I love my tax guy. I’m not devoted to many people, but this guy deserves it, if only because he shares a name with a certain 80’s TV actor who starred in a certain show about Miami and the unseemly crime that goes on in the city. (You know the guy!)
This tax guy is the antithesis of the suave one-time-husband of Melanie Griffith. He is balding, paunchy and absolutely in love with Disney World. Every year he makes a picture book to show his clients where he stayed, and which Disney thing he did. I ask him questions about “fast passes” and which shows he saw and which hotel had the best buffet. He could be totally fucking up our taxes and I would still go back to him, just to hear about his vacations. It’s a morbid fascination I have with Disney.
This year our tax guy took the extra time to show us that our refund would almost double next year, thanks to the new GOP tax cuts. I’m sure that this pitch was designed to make us happy customers, but my partner and I sat ashen-faced. I immediately thought of the hundreds and thousands of other people sitting in tiny cubicles all over the country hearing some rando tax preparer showing them the exact same numbers. I imagined the hundreds of thousands of surprised and happy people planning their Disney vacation that they would be able to afford next year thanks to these tax cuts. Suddenly, I wanted to puke all over the cute little Daisy Duck photo I had in my hand.
It’s not that I don’t like money, I do. Most people like money. It’s been the compensation of choice for employers. It’s been used to pay off kidnappers. And it is now being used by the GOP to bribe Americans into four more years of Trump.
I believe that we should be investing in Americans, just not people who already have more than they need.
The GOP has been very defensive about this tax cut and insist that it helps the middle class but the numbers aren’t supporting them. A household making a million or more a year would receive twice the benefit of a household making between $50-75,000 annually. That million dollar household will get a $69,000.00 tax cut.
And really it’s just $69,000! Do you realize how much it costs to keep up a household these days? That barely pays for weekly auto detailing for three luxury cars.
The rich have been talking about tax reform for years. So it’s no surprise to see it passed. Yet even with all of their resources and inside ability to lobby congress, it took getting one of their own in the White House to get it accomplished. For a group of Americans who talk about how much they work for their money, it must feel really great to see this kind of manual-ish labor pay off for them. Nice work if you can get it.
I wish my kids had opportunities to hoard their inherited wealth (what some rich people consider working for a living?) but they don’t. In fact, I have one kid who will probably never work, even like a regular schmoe. My 23-year-old daughter, lets call her Cindy, has a more severe flavor of autism, along with other developmental delays. She is an adult five-year-old. Her communication skills are actually at the level of a three-year-old, so let’s split the difference and call her four.
Cindy’s a four-year-old in the body of an adult woman.
Cindy isn’t middle class, and barring some miracle she never will be. She lives a completely subsidized life, and although this is nothing close to what I wished for her, I’m grateful for the benefits this country does offer her.
One of the biggest concerns amongst parents and caregivers of children like Cindy is wondering if they will grow into self-sufficiency. Sit with that for a minute. We don’t get dreams of her graduating from college, or getting her first apartment on her own, or borrowing the car for the first time.
I dream of Cindy being able to cross the street without assistance. My dreams are for accomplishments that average preschoolers pick up after a few months. I was told when Cindy was very young that lots of intervention would be necessary to even move her already delayed development along. She had absurd amounts of early intervention to attempt to raise her level of functioning. Even with hours of therapy daily Cindy didn’t speak until she was four, was in diapers until she was six, and although the progress is tenuous, at age twenty-three she can just now handle a change in her schedule without hours-long crying spells. Cindy also has specific advanced skills, called splinter skills that make some specific aspects of her development advanced. For example, she began drawing in three dimensions at age four, well before she called me “mom.” No one knows why. There is good reason that the Autism Society of America chose the puzzle piece as its logo, just one piece, not the whole box. That would be easy to solve, especially if you have autism (autistic people have notorious puzzle skills).
Cindy has had about a hundred Patient Care Assistants (PCA’s) over the years, most all paid for by a Medicaid Waiver, a specific type of Medicaid designed to keep Cindy at home and out of an institution. There are several types of waivers all designed for specific purposes. Cindy’s PCA’s were able to focus on her, keep her safe, and helped me with the very intensive tasks of teaching her even the simplest self-care. We also had intensive behavioral modification therapy, speech and occupational therapy, equine therapy, and music therapy to help her development. Some therapy was paid by Medicaid, some wasn’t, but all of Cindy’s therapy was not easy and it was definitely not cheap.
I’ve never taken the time to add up all of the costs of therapy, but the PCA’s at home were over $24,000.00 a year. There is no doubt that Cindy needed one-on-one attention because she was a danger to herself, and had a few police interactions for either screaming or running away (both very common especially with young autistic kids). Without PCA’s helping her cross the street everyday, Cindy could (and has) walked into the middle of traffic, and if that’s not a public safety issue I don’t know what is. Thankfully we were able to keep her at home and not in an institutional setting, which was good for us as a family, for Cindy, and, bonus, it was good for taxpayers. Keeping disabled people in the community is still more cost effective than institution based services and depending on where you live, it can be half the cost to Medicaid to keep individuals in their own home.
Barring some as of yet unknown miracle treatment, Cindy will need help for the rest of her life. Even with all of the extra considerations in her life, I think she’s fortunate because she has access to services. Had I not been ensconced in the social service arena, she could be one of the 656,195 in the US waiting for Medicaid Waivers. Fortunately, I know who to call, what to say and when to push. It’s not as much fun as say, a papercut to the eye, it’s more like knowing that you are going to step on a Lego but don’t move your foot in time EVERY DAMN DAY. Also, I will never move out of state, because I had to go through this dehumanizing process in two very different states. Although Medicaid is a federal program, it’s facilitated on a state level so if you leave the state, you lose your benefits. I can’t go through the application process again. Basically, it’s a shitstorm.
I’ve spent months upon months of my life proving that my daughter was disabled enough for an government entitlement program yet our government saw fit to give $69,000 a year to millionaires. Frankly I don’t know how much more of this I can take and it’s going to take a lot of trips to the Magic Kingdom (with a lot of legalized recreational marijuana) to make this situation okay with me.
Everytime I see a person in a wheelchair get dragged out of the hallway of a public employee because they can’t lose their health insurance, I’m halfway between dying inside and bursting with joy. It took physically disabled people literally crawling up the steps of the US Capitol to get the ADA passed in 1990. I wonder what kind of statement Cindy can make like that, a statement about how vital her benefits are to her, all of the time. Then I wonder why I have to even think about such things. Why can I not just live my life and assume that the rest of America is full of the type of decent, loving people that would never allow a government to block legislation to make public buildings accessible to everyone? Oh. Because they’ve already proven that if they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. If they can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and walk up a flight of stairs, dagnabbit, you should be able to. It’s only fair, right?
I long for the day a group of millionaires have to crawl over something. Maybe crawl over a pile of thrift store clothing to get their tax bonus. I wonder where my little photo album is where I can clearly show how difficult Cindy’s life was, and is and always will be. I wonder who will think of her next year when they get a few thousand dollars, or many thousands of dollars. When the government wants to start a war, or sustain a war, we always have money for the machines and the bombs, but what about the people?
I find it very telling that Congressman Paul Ryan, the man who has been “Dreaming of cutting Medicaid for years…” got his tax cuts and called it quits. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope in there that a person who called himself a public servant is leaving with his dreams dashed. Now that he’s placated the long-ignored wealthy citizens in this country, his legacy will be felt by the folks who many times don’t vote, don’t file taxes and really, really need our help.
Katie Anderson is a writer and blogger who works full time in the mental health field. She writes essays and prose about disability, politics and the working poor in America on her blog lowermiddleclassy. She also likes to interview comedians to talk about the work and business of comedy. Some of her interviews can be found here. Anderson lives in Norfolk, VA with her husband Tim and three cats and no, she will not get a fourth. Follow her on Twitter @improvperson
Header Image: Creative Commons, Public Domain, modified.