Saturday, February 21, 2009
Will Work For Nothing
The Madoff scandal deepens. We all seem to be incredulous that an elaborate Ponzi scheme could wipe out so many so fast. Did they really think they were in on something special? They were.
While I truly feel for those who have lost most of their life savings, guess I have too. Anyone who dares to look at a retirement account statement these days will find the math pretty simple. 50% =1/2. Half of all those good intentions, those deductions, those brave decisions, and in some cases, half of something passed on down the line.
Of course the opportunity here is that we get another chance to ask ourselves what matters most. For those who need to keep up appearances, this must be a tougher time. I can only wonder what that must be like. I can only imagine what it must feel like to people whose values are tied more to their bank statements than the deeds they do. As always, the little guys often get hit the hardest. Maybe retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be, they wonder. But their images of an easier day, some time to reflect, maybe even travel or go places when everyone else doesn't are in the shredder too.
I hear the governor of Oregon wants teachers to work at least four days for no pay. It's his way of saying we all must sacrifice something more in this kind of economy. It's bad enough that budgets don't even approach enough money for the kind of education that our children deserve, now those who often make daily sacrifices must work for nothing. Oh they will. They always do. Some even feel guilty asking for what they almost deserve. I say almost, because the inequity is rife.
Item: one of the Portland Trailblazers was recently traded. The article said that he would probably welcome the chance to get more playing time with his new club. It also said that he averaged something like less than 10 minutes of playing time a game with the Blazers and about 3.2 points. Oh yeah, his salary for this year is just over $2 million.
When the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, used some rather strong language the other day and said we are a nation of cowards when it comes to talking about race, I knew he'd have to pay the price for being so honest. He's right. That's why we can't talk about the NY Post "monkey" cartoon without risking being misunderstood.
But we are also a nation of cowards when it comes to educating our children. We like to think that it's not about money, that the misguided notion of an "achievement gap" can be bridged with just the right standardized tests or just the right test preparation, or anthologies with snippets of whole books and multiple choice answers.
With all it's budget problems, at least California has an adequate teacher's retirement system. Makes me feel I did something right. Yet I never imagined I'd be as thankful as I am for that system. I have always known that I could live on less money than most. That to make me content, material possessions could go. I just never figured that belief would matter as much as these times dictate. Maybe that's the real lesson.