To the editor:

“Unemployment rate at new low.” “Stock market at new high.” “Jobs, jobs, jobs!”

Let me introduce you to a few people I know living in this wonderful economy. My wife, who injects insulin four times daily, recently picked up a three-week supply of insulin: $650. Luckily she was covered by my veterans coverage so she didn’t have to do what her sisters (and millions of others) have had to do: give up or share their medications. The recent tax bill showered the drug industry with enormous profits, which went into obscene executive bonuses and stock buyback, not a cent to reducing drug prices. My sister, now surviving on one lung (cancer) and one Social Security check since her husband recently died (cancer), will have to sell her home.

My son-in-law recently had to cut his workstaff’s hours from 40 to 35 because business is bad. One neighbor, recently laid off when Sears folded (multiply that by thousands), is now working at a minimum-wage job with no health benefits. Another neighbor, attempting to augment his Social Security check with a minimum-wage job at Stop and Shop, lost three weeks pay during the strike and is deciding whether to pay his electric bill or his oil bill. My newsboy (man), just recovered from cancer, is holding down three jobs to attempt to hold on to the two-bedroom apartment he has with his wife and two kids. All this and I haven’t even left my street in Danvers! None of these people are whining, just worrying and working a lot. Most of the waitresses at the restaurant where my wife and I eat are holding down at least one other job. Remember next time you eat out that your server is being paid only $4.35 an hour. (I’ll save you the time: That’s $8,352 a year.) And how do all these people holding down multiple jobs figure into the much vaunted unemployment rate?

For 40 years, to augment my teacher pay, I worked multiple jobs to provide a middle-class life for my family, along the way earning enough quarters to merit a full Social Security check. Ron Reagan thought it would be double dipping to receive both my magnificent teacher pension and Social Security, so I went from $1,900 a month to $600. (I know: boo hoo!). I mention this for two reasons: One, this the kind of thing Republicans will try to do to pay for the recent tax plan when it tanks. Two, to attempt to make up for this loss of income, I drove a special needs van for seven years. During that time I experienced thousands of people who were desperately trying to hang on financially and/or trying to cope with a severely disabled child. The social safety net that these people vitally need will be another Republican cost-cutting target.

When is the last time you supported your family on $25,900? That amount, according to the government, will provide a basic standard of living for a family of four. Forty million Americans “qualify” as poor. Make $25,901 and you’re no longer poor. One in 5 children in America lives in poverty. Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they live paycheck to paycheck, have less than $500 in reserve and that one bad occurrence, like my Stop and Stop neighbor experienced, could put them in serious financial trouble. By the way, how are you spending the trickle down from the new tax bill? Buy anything nice with the bonus? Did the pay increase keep up with inflation? (My oil went up 65 cents a gallon this year). Did you spend your tax refund on catching up with bills?

All you smug people who think you deserve what you have because you hold down a job and go to church on Sunday, get out of your bubble! Hard work and good intentions are of no avail unless attended by The Gift of Good Luck.

One more person I know: Trump. When it was certain that his tax bill would pass, he said to his $500,000 a year members at Mar-a-Lago: “You’re going to be richer than you ever were.”

Statistics tell one story; real humans tell another.

Jim McNiff


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