Another advantage to living in Little Rock is that its easier to visit my dad in Virginia and Mick's brothers in Florida. We just got back last night from spending 6 days in Virginia with my dad, his wife Lucila, and my sister Iris. For the benefit of those who know them, here are some photos of Dad, his wife Lucila, and my sister Iris - with Mick and me - during our visit.
I had not seen Dad since the economy fell into such deep distress last year. My dad knows that Mick and I have been very hard hit. You could say that we were laid off not by one boss, but by a thousand different publishing and design clients. I'll spare you the details, but only say this: our 2009 income is less than 40% of what we earned in 2008. Ouch.
In this visit, Dad asked me if the move to Little Rock is helping and I could honestly tell him that yes, it is. Alameda County's unemployment rate was 10.7% when we left, and layoffs dominated the news. In Little Rock, unemployment is at 5.7% and people seem to be suffering less. Here's a NY Times map if you want to see how your own county is doing.
Mick and I are both working a little bit right now. In fact, I met with an exciting new client earlier in the week. Can't tell you about the project yet because its a secret, but I can tell you that it felt WONDERFUL to be in my business clothes, toting my laptop and w-o-r-k-i-n-g!
It seems obvious to me that more people would have jobs if they or their employers could subscribe to a government healthcare program like Medicare, instead of having to buy insurance on the open market. I mean, talk about 'stimulus'!!!
One of my friends who owns a small business said to me just today, "I haven't been able to raise my prices or give myself or any of my employees a raise for years now, but today I get a notice from Blue Cross that they are raising their rates by 15%. We have to pay thousands of dollars more for the same services we got from them last year. Nothing new or better for us, just more money for them. Where am I supposed to find that extra money? My customers don't have it and neither do my employees, but when Blue Cross demands it from us, we have no option except to pay."
Our Arkansas senators are both Democrats, but they split on the public-option question. Mark Pryor supports it, but Blanche Lincoln does not. I have written to her and phoned her offices many times - every time I can think of some fresh argument. Feel free to pass along your favorite arguments and I'll write her again.
Meanwhile, my heart goes out to all the people who want to work, but don't have jobs. There are millions of people in that position and I know how they feel. And all the ones who work but don't have health insurance coverage. And all the ones who do have coverage but are afraid to use it. And all the ones who . . . and well all the rest who are hurting these days. Everybody is making adjustments, like Mick and me, and I hope everybody can find some comfort somewhere.