November 7th, 2012

too old to cry

Election Reflection

Well, I'm appalled, but at peace. The people have spoken; God help us. I can't help thinking of the 6th-Century monk Gildas and so many others who from time to time have bemoaned the state of their countries by saying that their ineffective or corrupt rulers, their collapsing societies, or even the enemies that ringed them round were ultimately God's judgment upon their sins as a people. In a free society where we elect our leaders, that is more obviously true: in the end, we get the government we deserve, and there is no one else to blame but ourselves.

So, we are for it. The debt continues to mount, even as we spend astronomical amounts and get nothing in return for it. The Congress hasn't passed a budget in three years. The tax bomb Obama put off till after the election is about to go off. The real horrors of Obamacare will now take hold. Increasingly, the President will rule by decree. Our Navy, already too small, will continue to shrink away. Those around the world who wish us ill have taken our measure, and they are rubbing their hands with glee.

That doesn't mean that people won't still fall in love, that Christmas has been canceled, or that there will never be jobs again. People will continue their lives, so far as the government leaves them alone to do so. Some kind of economic recovery must come soon, since people and businesses have -- unlike the government -- been paying down their debt, and there is money that will be seeking goods and services. But it does mean that the future for the country my grandchildren will inherit looks much more bleak than I would like. Less freedom, fewer good jobs, a more dangerous international environment. I may not live to see the worst come, but let's be clear: in kicking the can down the road, we have stuck Daniel and his unborn brother with the bill for all our indulgences.

The place where this affects me and Deanne directly, of course, is with our need to plot a course through our "golden years." I can live on much less than I'm accustomed to, and that's a good thing, but the Joker in the deck is health care. Even with our too-expensive but nevertheless fairly comprehensive insurance, we spend anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 a year (depending on whether one of us has a major illness or surgery) out of pocket on health care, and that goes up all the time.

Not only that, but if I retire before I hit the magic number -- 66, when I become Medicare-eligible, not 62 or 65 for Social Security or even 63, when I'll have 40 years' pension credit service -- then I get stuck with the full cost of our ridiculous insurance plan -- somewhere between $14,000 and $18,000 a year (I forget which), with the out-of-pocket costs on top of that. Health care would simply eat us alive. But if get my own, cheaper, insurance in the meantime, I forfeit my place with the Conference insurance, for ever, and come age 66 I can only hope I will have no cause to regret my gamble.

And this presumes that we'll even have Conference insurance by that time. Over the course of my career, I have seen the Annual Conference cost-shift one clergy support item after another from apportionments to churches. Once the true costs of health care under Obama take hold, many businesses will simply cease offering insurance as part of their benefit package, which will mean people will get dumped into the public pools Obamacare calls for. I imagine the Church will do the same. So much for always being able to choose your own doctor and your own insurance. And that means we would be wrestling with the government as our ultimate insurer. Hello, death panels; one of you has my file on your desk, I'll bet.

So, there will be more bumps in the road directly ahead. Society's values will continue to coarsen, and life to cheapen. We will be less free. Those of us who have seen America at her zenith will face many more challenges at the end of our lives that those in retirement now, and those just getting a start in life will pay for it all when they reach maturity. And we have done it to ourselves.

Lord, have mercy.