Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Truth About Public Sector Pay

As an employee of a federally funded program run by the state, I am technically working for both the federal and state governments. Lately, all I hear is that public employees are overpaid, their unions are getting them ridiculously luxurious benefits, and someone needs to stop them before they grift again.

Since I grew up on welfare, I grew accustomed to having to turn in *monthly* income reports to the government. There was no such thing as privacy about income, and I never developed the same sense of anxiety about sharing such information common to most Americans. Therefore, I am posting a link to my paystub. (I'm sorry if it takes a bit to load. It's a .pdf). As a person in mid-career with a Ph.D., I don't think the totals will draw envy.

Just for comparison purposes, here is an income payscale for Ph.Ds

My husband is not as open with his paystub, but was willing to let me share that his salary is $35,500 as a social worker with a Master's degree working full-time at a non-profit. His agency was so "unhealthy" as a group that no insurance company was willing to insure them without massive contributions from the employees. He is covered by my job, so his only benefit is a 401k.

P.S. Tease me about the website if you like. It's primitive, because my skills at such things are primitive. My electronic paystub was hard to share. It would not paste into Powerpoint as I had hoped to put it in viewer. So, I had to resort to .pdf, but hopefully it is okay to open, as I used the less memory option.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jon Stewart is Wrong: Left and Right Are Everything in the Heartland

During a bleak childhood in poverty where extended family expressed their disgust that our family needed government services (but did not step up to solve my parent's serious mental illnesses or pay for their survival), there was one bright light: my mom's older sister. Not only did she refrain from expressing judgment within earshot, but in an environment where sexism was the norm, where woman only went to college to get their M.R.S., she became a cop. She was the first woman deputy sheriff in our Iowa county, and eventually retired after many years serving in Las Vegas jails. While the Mormons were having me work through their steps to womanhood, "My Personal Progress," a guide to cooking, sewing, and obeying men, she was mailing me her used copies of New Woman and Cosmo magazine. When I was completing my PhD, she moved in with me for a couple of months to help transcribe interviews I completed for my dissertation.

As I got older, I realized that her feminism was limited by her conservative upbringing. She was hardly Gloria Steinem or Naomi Wolf. She had not attended college or read dirty liberal interpretations of womanhood. Nonetheless, when every other message I received was to grow up and find a good husband, she was a career woman who gave me the impression that woman could be more than mothers.

Two days before the election, on Halloween, I was catching up with a backlog of mail, and opened a letter from my favorite aunt, now 71 years old. She enclosed many newspaper clippings where she wrote short screeds along the side accusing Obama of everything from coddling immigrants to creating death panels via the appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick. The articles, while in standard Las Vegas daily newspapers, were from people representing the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. I looked them up, and they are a radically conservative group that has lied about everything ranging from immigrants bringing leprosy into America to saying Obama hypnotized the public to get elected. called them "Glenn Beck with an M.D."

Realizing that she had fallen into a right wing news vacuum, I gave her a call. I had no intention of arguing. I just wanted to remind her that I was a semi-expert on healthcare policy (remember that PhD) and during my 2 years of postdoctoral training, I had read literally every article Dr. Berwick has written, and he was no boogeyman. I expected a reasonable conversation, because we love each other. Instead, here's how it went:

Me: Hi, there, it's your favorite niece. (We both laugh)

Aunt: How's your health? (Typical catch-up)

Me: I got your letter and the newspaper clippings. Can I tell you what I know about Obamacare? Remember that I studied health care policy in depth?

Aunt: I'm not so sure, liberals get too emotional when you talk politics with them. You can't reason with them.

Me: Excuse me, that's kinda rude. And recall, you sent me the political materials, not the other way around. Don't I get to respond at least?

Aunt: Did you know that your 24-yr old, married cousin is now being covered by her mother's health insurance just because she is still in college?

Me: Huh, I knew they were covering young people up to age 25 if they were in school, but I didn't know it applied if they got married.

Aunt: Well, while she's getting her health insurance, I lost mine.

Me: Don't you have Medicare?

Aunt: Yes, but my Medicare Part B insurance was cancelled due to Obama.

Me: Obamacare had nothing to do with your insurance company dropping you. They probably were doing it before Obamacare made it illegal to do it.

Aunt: Why didn't they drop me until healthcare reform passed?

Me: They may well have been thinking about it. You have already had cancer, and you've been a lifelong smoker.

Aunt: They paid for my cancer expenses last time. They dropped me because of Obama.

Me: When did they drop you?

Aunt: This summer.

Me: I don't think healthcare reform law was even in effect that soon.

Aunt: (in a distressed tone) Well, apparently you don't care about me. I have a new lump, and it's probably cancer, and I have no insurance now. And you can't tell me that's not Obama's fault.

Me: That same situation has been happening to millions of people for years now, and healthcare reform is intended to stop it.

Aunt: And he's coddling immigrants. You know I don't mind Mexicans or any other people, but immigrants are taking jobs, and getting free healthcare.

Me: This doesn't sound like you. You were so proud of being the one compassionate person at the jails, the one who gave the junkies a spoonful of sugar to help with their withdrawal, while the other cops laughed at them.

Aunt: Well, I have been learning a lot from the news. Have you heard about the beheadings that happened?

Me: Oh, that actually didn't happen. It was a myth.

Aunt: I guess I need to send you the article.

Me: There are more news sources out there, and that story was debunked. Oh my goodness, I assumed that you were not voting for Sharron Angle, since your very own nieces were sexually molested by their biological father and could have gotten pregnant, I thought her views on abortion would be upsetting to you. But now, I'm scared to ask, are you voting for Sharron Angle?

Aunt: The liberal media is lying about her views on abortion. They say a lot of things about her political views that are just false.

Me: I heard her say with my own two ears that she doesn't believe in any exceptions for abortion, not even rape or incest. Not only that she called people on unemployment spoiled. And she denied the existence of autism. Oh my gawd, you were the woman who influenced my views on abortion, on feminism, on women. How can you support her?

Aunt: Well, I don't know about all that, but Sharron Angle is my girl. (said with joyful emphasis)

Me: (click)

Here in the fly-over states where conservative thinking still pushes people to hate gays, Muslims, and liberals, where culture stifles women, and the freedoms of New York City and Los Angeles are caught only in clips on TV, the left-right divide splits families apart.

When I was six years old, I spent a few months on a fundamentalist, polygamist, Mormon compound in Canada. I did so, because my parents were brainwashed by a self-declared prophet (Robert Crossfield, worth a google). In other words, I don't know why I keep ending up with my loved ones being brainwashed, but it's frightening and overwhelming to see right wing media push lies that brainwash otherwise rational people. A few weeks later, Jon Stewart told Rachel Maddow that there is no Left and Right battle in our country. He dismissed the culture wars as meaningless. Meanwhile, my aunt worships Glenn Beck, Fox News, and their falsehoods more than she loves her niece.