A Skunk By Any Other Name…

We’ve heard a lot about ‘austerity measures’ of late – both in the US, and in Europe. Nation’s are in financial trouble and the only way out of the mess – we’re told – is for everyone to tighten their belts and make do with less. If you lose your job through no fault of your own – hard luck! If you don’t have enough money to feed your children, and have to give them up to wealthier individuals (as has happened in Greece), it’s just an unfortunate result of ‘austerity measures’ necessary to help the country back into prosperity.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only citizens not seriously affected by the ‘austerity measures’ they’ve been instrumental in inflicting on the populace, are the wealthy and powerful of these nations. They get to keep their highly paid positions. They’re not forced to give up their children. They still retain the good things of life – in abundance.

And yet, aren’t they the very same who created the financial mess in the first place?

I received a letter from the British Inland Revenue this morning. I was expecting it. I get one every year. No, it’s not my birthday. They weren’t sending me a card with flowers and, “Best wishes for many more of the same…”. It was actually three letters in one. Two of them detailed the fact that I would not be paying tax on each of my two (minuscule) private pensions this year. The third informed me of the contents of the other two.

The letter was posted from Malta. I don’t know why the British Inland Revenue post their letters from Malta, but if every ex-pat receives similar correspondence from that wayward department of Her Majesty’s Government, then the cost must prove astronomical. I haven’t paid tax in Britain for ten years. I pay my taxes to the US Government. HM Dept of Inland Revenue has known that for ten years. Yet, every year I get a letter from Malta telling me so.

I also received another envelope in today’s mail. It was nineteen inches by fourteen. I’m surprised the mailman managed to squeeze it into the box. It could have been important. It looked important – like it might have come from a lawyer’s office, or the British Inland Revenue.

It didn’t. It was from someone called Harold W. Huffstetler (Jnr). I knew at once, of course. Anyone with a name like Harold W. Huffstetler (Jnr) could only be selling insurance. With a name like Harold W. Huffstetler (Jnr) no-one would ever give you a job, except in the insurance business. It’s a profession stuffed with Harold W. Huffstetler’s, and similar.

The envelope bore the familiar mark of the ‘AAA’. The legend on the front informed me the contents had been ‘Prepared for…’, and enclosed were ‘Your Beneficiary Card’; ‘Your Thank You Gift’; ‘Your Coverage Selection Chart’; ‘Your Summary of Benefits’, and ‘Your Personalized Application’.

The ‘Thank You Gift’ turned out to be a dozen sticky address labels, for which I was, no doubt, expected to be eternally grateful.

I wonder when it was that the ‘Automobile Association of America’ finally parted company with the motor car? I cannot recall the number of junk mail items received over the last twelve months from this marketing front – for that is what it is – bearing no relationship whatever to the original function of the ‘AAA’.

Years ago, when I was a small boy, the British Automobile Association sported clean-cut, uniformed officers driving spick and span motorcycle combinations, ready and willing to aid any member in distress at the roadside. One glance at the shiny yellow and silver badge on a car’s radiator would elicit a smart salute from the rider as he passed you by.

Of course, they don’t exist anymore. And, if they did they’d probably just flog you life insurance.

I wonder how much it costs for Harold W. Huffstetler (Jnr) to send out all those fancy envelopes that end up in the trash? If the AAA and the British Inland Revenue got their heads together they could solve the financial problems of both countries just by saving on envelopes and postage.

Still, look on the bright side. In America the “sequester” started at midnight. It won’t be long before poor Americans are needing to flog their kids to wealthy Greeks.

Is there anyone left in any doubt in this country that those prohibitive cuts in public spending, designed (we are told) as a doomsday machine to force the political parties into agreement, weren’t deliberately planned to happen?

Barack Obama has just now signed the order into force. He didn’t have to sign it, did he? No-one stood over him with a gun to his head. Ah, but it’s the law, I hear you cry. Rubbish, I respond, he has the power of veto. Who’s going to dare throw the POTUS in jail?

Isn’t the “sequester” just “austerity measures” under a fancier name?