Dear Mr. President:
Today I want to tell you about Joe… no, not Joe the plumber, but Joe from Tennessee. Joe is a wonderful guy with a great attitude about life in spite of his myriad of problems. The thing about Joe is, he’s struggling along with millions of other Americans, but he’s not complaining… he’s not even resentful of his plight, but I believe Joe’s story needs to be told, and I believe Joe’s face is the face of our seniors, and I believe we need to do better in protecting all the “Joe’s” of this country because they are the ones who built it with their blood sweat and tears.
At 68 years of age Joe has heart problems, severe diabetes, and a degenerative eye disease. He is currently collecting Social Security and two small pensions. Joe’s wife, Eileen, is 61 and still working and taking care of Joe as well. Joe has Medicare and Eileen’s insurance, but the co-pays are very high, as are the prescription drug costs.
Although Joe qualified for a “mobility chair” somehow the paperwork from his doctor was incorrect and he didn’t get the chair… undeterred he found an inexpensive used chair and invested a few dollars to make it usable. As Joe says, “We live to stay healthy… we can barely afford to live, between rent, food, and medical care, we can’t afford to buy clothing or go out to dinner.”
To add insult to injury, Joe and Eileen have a cumulative debt with the IRS of $18,000. Joe says they have an “account” with the IRS but whatever payback they make in the form of monthly payments is wiped out by the newest years return. They have interest and penalties involved for each year and are trying very hard to get it cleared up. As Joe puts it, “We are resigned to paying the IRS; after all, we incurred the obligation…” and the IRS doesn’t really care that we can barely afford to live. I don’t believe that Joe has tried to ‘mediate’ his tax bill because as he says, “We don’t want to get into trouble with them.”
So as Eileen continues to work and take care of Joe, Joe reaches out through Facebook to connect with ordinary people like himself. As we became “FB Friends” it was clear to me that Joe’s story was one I wanted to share with you Mr. President. I wanted you to hear about just one person reaching out, without complaint, but with a clear sense of obligation and commitment to continue to pay his debts.
And then it occurred to me Mr. President…. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Wall Street bankers, the hedge fund managers, and the big wig CEO’s felt that same sense of responsibility to this country that Joe does? And just maybe, if they did, we wouldn’t be in the mess were in now and there wouldn’t be the need for the OWS protests.
I’m not sure if Joe will ever get to enjoy his “golden years” with Eileen but you can be sure, he’ll keep plugging away without complaint, because that’s just who Joe is.
Your Gadfly Granny