My Understanding of Benefits

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

January 19, 2011

Getting ready for bed

Levi wearing luxuries we appreciate: pajamas, robe, hat. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

July 21, 2010 – Contemplating Benefits

Growing up, my parents were either in a family business or working retail/food service. The benefits we had were minuscule, as in vacation time, bonuses for work, medical. We never had prescription benefits, for example. This was a little trouble as I got strep A a lot in 6th & 7th grade. Being that I’m not a creator by nature (I have to work really hard to produce and get over many mental blocks to earn money on production), getting a job with benefits has always been a milestone. It was a very important milestone when my husband and I brought our little son into the world.

When Levi was two months old, my husband lost his job as a bike mechanic. The benefits had barely kicked in. We could only afford the “benefits” for him as the family plan would have taken $700/month of his salary of $1400. I brought in about $900/month and we struggled to make sure our living expenses were under $2500.

January 15, 2011 – What Benefits Mean Today

I began this post almost 6 months ago, when TriMet‘s talks of changing employee benefits was a little more than rumor. The day Peter got the job offer for TriMet (July 19, 2007) we were overjoyed. We found out that a month after his start date, the benefits would kick in. What did that mean for us?

  • I would be able to visit a chiropractor. The last visit I had was in 2005. Since then I had been pregnant, had a child, and then of course every-day-running arounds that make an adjustment helpful.
  • We would be able to find a new doctor for Levi. His pediatrician (Family Doctor) at the time, didn’t seem to think that Levi being born in the 90th percentile with a then current weight in the 3rd percentile was cause for concern.
  • We would have enough money and wouldn’t need to rely on food stamps.
  • WIC wouldn’t go away.

So, the benefits and salary where what really helped.

January 18, 2011 – Entitlements

Lots of people argue about benefits in a way that suggests they are entitlements. FDR proposed an extended “Bill of Rights” during his tenure that described health care as one of our inalienable rights, as humans. I think, though, we get caught up in want vs. need vs. what we can do as a society.

Benefits are not something we are entitled.

Benefits help defray health costs.

Benefits in such a rich society, as a concept, are laughable that they are argued so much and divided between the haves and have nots.

Needs. What are needs? What do we need as humans? We need air to breath and some nourishment to sustain the 1500 kilo-Calories our body needs for basic functions. Beyond that, everything is a luxury. Seasoned meat, beans, rice, food diet varieties, shelter, clothing, family to ease our pain and share our enjoyment: all luxuries. Going to the doctor, enabling our children to go to the doctor, fixing wounds with band-aids, getting our Grave’s Disease properly diagnosed. All luxuries.

These are all luxuries I’ve grown quite dependent. Luxuries I don’t want to see disappear. Luxuries that are common sense luxuries when we have collective means. Luxuries that should be no-brainers when considering the least amongst us.

Who gets the work done? The idealogical person on top with the ideas or the man on the bottom pushing the broom? Answer: both. Without both, it’d be hard to get anything done. The bum on the plush cannot exist without the bum on the log. It’s time we started paying more attention to the bum on the log.

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