Plea to America - Return to Sanity!

The Neighborhood Store

In light of what is about to be $4/gallon gas prices, you'd think this would be common sense, but I have not heard or seen anything that leads me to believe this is on anyone's mind.

I grew up in small town Nebraska, really small, less than 700 people (and that's if you count the cows!). The next biggest town was 7 miles away, and that one only had about 2000. The nearest city was about 30 miles. In this little town, we had almost everything we needed. There was a post office, a cafe, 2 gas stations, a church (that often doubled as a gathering place), there was even a dance hall - though that was a little way out of town. Most of all, we had a grocery store.
Now it wasn't a super market, it really only had the necessities - milk, meat, a few canned goods, cigarettes, candy, etc. Anyone looking for anything special wasn't going to find it, but for the average family they had everything they'd need. The best part was, it was in the center of town, only about 4 blocks from anywhere, if you had a cart or a wagon you didn't even need your car. Sure, the prices were a little higher than the Jack & Jill in the next town, and somewhat higher than the Food 4 Less warehouse store in the city, but you had to drive to those.

Then Wal-Mart came on the scene. The company had been around for a while, but until they started building everywhere and got into the grocery business, no one noticed. They moved into the city and suddenly people from my small town were driving to the city to get their groceries and who could blame them? The price difference was such that even when you spent the gas to drive there, you were still saving money. Oh, people still went to the little store on Main Street, but only when you needed some milk or butter. The little grocery store was now being treated as a convenience store, doing some business, but since they couldn't compete with Wal-Mart they struggled.

Now I live in a neighborhood that's quite a bit bigger than that little town I lived in. The nearest store is 3 miles away. While it is still technically possible to walk there, that is quite a ways to go on foot in the hot New Mexico sun to get a gallon of milk. And maybe I'm a little hypocritical, but we do most of our shopping at the Wal-Mart in the city. But I would give anything to have a neighborhood grocery store now.

Here in America, we have made ourselves dependent on our automobiles. Instead of supporting the neighborhood stores in our small towns, we drive and give our money to the people in the city. Now, small town stores, and small towns, are disappearing. What started out as saving a little money has now become a necessity because the neighborhood store doesn't exist anymore. Maybe it wasn't a big deal when people were still spending a small percentage of their income to gas up their cars, but now, as gas prices are about to shoot through the roof, we no longer have choices. We killed the store on main street to save a few dollars, and now we could save a few dollars by staying in town.

Three years ago, I spent about 5% of my income on gas - most of it used to get back and forth to work. Now, I spend about 10% of my income. We cut corners whenever we can, often combining trips as much as possible, but it's still expensive to get around. If we had a store only a few blocks away, that would save us a lot of money, much more than we save by going into town to go to Wal-Mart.

Also, at this time in history, we are facing a man-made disaster: Global warming. Everyone is staying we should save energy, not just to save money, but to save the planet. If everyone could walk to the neighborhood store instead of driving, think of the impact that would make. But again, we've given up our choices out of a desire to save a few dollars.

This is my plea to those of you out there who have the means: bring back the neighborhood store. If everyone only had to go a few blocks to get their groceries, think of the impact that would have on everything. We could not only make a difference in our communities, but we could make a difference to the world.

What do you mean by "not covered"?

I never really understood why so many people complained about their health insurance. Ours seemed to be doing it's job, we went to the doctor, paid the co-pay, got the prescription, paid the co-pay for that. Everything seemed to be working. Of course we never really added it all up, the insurance was taken out of my paycheck every two weeks and we didn't really think about the money. But then things changed.

For one thing, we started to have to pay the insurance ourselves. Now that I am receiving disability, we mail in a check instead of having it taken out of our pay. (Also, since I am not working, the company is not paying for part of it, so what we are paying is doubled, but that was expected). We are actually seeing how much we are paying out for our insurance now - which turns out to be about 20% of our income.

The other thing that happened is that we actually started using the insurance. When my health started crashing, we went from seeing the doctor now and then to seeing him all the time and also seeing many specialists that he sent me to. We went from needing a prescription now and then to needing many prescriptions all the time. Not to mention many tests.

All of a sudden, what we thought was a pretty good insurance turned out to not be so good. We were seeing the bills and what the insurance was paying vs. our co-pays. On top of that the insurance company suddenly starting sending us notices saying they don't cover certain things.
The short version is that we now have a huge pile of bills that the insurance company won't pay and are continuing to pile on more bills as I need to continue receiving medical attention. Now that we have all the information in front of us, we can see that we are actually paying out more for the insurance than it would cost us out of pocket to pay for it ourselves.

What went wrong here? At what point did the insurance companies stop taking care of people? Isn't the whole idea behind insurance to spread the cost around? Wasn't the system designed to have many people pay in to the insurance company, then the company pays it back out to the people as needed? Sure some people would need it less while others need it more, but for those who needed it, it was cheaper to pay in to the insurance than to pay for it themselves. Now, it actually is costing more for the insurance than it would to pay for it myself.

On top of that, the insurance company is trying to tell my doctor how to treat me. Recently, I needed an allergy medicine. I had to have a certain prescription brand because of the other medicines I was taking. I had to have a particular type because over the counter brands would cause dangerous reactions with the other pills I was taking. So, my doctor prescribed it. We go over to the pharmacy to get it filled, only to have the insurance company deny. They said they won't cover it because an over the counter brand was just as effective (which they won't pay for either!) It took the pharmacist, the prescribing doctor, and my primary care calling the insurance company to get them to cover it - and even then we had to pay a higher co-pay.
When did this whole system get so out of hand? Why should the insurance company make more money off of me than my doctors would if I paid them directly? Why should they get to have a say in how my doctor cares for me and not just pay the bills?

Please, when you vote next year, keep the health-care system on your list of important issues.

What happened to "We buy American so you can too"?

"Made in China" is becoming synonymous with "Hazardous to your health". The most recent one put me over the top. A certain craft-type toy was recalled because a glue-like additive was not used in favor of a cheaper but toxic substance. Ingestion of the colored beads made with this substance resulted in the body turning the chemical into GHB, also known as the "date rape" drug. Children who had fallen victim were in comas and if proper treatment was not given death could result. The news reported that no explanation was given for the substitution, but the toxic substance was 3 times cheaper than the right additive.

Am I the only one going "WTF!"?

At what point are we going to take some responsibility for our own children? Toy companies all over the world are choosing to have their toys made the cheapest way possible. Parents are gladly snapping these cheap toys off the shelf. This creates a vicious circle, parents demand cheap toys, the companies demand cheap toys, so the factories take short cuts. We got what we asked for.

What will it take for us to get back to sanity here? Let's do the right thing, first for the children, then for the rest of us. Let's start making stuff here. First of all, we can do it right, and most of all, it will be good for everyone (creates jobs, less fuel spent to transport, etc. etc.)

This brings me full circle. If we do what's best for the neighborhood, then it benefits us all. Let's overcome the Wal-Mart way of doing things and get back to some sanity here. Let's spend a little more to take it out of the store, and in the end we'll save so much more.