Winter la-la land

No gloves. The kids wore socks on their hands as they played in the new snow. No work for Dad during the blizzard. So no money to put toward rent. That means living out of the car for another few weeks.

Welcome to the time of year we cut checks and help out a few folks. The Food Bank. Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless. But we can’t help everyone. So we absolve ourselves of responsibility.

I’ve received mail from people who insist that poor families shouldn’t be having kids. And since birth control ought to be illegal in today’s moral climate, heck, no sex until you’re making $40,000 a year or more. Keep your pants on and quit whining. This is America, dag-nab-it, and there’s little tolerance for procreating humans who can’t find great jobs in this amazing era of wondrous wealth.

What, you say you lost your job after having 2.4 kids? Bummer. Guess you should have planned ahead.

Last year, 35.9 million people in the United States lived in poverty—that’s 1.3 million more than the previous year, according to a U.S. Census report, “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003.” The number of people without health insurance rose to 45 million—an increase of 1.4 million.

Monday morning, I spotted a queue of men shivering in front of Health Access Washoe County, the free clinic, waiting for the doors to open.

Many don’t rub shoulders with the needy. The Dow Jones rewards pre-existing wealth. My family’s stocks are up. Gas prices slightly down. It’s all good.

Financial firms are raising employee bonuses this year. That’s nice because last year the president of Goldman Sachs made only $20.1 million, and the chief executive of Merrill Lynch earned a mere $500,000 in salary, with a $13.5 million bonus and $11.2 million in stocks.

You get the idea that money’s out there, waiting to be plucked from the Cash Bush. My family recently took out a home equity loan. We paid off our credit cards just in time for holiday shopping season.

Hooray for ballooning deficits.

Speaking of deficits, our lawmakers are considering another little loan, say, billions or even trillions, to fund the funneling of our federal Social Security money into the stock market.

We’ll be a Day Trading Nation. Of course, if the market goes to hell, or if folks don’t do such a swell job finagling Wall Street’s over-sized slot machine, we’ll have retirees working at Wal-Mart until they keel over their cash registers at age 92.

Pop.

November was “the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history,” writes columnist David Brooks of The New York Times. Global economic growth is progressing splendidly, he says, citing a World Bank report. That’s terrific, argues Brooks, who is certain that wealth “is shared up and down the economic ladder.”

Yes, as the value of Lockheed Martin stock tripled in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, so did the standard of living of most Americans. Or not. Brooks doesn’t write about the 11.2 percent of U.S. households who worry about having enough money left over after paying the bills to purchase food.

Talked to a woman Saturday who had no place to spend the night. For now, there’s still no drop-in shelter for women in Reno. And no room anywhere else, she said, from the abused women’s shelter to the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission.

“What am I supposed to do, freeze to death on the street?” she asked.

What to say? How does a person end up homeless during the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history?

Listen closely. That dripping sound is not melting snow.

That’s wealth, dribbling down from billionaire execs so that there’s enough for everyone. Trickle. Trickle. Trick.