This year, for the first time, our accountant told us we don’t have to pay any US taxes.

So what do I hear in the news? Lots of right wing criticism of those stupid people who don’t pay taxes while the rest of “us” work hard and have to pay.

Time out, fellahs.

For years, my husband and I paid taxes.  We were “greedy doctors” back then, according to the left.

Never mind that during much of our time as physicians, we paid more than our share of taxes. Also not mentioned: the number of people we treated for free.

This isn’t done as often nowadays, of course, since medicine has become a big business where doctors work as an employee for a big HMO that uses efficient billing practices, meaning less time to “waste” on talking to patients, and of course not treating those without insurance or cash in hand.

Sigh.

Reality check please.

Some of us did play by the rules, and sacrificed our time and money to help our patients, our family, and our extended families. Now that we are old, we worry we will be discarded by tax cutting policies, and denied medical care because we lack a “Quality of life years”, a measurement beloved of medical guideline bureaucrats.

But what is not being discussed is that, unlike the welfare states of Europe, in the US the family is still considered to be responsible for each other.

Yes, I know: lots of fathers never marry the mother of their children or support their offspring, but on the other hand, a lot of these children of single mothers are raised partly or completely with the help of the grandparents.

And similarly, despite all the talk of nursing homes, most elderly and disabled folks are cared for by their families, either living with them, near them and given help by the family or friends, or in limited care facilities where a nurse is in charge but they essentially are independent.

Few people recognize the amount of care given by family members.

From a recent AMANews:

The newest figures, released in July by AARP, show that about 42.1 million Americans in 2009 regularly helped an adult loved one with tasks such as cooking, bathing, paying bills, visiting physicians and managing medications. That number, which equals about one in seven Americans, rose 24% from 2007… said Susan C. Reinhard, PhD, co-author of the AARP report. “If we were to try to hire people to do all the things that all the family caregivers do, it would equal $450 billion a year.”

Yes, one reason I am one of those greedy people who retired early was that cutting back my hours enabled me for years to care for my family, but finally it was time to do it full time.

Like most caregivers, I don’t regret doing so. Love is more important than savings, and one does remember the “lillies of the field“.

Factoid one: The main “safety net” in the US is still the family, not the government, even if some of us welcome a small pension to keep us independent.

The reason that taxes aren’t a lot higher in the US is that most folks accept these responsibilities, and are willing to  sacrifice time and money (and sometimes their jobs) to care for them. Neighbors, Churches and community groups often play a big part in helping people as they live older.

And one thing that makes me annoyed at the President’s rhetoric is that he doesn’t even notice us, the ones who played by the rules. He sees only the poor (vote Democrat because we’ll take care of you) and those evil rich people (teabaggers, all racist angry white men).

Time out. As Austin Bay points out,

What leadership skills Obama possesses he honed as a community organizer, slang for a political leader mobilizing a neighborhood to attack real and perceived injustices perpetuated by the larger community. This is an us-versus-them gambit where the organizer relies on rhetorical skills and media magnification to spread a message of blame.

Mobilization using wedge issues differs from community-building — that requires a leader who bridges differences and unites in order to achieve.

Like President Carter in 1980, who blamed greedy Americans for the economic problems of his term, the president is unable to be flexible and use his rhetorical skills to unite Americans. Preisent Obama could learn a lesson from either President Reagan or President Clinton, that would enable him to use his rhetorical skills to get this country out of recession.

Would he dare to hit the “entitlements”, such as social security, the “third rail” of US politics?

Yes, if it were pushed in a way where people could see it was the lesser of two evils.

For those of us on a fixed income, the big worry is not “cutting social security”: the real worry is if our hard earned savings will disappear due to inflation, or that our children will have to leave town to find work or maybe even move back home to be supported on our limited income.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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