yes, some who are even older, but who yet to have a will drawn, have never appointed anyone as an executor, don’t even have a health care proxy. Sounds a little stupid, doesn’t it?

In this day and age, when you can actually go online and find examples of wills and other important documents, it would seem that anyone with any kind of assets, would want to make things clear. “If I cannot speak for myself, e.g., I’m in a coma because of an accident and there’s little chance I’ll come out, pull the foolish plug and reduce the hospital bill,” this is what I want you to do. “Make certain that the antique chair in the living room goes to Mary because I told her years ago she could have it.” Ah, but unless it’s in writing, Mary could be left in the dust because brother George has had his eye on that chair for years…even though he’s never told anyone! Are you beginning to get the picture?

There are so many end of life decisions that can and should be made ahead of time, and that will solve a great many problems, that it seems foolish not to discuss them when everything is still hunky-dory. No, I’m not trying to be a wet blanket; I’m trying to be practical. And in answer to your unasked question, yes, I have a will; yes, I have a health care proxy; yes, I have made it plain that I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial crap that may prolong my life while ruining my quality of life. It’s your call, but which is better, to be kept alive as a vegetable or just continue to be a nut and then go out hell bent for leather?

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Gesundheit!

Allergies. Three words. What-a-bitch!

I didn’t have allergies until I was 80! What is this nonsense? I don’t like allergies. They are a pain in the butt. Not only that, but have you purchased any of these allergy over-the-counter drugs lately? Twenty-three bucks for a pill that, on me at least, doesn’t seem to work. I went to the gym this morning, pedaled my butt off, did 10.3 miles in 43 minutes, banged out 250 ab crunches, gassed up the car, came home, and within five minutes, I’m sneezing worse than one of the seven dwarfs, and blowing my nose enough to put Kleenex workers on an extra shift. What the hell is going on here? I mean, when I have to take my hands off the keyboard to blow my nose every 20 seconds, this is not a good thing…nope, not a good thing at all.

What are allergies anyway? I understand that it’s when the immune system reacts to something in the air, like the pollen from trees or grass, foods, pet dander, or something else, but what does that really mean? Is it that the immune system is more sensitive, is breaking down, what? I don’t recall that my parents or siblings ever had allergies, so how come I’m so lucky?

I joke, of course. Allergies, as I understand it, can affect anyone at any age. I also understand that one can outgrow certain allergies, that they can come and go, but the most important thing is that they can also kill. My grandson has a peanut allergy and carries an EpiPen with him wherever he goes. A friend of mine attended a dinner one evening where the canapes contained crabmeat. She didn’t know it at the time, but she was highly allergic to seafood. Thankfully, someone with some knowledge was carrying an EpiPen and could help her. Oh, the symptoms? Her throat closed and she had difficulty breathing, to the point where she fainted. Since she was ignorant of her allergy up to that time, you can well imagine just how frightening the experience was for her.

For those who don’t have allergies, it’s probably difficult to understand how those who have them suffer. As I have said, my allergies began shortly after I turned 80. I viewed this as a breaking down of my immune system more than anything else, but medically, I’m wrong. The immune system, if anything, has just become more sensitive…dammit! I must admit that my empathy is much greater now for Juli, my grandson, and others I know who have had allergies for long periods. It’s difficult to imagine having to walk around with a life-saving device in your pocket every day, to be ready at a moment’s notice to have to jab yourself, through clothing if necessary, to save your life. That is one frightening situation.

As I was doing a bit of research about allergies, it reminded me of one entire family, mom, dad, and a couple of sons, all of whom had allergic reactions to bee stings. Dad was a member of the management faculty at Northeastern. Mom worked in alumni records, and the boys were still in high school. Mildred, the mom, told me that each member of the family had to carry an injection kit. They also had kits in both cars and in many rooms in their house. Evidently, the sting of a single bee could be life threatening to these folks. I was much younger than Mildred or her husband, Lyman, and in hindsight I recall not being particularly empathetic to their plight…shame on me for my stupidity. According to HealthLine, “Allergies have a genetic component, meaning that they can be passed down from parent to child. However, only a general susceptibility to allergic reaction is genetic. Specific allergies are not passed down. For instance, if your mother is allergic to shellfish, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be too.” I know of only one case where someone actually slipped a peanut butter cookie into our grandson’s lunch. Fortunately, another student saw it happen and warned Ryan. Allergy ignorance is not funny…at all…in the least…ever! Although allergies are very common, it appears that most reactions are mild, including watery eyes, itching, runny nose, and coughing. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has allergic reactions, don’t mess around. Check with your doctor to learn what can be done. Fortunately, my allergic reactions are simple and easily solved. In fact, I’m rather thankful for them. It allows me to know what’s going on and empathize when someone complains, “Oh, my damned allergies are kicking up.”

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Hey, America, rise and shine. It’s time to play America’s game…no, not Wheel of Fortune. That has now been replaced by our newest and most exciting contest…Who Do You Trust…the game where members of the ‘insider group’ testify before the United States Congress – that’s right, the do-nothing group of the 21st Century – and tell their version of the truth about anything! Yeah, let’s hear it for Congress, the same folks who can’t pass a health care bill, revise a new tax plan, or balance the federal budget.

Perhaps this is what we’re all fated to do at some point in our lives, ie, watch Congress interrogate others over issues that never get resolved and that wind up with one side just calling the other “nut jobs,” “show-boaters,” and other idiotic appellations. I believe we’ve seen just how that turns out. An angry person grabs a gun and begins shooting. It happened in Arizona with Gaby Giffords and again in Virginia with the shooting of several people whose only crime was that they were playing baseball but happened to be unified by their Republicanism. Congressman Steve Scalise wasn’t a Congressman when he was shot. He wasn’t a Republican when he was shot. He wasn’t an “enemy of the state” when he was shot. He was a guy playing baseball today so that he could show off tomorrow in a charity game.

What the hell is wrong with us, those of us elected to public office, but who are deadlocked by putting party over country? What the hell is wrong with us, those of us who believe we can solve conflict by picking up a gun and shooting people whose political views differ from ours? Is this the “New America?” I cannot help but be reminded of the violence that took place on the floor of the United States Senate just prior to the Civil War…or, if you insist, the war for Southern Independence. You may recall that Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner was railing against compromises that helped to perpetuate slavery. In so doing, he managed to really, and I mean really, alienate Preston Brooks, a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina. It seems that Brooks felt Sumner’s remarks, some of which were directed at South Carolina’s Senator Andrew Butler, an uncle of Brooks, were, well, rather unkind. On May 22nd, Brooks walked onto the Senate floor and began beating Sumner with his cane…severely beating him with a heavy cane. Is that the next step in this orgy of violence that we see breaking out all over our country. Will we have a clashing catfight between Diane Feinstein of California and Susan Collins of Maine. Maybe we can set up a boxing ring in the Capitol gym and have James Comey battle Jeff Sessions to settle the “He said, he said” question.

We are better than this. We are better than what we are becoming. It’s time for the adults to come back into the room and tell the children to stop their Tweeting. It’s time for the adults to tell them to put aside their differences and work together to put in place a strengthened health care program – if Sri Lanka, Croatia, England, France, Canada, Germany, and more than 50 other nations can have universal health care, why can’t we – and get it out to the people. Forget this party politics bullshit and start to think about country first. A Republican Congressman from Illinois noted on television this morning that he had been sworn at, shouted at and spit upon, and this was in his own state…what the hell does it take to get these people to understand that Americans are fed up with their childish antics. He then went on to say that many Democratic Congressmen are friends of his. I hope that one of his aides taped the interview. Perhaps when he looks at it in his office – to see if his tie was straight and the camera caught his best side – he might also begin to question whether he’s serving his country or just those above him in his party.

Many years ago, Texas multi-millionaire Ross Perot ran for President with the slogan, “Wake Up America.” Ross, although a little to the right of Donald Trump and Genghis Khan, was a square shooter – no pun intended. He was defeated in the primaries but I really liked his slogan. Maybe some independent individual with no axe to grind will come up with a platform to please more than half of our voting population, and maybe he or she will adopt Ross’s old slogan. Maybe if we, the voting public, wake up and recognize that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are representing anyone other than those of their own party, we can oust the whole bunch of them and start over. Maybe we’ll just call the new parties the Whigs and the Tories…nah, we tried that and look where it got us. My point is simply this, our elected representatives, from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches must shut party labels away in the closet and do what is right for the country. If they cannot do that, our faltering political system will definitely come under the control of other nations, and we will cease to exist as the United States of America.

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To give or not to give

I received a letter the other day from a foundation – I won’t tell you which one – asking me to contribute to their efforts. Just for the hell of it, I checked out a web site that told me the chief executive officer of that foundation makes an annual salary of $203,000. Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s an awful lot of money. It sort of pissed me off. I’m a retiree, living on an income of well below – and I mean well below – even $85,000 a year. Even though the price of food, house insurance, property taxes, prescription medications, etcetera, continue to rise, my annual income doesn’t.

I enjoy giving to charities that I feel should be supported. There was a time when my gift was measured in the number of hours I volunteered. I sat in a room on a Saturday morning and recorded books for the blind. I oversaw Tee shirt sales for a race that benefited Amnesty International, did a whole pile of work for the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge which benefits the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center, and volunteered for several other charity events. Hey, I was working higher education, and if you don’t know, you-do-not-get-rich-in-that-field.

Today is a different story. My back and legs are shot to hell. I can’t stand in one place for more than a couple of minutes and I can’t walk 25 yards without having to stop and rest for a moment. The days of running around, putting glow sticks to mark a route for volunteers to follow after they’ve parked their cars in a designated lot at 3:30 in the morning are far behind me. It was a great deal of fun while it lasted but while the spirit may be willing, the flesh has other ideas.

I’m not going to kid you, I’m making more money in retirement than I did when I was working. Seems kind of strange, doesn’t it, but that’s the way our retirement plan worked out. So now, instead of volunteering my body, I do make modest contributions to those charities that I believe are really helping people. I will not, however, contribute to any charity where the CEO is making three or more times the amount of money that I am. And that’s just the reported salary. Heaven only knows what other perks are included with the job, e.g., car, expense account, clothing allowance, etcetera.

Perhaps it’s the fact that a good part of my career in higher education was spent on the periphery of fund raising, but I know that “giving until it feels good,” is not just a slogan coined by some development officer many years ago. I know that when I support the Williamsburg Foundation or Rosie’s Place or some other charity, it gives me a warm feeling. On the other hand, when I look at a request from an organization such as AARP, and learn that the chairman of the Foundation is making better than half a million bucks, I just don’t feel the need to put forth any more of my dollars.

For a long time, the wealthy of this country gave 1.3 percent of their wealth to charity. On the other hand, those classified as “poor” were giving 3.2 percent. Of course, that figure is deceiving, but it wasn’t until 2010 that things got serious. It started simply enough, and I quote, “In August 2010, 40 of America’s wealthiest individuals and couples joined together in a commitment to give more than half of their wealth away. Created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, the Giving Pledge came to life following a series of conversations with philanthropists around the world about how they could collectively set a new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy.” Oh, sure, you may be thinking, they have all that money so they can afford to do it, but think about it…half of their wealth? Just think of what can be done with “all of that money.”

“The Giving Pledge is a simple concept: an open invitation for billionaires, or those who would be if not for their giving, to publicly dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. And it is inspired by the example set by millions of people at all income levels who give generously–and often at great personal sacrifice–to make the world better. Envisioned as a multi-generational effort, the Giving Pledge aims over time to help shift the social norms of philanthropy toward giving more, giving sooner, and giving smarter.”

Okay, so maybe you and I can’t give away half of our “wealth,” if that’s what you want to call what we have, but our contributions are just as important as someone who gives a million bucks. Don’t laugh, it’s true. It’s true because that five dollars or twenty-five or more may be harder for us to part with than it is for the billionaire to part with a million. If you give canned goods to the US Postal Service or drop a buck in a fireman’s boot; if you can’t walk out of a store at Christmas time and put some coins or a bill in a Salvation Army kettle, doesn’t it make you feel a bit better about yourself? Damned right it does.

I’m not asking you to go out and become a philanthropist. I am asking that you consider finding a charity in which you have an interest. Check it out carefully. If you like what you see, think about making a small contribution to help that charity continue its work. At first, you might believe that your modest contribution doesn’t mean one whole helluva lot, but trust me, it does. I like to put it this way: “Who knows, it may be my single dollar, the last buck, that will help find a cure for cancer or provide a meal for a homeless person in a shelter.” It’s not the amount that is important, it’s the thought behind that gift.

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