I was using the butt of my roscoe to pound a nail in the wall when Sheila, my new secretary, said, “Gee, boss, what if that thing goes off? You could hurt somebody. Like me! And you said health insurance didn’t come with this job.”
“Don’t worry, Sheila,” I said — without telling her that her real concern should have been about how to exercise the wiser career option of finding a job that paid actual money instead of IOUs.
“This thing is just a harmless fake. I only use it to encourage bill collectors and other sleazy lowlifes to vacate the premises. And now that I’ve finally graduated from the University of Southern Talladega’s Distance Learning and 10-Minute Oil Change Institute, I’m hanging my sheepskin on the wall. Maybe it will impress at least the near-sighted clients.”
“Clients?” she said, arching an eyebrow. She had really evocative eyebrows. “What could that word possibly mean?”
“Sarcasm isn’t in your job description,” I replied. “And you’ve only been here a couple of weeks. Patience was something I said was desirable, remember?”
“Yeah,” she answered, “but you could have handed out applications in the basements of funeral homes for all the real stuff there is to do around here.”
I didn’t tell her that thought had already crossed my mind. But the word on the paltry remuneration offered by Dick Richards, P.I., had gotten around town.
Now I have to post notices in airports and bus stations and hope to lure clueless new arrivals.
I had just sat down behind my desk, which was mostly occupied by the office cat, Samantha Spayed, when there was a knock on the door.
Sheila quickly stifled a little squeak of surprise, which made me think I should actually pay her if I drummed up a few more oil changes. She said, “It’s open!”
In sauntered two people I knew instantly from their photos: “Mr. Chief Justice, this is an honor. And the Senate majority leader, too. What’s up, buttercups?”
The Nevadan replied, “We need your help, Mr. Richards. Obamacare’s kicking in next week, and we want you to do something about these guys Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Cruz is whipping up folks against us, and Paul said it was unfair of President Obama to single-handedly change the Affordable Care Act to give subsidies to congressional staffers who made too much to qualify for them under the law. He says it would cost billions of dollars the staffers can afford to pay on their own. Doesn’t he know who we are?”
Then the C.J. chimed in: “But it’s even worse than that. Sen. Paul wants to change the Constitution to eliminate subsidies for any federal employee health care — not just for Congress and the bureaucracy, but even for me and the rest of the justices. He says we should all get our insurance on the new exchanges, just like ordinary citizens have to do, instead of keeping the special deal we have now. I didn’t bend the law to rule it was constitutional so I would be covered by it!”
Crikey, I thought, they really believe this.
“And then Sen. Paul said that if I liked Obamacare so much, he’d give me an amendment that makes me take it,” the C.J. said. “That’s not fair!”
Some people might not agree, I thought. For example, the tens of thousands of workers who big companies were dumping on the exchanges.
And that’s not even counting the thousands more whose workweeks got cut below 30 hours so as not to be counted as full-time workers, or were laid off so their companies could get below the 50-employee cutoff for mandatory coverage.
But then the majority leader spoke up: “And Paul says that restoring the subsidies that pay 75 percent of congressional insurance costs was something most Americans could never get. So what? The people who work for us are getting exempted just like our supporters did, and that’s what counts.”
Well, there’s politics, but then there’s being willing to live under the laws you pass along with everyone else they cover. Still, this certainly wasn’t the only time when that ideal was kicked into the ditch by these guys.
“So,” I said, “what can I do for you two?”
“We want you to use your P.I. skills to tell people we’re special and deserve special treatment, of course,” they said.
“Sorry,” I replied. “Even professional instigators have standards. You’ve unilaterally made Congress one of the few groups in the whole country for whom Obama’s promise to let people keep the health insurance they liked is true. Besides, the money you’re using to line your wallets comes from a source that I find extremely inappropriate.”
And once again, the roscoe came in handy.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: