Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fantasy Island Meets Reality

Back in the mid-1980’s my wife and I worked for different manufacturing companies and were covered by two full medical and dental plans. Why would we pay for two plans? That’s the point; we didn’t pay anything for either one. The costs were fully paid by the companies, our only contribution was a modest deductable.

Today, my wife and I work for two different companies and we are covered by two full medical plans and we pay a contribution for both. Why would we pay for two plans? Because Obamacare forced me off my wife’s plan when I started working again. (“First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.” -- Barak Obama)

Yes, things have changed considerably since the 80’s. Medical costs started to rise rapidly and companies started requiring employees to contribute to the costs. Every year now your employer tells you how much medical insurance costs have increased and you find out how much more you will have to pay.

Similarly, many companies used to provide substantial pension benefits to employees. That benefit also peaked in the 80’s. Most companies started to reduce or eliminate pensions and 401-K accounts with a company contribution became the norm.

And all this is obvious to most working people, but it is a mystery to those living on Fantasy Island where medical and pension benefits remain as they were in 1980’s. While a global economy and global competition were bringing huge changes to the mainland, those on Fantasy Island remained totally separated from the outside world. It’s like every year a plane arrives on the Island with a huge shipment of medical and pension benefits for the people to enjoy. (“Look boss, da plane, da plane!)

It has now become a big issue because the benefits delivered to Fantasy Island are paid for by the people on the mainland. As previously mentioned, the people on the mainland have seen their benefits significantly reduced over the past 30 years. In addition the last three years have been financially very tough on them. Now the people on the mainland have plans to reduce the plane’s cargo.

To this the residents of Fantasy Island scream “Da Plan” Boss. Da Plan. The *$!*?#! Plan! “This reaction is very rational and is to be expected. If you lived on the island, you would respond in the same way. Things have really changed. The way the islanders see it, not only did someone move their cheese, but they are trying to shove it up their cheesehole. They argue that they deserve better benefits because living on Fantasy Island makes them special. They feel attacked, blamed, and victimized. In a way that is true. A great many people have been “attacked” and victimized by The Great Recession. Some are still hurting very much.

The people on the Island shout that it is not fair to cut their benefits. But the people paying for those benefits say it is unfair that benefits continue to grow for one class of people when many people on the mainland are dealing with reduced benefits or no benefit at all.

The people on Fantasy Island were able to obtain great benefits due to the “bosses”. These bosses don’t wear white suits like Mr. Roarke (but they do like fine, Corinthian, leather) but they are very important to the islanders. In the past, the bosses were very important to people on the mainland also. The bosses started out only on the mainland but since many people on the mainland were working for bosses, it made sense that people on Fantasy Island worked for them also. But the value and thus the importance of the bosses started to decline significantly in the 90’s. Global competition and improved work laws have now almost made the bosses obsolete on the mainland.

However the bosses on Fantasy Island were insulated from global competition and not only survived, but kept gaining power. They did this by trading political support for increased benefits for their people. They also extracted money back from the people to entrench their positions. These deals worked because they went on behind a cloak of secrecy and details were rarely communicated to the people on the mainland. But now at this critical juncture, many people are questioning the level of benefits and the details are being brought to public scrutiny. (See links below)

Now the people on Fantasy Island are being forced to literally deal with reality. It is not 1980 anymore. They want to continue living in the past. It is ironic that to protest the attempt to rein in benefits, that some islanders resorted to a “sit-in” a common tactic in the 1960’s. Sit-ins may have been effective then, but have been largely abandoned due to the new technology of the TASER gun. The TASER was not used in this instance due to the expected public outcry if police would have tasered dozens of protesters. However police would have only had to taser one person to disperse the crowd provided that person screamed really loud. Selecting the person in our politically-correct culture would have been tricky, so look out skinny white guy they’re coming after you. (Take that nasty TASER white boy, take that nasty TASER right).

Therefore the main opponent of the Fantasy Islanders is not any politician, nor any political party or organization. Their opponent is Reality. And Reality is tough fighter. If you are not ready, it will slap you silly. It will blindside you and drive you face first into the ground. You can’t fight Reality head on, you can only try to respond and adapt to it.

You never got to see what happened on the television show Fantasy Island the next week after the people returned to reality. That’s because it probably wasn’t very pretty. This won’t be either.

Reality Article #1    Reality Article #2   

Play That Funky Music!

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