The Naked Emperor

12 June 2007

Mental Twister

OK, I give. I hereby formally withdraw my candidacy for President

I'm just not cut out to be in politics.

But why the change I hear you ponder?

Lately, I've been playing a game I've named Mental Twister. And yes, Virginia, it involves politics.

But I must begin at the beginning.

For years, I've wanted a semi-serious Bubba truck. Don't get me wrong, I love the Puppy (the current F-150). She's been dependable, tough, done almost anything I asked, and done it with grace.

But I've had this secret yen for a big 4x4 with winch and cool tires and a killer bumper on the front for nearly thirty years. So call it a mid-life crisis.

Alas, such a creature will cost a pretty penny. Or 5 million pennies near about.

So how do I afford it?

Well, we'll be down to just the house, student loans, and the vehicles in a month or so. That frees up some to buy the new project. And if thenakedempress's student loan didn't exist, we could swing my new toy with ease.

She's a resource teacher at a Head Start. Been there 4 years. Before that she did Special Ed at a couple of lower income schools. There's some resource to forgive student loans for teachers, right?

Silly me. I didn't read the fine print. Sure there are programs!! Had 'em since "98!! But just try to qualify.

First we were told that she didn't qualify. Then we were told she did. Then she didn't.

So I dug deeper.

First, she has Stafford loans. According to the program, you can get 5 grand cancelled.

Ay, but here's the rub. These programs only apply if you took out your FIRST loan AFTER Oct. 1 1998. And then, you must teach in a Head Start or low income school for five years.

Silly me, I like math sometimes. And this is a good time to do some.

Since the program only applies to loans after the start of the fall semester of 1998, and most students start in the fall, let see how this applies.

Take a typical student, Lucretia (OK, I'm feeling a but poisonous myself tonight). She starts in education at the University of Fredonia in the fall of 1999. Assuming a normal experience of four years, Lucretia graduates in the spring of 2003.

She gets a job a Head Start after graduation, starting in the fall of 2003. Now just when will she have completed her five years to qualify for the cancellation? Anybody?

Correct, not until May or June of 2008.

So in other words, Congress passed a program that NOBODY has been able to qualify for!!

Maybe Lucretia rushed through school in three years. In that case she will only be able to qualify for cancellation within the last two weeks or so. Boy, that's progress.

Digging through the maze of government speak, bureaucratese, and call centers in Tijuana and India made my head spin. Every step I took sent me to another bizarre dead end. That's why I've titled this little game Mental Twister.

And have faith, dear readers, it get worse still.

I made the mistake of thinking about the political implications of this program.

I feel fairly certain that the members of Congress who inserted the language starting this, and those who voted for it back in '97 or '98 patted themselves long and loud over this. "We've done something to help the underpaid teachers at Head Start and low income schools!!" WRONG!! No one has been able to qualify.

And what the hell are you doing passing something that won't start for 10 or eleven years, long after your term has expired? And you may be dead or in prison? (yes, Bill Jefferson was there back then)

And was this bullshit ever funded? Did the Congress actually fund a non-functional program? And what sense did that make?

I'm sure they did fund it. No, I haven't gone into the actual budgets to find out. If you want to, please let me know what you find.

But they had to have funded it. After all, no one wants to be accused of not funding Head Start or for teachers of low income students. "Why that's cruel to the children!! And Racist!!!"

So we've had a well funded, totally unkillable program for 9 years that has helped not one person. How do they live with themselves?

And right now there is a bill, H.R. 1429, to reauthorize Head Start. It's been passed by the House, and is awaiting Senate action. And in there, someone named Sestak put in an amendment to forgive loans for new teachers if they commit to three years at Head Start. But what about those who have been busting their collective asses for years at very low pay to do the right thing? SORRY, screwed again!!!

Thinking about all of this just made my poor teeny brain twist in ways it just wasn't designed to do.

I'm technically a genius, but I just can't fathom a universe where any of this makes any kind of sense.

And It makes me mad.

I can't believe I'm going to write this, but John Edwards was right about one thing, and only one thing. There ARE two Americas. Or maybe three.

But he's wrong about what they are. It's not rich/poor or white/black.

It's working-Americans and taking-Americans.

I've been working now for thirty years. Nobody gave me trips to Europe, no inheritance, no trust fund. My only benefits have been a guarantee on my student loans, and I got $2000 from FEMA after Katrina and a $288 food stamp card. Everything I have I've earned.

And I do give to charity, as much as we can to help those less fortunate. But I choose what to support and how much to give.

But the taking-Americans insist I owe them. So they scream louder and louder until they get the money from me.

And it's not voluntary. They have allies.

That's where I think there's a third America. The political class.

It doesn't matter whether they're republican or democrat. They get into positions of power and use it to enrich themselves, while bribing the taking-Americans for their votes with benefits paid for by me. Great job if you can handle it. Or stomach it.

And they use the full force of government on the working-Americans to enforce these involuntary "contributions" and "Paying your fair share" (Fair? FAIR? To Who??)

They can threaten us, fine us, imprison us, and kill us. If one of us working-Americans tried to do the same thing, it would be extortion at best, more likely armed robbery.

So with this program they can lie (oh really!) and say they've helped the "working people" when they've done nothing, and hope nobody looks to see where OUR money has been taken to.

I just can't believe I'm part of such a bizarre world.

After all this, I'm going to take some ibuprofen and go to sleep.