EBT Lock-Up

A computer glitch caused all the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) debit cards to become worthless in seventeen states across the US. The system crashed because of a change in software, but did come back to life within a day. The EBT cards replace what were once called welfare checks, assistance for needy citizens. When news of the outage first went public, I thought how easily might the systems that I rely on also go down. I checked my latest automatic Social Security deposit, and yes, that system is still working. The EBT system caused much panic. The event occurred at the same time parts of the government have been shut down due to political party disagreements over budgeting and recent passage of a national health care program.

I receive emails from sources that I must have signed up for long ago, perhaps through the American Association of Retired People (AARP), telling me that Social Security is under attack by government leaders. When I see a story of a system going down, I begin to wonder what else might go down. For the last week, with the federal government in partial shutdown, I have been doing some reading (and listening) on the country’s latest financial condition. There has been a lot of news about the shutdown, without much analysis or explanation given, other than this notion that politicians cannot agree on anything.

I’ve known for years that politicians can’t agree on anything. It’s hardly worth mention. Since the Vietnam War, I’ve found that I don’t agree with most politicians either, and so have become fairly apolitical–not really giving two hoots or a holler what government leaders might be thinking or doing. I expect them to be divisive, self-serving, or immoral.

Since retiring and relying on the system that I paid into all of my life, I would like to know that the money that has been removed from me all these years is waiting for me in a safe place. It’s too late to go back and start a new career. A quick visit to the Social Security website tells me that the program is funded until 2037, 24 years from now, when I would be nearly 90. I hear contrary voices saying things like “all government spending is on the table and negotiable” during this latest round of political debates over budget ceilings and affordability of government operations.

What really is going on with our monetary system? Maybe people like me, who enjoy reading philosophy, literature, and poetry more than we do economics, should sit up and take note. Since the banking bail outs of 2008, I have known many people who have become upside down on the mortgages on their homes, meaning that they now owe more money to the banks than what the houses are worth. The Federal Reserve Board, a privately owned company, clouded in secrecy, has been steadily issuing electronic dollars by the trillions. Our federal government must borrow these trillions and pay interest on them, before anything can be done with the money.

Media folks standing in front of the White House with microphones keep saying the trillions coming out of the Fed (Federal Reserve Board) are supposed to ease things–fix problems like high unemployment, and stabilize the economy and housing prices. I suspect that those trillions have ended up in the pockets of jillionaires, Swiss bank accounts, and laundered in Caribbean countries, and that the American people have not been told that the system is completely out of control. Here I am, a last vestige of the middle class, believing for the best, while suspecting that ownership of this country is being taken over or sold by a handful of wealthy and greedy people.

I first began keeping a journal to record my own personal experiences, a means of helping me look for and understand the details close by me that make a day worth living. One commentator I have been following said, “if you keep a journal, you should be writing something in it about what is going on with our monetary system, because there has never been anything quite like what is occurring in the history of the world, and probably never will be again”. I took his challenge to heart and have been considering how I might best journal about both the economy and the way in which it effects my daily experience.

It’s difficult to write about something I barely understand. The challenge is greater when the people controlling the monetary system are not telling the truth. It makes me distrustful. Since the fiasco of 2008, the money difficulties seem to be accelerating. I remember when a trillion dollars seemed like a lot. I try to hold down the pause button on my fear. Fear comes from anticipating a future event or set of events that may never happen, and fear can become contagious, especially when flamed by the media. Understanding, however, can assuage much of the fear.

Today in the news we have war veterans rioting in front of the White House. This is the new normal.

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