Reflections of a Rational Republican has introduced me to “Julia” the cartoon solder of the fictitious Republican “War on Women”. Both the Obama Campaign and the Heritage Foundation have differing versions about the “Life of Julia“. While the Obama Campaign’s version touts the benefits of living in a cradle to grave socialist utopia, the Heritage Foundation’s version extolls the virtues of freedom of choice. Neither version truly depicts the reality of Julia right here, right now. This is my version of the “Real Life of Julia” without the cutesy graphics. It depicts what her life would be like at each age, if she were that age today.
Both of Julia’s parents work. Their combined incomes put them in an income bracket too high to qualify for head start or other programs designed for underprivileged children. After “doing the math” her parents decide that the high cost of quality day care makes it impractical for both of them to work. Julia’s mom’s income is less than her father’s so Julia’s mom decides to stay home with her.
It was important to Julia’s parents to bring her up in as safe a neighborhood as possible. They purchased a modest home in a decent suburb. Because she lives in a working class family her parents cannot afford private school. Therefore Julia has spent her youth in the public school system. Her state uses standardized tests to measure the performance of the teachers, schools, and students. Because the teacher’s unions have made it difficult to weed out ineffective teachers, and because school administrators fear the loss of state and federal funding due to government programs such as race to the top, classroom time is consumed with teaching children how to pass the standardized tests instead of proficiency in basic skills. Sports, music classes, and pay raises for competent teachers are cut due to a lack of funds, but administration costs remain high. PE and recess are cut and replaced with programs to teach environmental awareness, anti-bullying, drug avoidance, and sexual abuse defence techniques that are of little value in real world situations. Julia’s parents stressed the importance of doing her best and made sure she did her homework. They communicated regularly with her teachers. Because of this, Julia worked hard and made good grades.
Because she has made good grades Julia has qualified for a modest state sponsored scholarship. She barely qualifies for a Pell grant because her parent’s income is almost to high even though they do not make enough to pay any of her college expenses. She chooses a community college because it is the most cost-effective option, allowing her to live at home and commute to class. Her scholarship and grant still are not enough to completely cover her school and expenses so she works part-time to fill the gap. Her public school education has left her unprepared for college level work, she takes advantage of the resources the college offers, but in spite of her efforts to study hard, she fails her math and english courses. Because the state sponsored scholarship pays some of the costs of trade school, Julia decides to drop out of college and attend cosmetology school.
Julia has to undergo emergency surgery for an appendicitis. The recent passage of Obama care mandates that she is covered under her parents care until age 26, however, before the passage of Obama care, she still would have been covered under her parents’ policy until her 23rd birthday because she is a student.
Julia finishes cosmetology school and begins her career as a hair stylist. At first she lives with her parents, but through hard work and dedication to her career she lands a job at a prestigious salon and moves into her own apartment. Among the benefits provided are health insurance and the opportunity to participate in a 401K program. This particular salon offered such benefits even before Obama care was passed. Her insurance pays for mammograms, pap smears, yearly exams, and maternity care. Her copay for prescription birth control is fifty percent of the cost, but because she is focusing on establishing herself in this business and building a clientele, she has little time for a relationship or casual sex.
Julia meets Ethan a local electrician. They begin a relationship. Julia explains to Ethan that since he would assume half the responsibility for raising a child, he should share half the responsibility for the cost of birth control. Ethan agrees. (He’s a keeper). Since her insurance pays for half of the fifty dollar cost of birth control pills* and Ethan pays half of her half, her cost for the pill is a manageable $12.50 a month. Julia and Ethan marry and decide to have a child. Her maternity and child-birth costs are covered minus the $25.00 office copays and a $500.00 deductable. Because she and Ethan planned ahead for this child, money was saved and these expenses prove to be little problem for them. Even though money is tight, they still make too much for Zachary to qualify for head start or other daycare options for underprivileged children. Because neither of them can afford to quit their jobs, Julia’s mother agrees to watch little Zachary.
Zachary starts preschool. His parents make too much money for Zachary to qualify for school vouchers designed to give underprivileged children a chance at a better education, but they do not make enough to place him in private school. His parents depend on both incomes to get by, so having Julia quit her job to home school Zachary is out of the question. Julia has no other option but to place Zachary into the inferior public school system.
Julia is a well-known stylist around town and has built up a loyal clientele. She decides to open her own salon. She qualifies for a small business administration loan and purchases equipment. She rents chair space to beginning hair stylists and teaches them the latest techniques. In spite of a loyal and growing customer base, she is barely breaking even. The regulatory costs of the required insurances and licenses are high and the time required to keep up with the paperwork keeps her from her customers. When the ADA fines her $25,000.00 for failure to install a wheelchair accessible styling chair even though she has no disabled customers or employees, she realizes she can no longer keep up. Julia sadly informs her stylists and customers she must close. She sells her salon equipment to pay off the fine and the remainder of her SBA loan. She then takes a job as an instructor at the local beauty college.
Julia enrolls in medicare. She has difficulty finding a competent doctor that accepts the plan. She must pay out-of-pocket for a medicare supplement insurance plan to cover the gaps. Ethan dies suddenly of a heart attack leaving her without his income. Fortunately he had the foresight to purchase life insurance even though paying the premiums was sometimes a struggle. This allows Julia to pay off the mortgage and Ethan’s funeral expenses.
Julia applies for Social Security. The amount is nowhere near enough to cover her monthly expenses. She rolled over her 401K into an IRA but was not always able to contribute to it when her business was struggling. She realizes that her available cash flow is not enough to live on so she continues to work part-time at the beauty school as a receptionist so she doesn’t have to spend hours on her feet.
The truth is, neither scenario, whether it is Obama’s or the Heritage Foundations’s is going to help working class Julia. Making her dependent on the government for her cradle to grave care will eventually backfire like it did in Greece. Once the producers have been bled dry and robbed of any incentive to create wealth, the money will run out and untold misery will ensue. On the other hand, unbridled capitalism will not reduce the cost of healthcare and education to the point where they will be within reach of working class families. While it will create more freedom of choice, those choices mean nothing if you can’t afford them.
* Information on the cost of birth control pills was obtained from the Planned Parenthood website.