In The News

First of all, I can’t even describe how happy I am with the new child credit included in the COVID relief bill. First time in the US history, it means the guaranteed income. As some of the political commentators say, it feels weird that people pay less attention to that measure than to anything in this bill.

My friends in Finland would not understand why I am so excited about this, because they had child credit forever. But for us – what a difference! Jus$900t think: if this would be on place when I first came to the US, I would have extrs $900 a month! OK, adjusted to inflation it would be more like $600 at that time. But thinking that back then, my monthly net pay was $2,333 and I spent $1000 a month on daycare – can you imagine?! I am so happy for all the parents, and so proud of our country:)

On the same note – finally the vaccinations started to pick up. Although the vaccination efforts are driven by the states, you can see what a difference a leadership on the federal level can make. I am hopeful, like I haven’t been for a long time.

While America Aged: a Book Review

While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis is a relatively short book with a long title. At first, it felt boring, and I wondered why I am reading it in the world, but it ended up being very enlightening. 

One thing that puzzles me is the difference in the pension systems between the US and the rest of the first world. I knew that many big American corporations had pensions in the past, but by the time I entered the US workforce, they were eliminated everywhere except the governments. I learned how pensions in big corporations, like GM, were first established and how they played their role in attracting workers in the absence of Social Security. Later, the pension design flaws led to the financial crisis. 

When the US car manufacturers were in a severe crisis ten years ago, people would say that American cars cost more than Japanese cars because American workers “cost more.” What never occurred to me was a notion that it’s not that American workers were paid more, but that American car manufacturers had to invest huge sums of money in the workers’ pensions. At the same time, Japanese companies do not need to do so because they have government retirement programs. 

Some parts of the book made me think about the Russian pension system. In Russia, the retirement age for women is fifty-five, and for men – sixty, which is so early that I can’t even wrap my head around it. 

When a couple of years ago, the Russian government announced that they would increase the retirement age, everybody started screaming. What is worth noting, though, is the fact that in Russia, people file for retirement when they reach the age of fifty-five or sixty respectively, and they continue working, receiving both the salary and the retirement benefits. And when I try to explain that that’s wrong, they say that “pensions are so small, you can’t survive on a pension alone, you need to work. I do not understand how it does not occur to anybody that pensions can’t be bigger if people only work for half of their lives. 

When I express my opinion that pensions are designed to provide income for those who can’t work any longer, that it is something like insurance, people are telling me: no, we are entitled to receive a pension after we reached a certain age. 

I just gave up on understanding :). But the funny thing is that in this book, when some municipal employees were receiving both their salaries and pensions, it is described as something outrageous, like the lowest possible morale :). When the workers were given extra shifts or better positions during their last year before retirement, the schemas were described as fraudulent, but that precisely what everybody was doing back in the USSR. 

Very interesting reading, I am telling you 🙂

What Finland Has To Offer

My daughter sent me this link yesterday. She commented that one of her friends considered it as a backup plan if Trump would win. As for that statement, both she and I agree, that fleeing the country in difficult times is not right, and if Trump would win, we would stay here to fight.

But I also agree with her, that is is an example of excellent marketing, and moreover, both she and I know that it’s all true.

I am not saying I will never ever move to some other country; after all life proved I can’t ever make the “never” promises, but one thing I am sure about: I will never ever move somewhere for pure economic reasons. I like a lot of things in Finland, and I want many of them to happen in the United States, and I will work on making them happen here. At least now, there is ahope that some of thet will be possible:)

Illinois Entering Phase 4

Tomorrow, Illinois is entering Phase 4 of its recovery plan. I am not sure whether the video I am posting here, will stay long enough, but I am going to give it a try.

Here

It’s a long video, but I wanted to post the whole thing because there are lots of important things in it. The most important message is very simple: although we’ve made lots of progress, the virus is still there, and there is still no vaccine. I really hope that people will behave responsibly.

Public health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike had strong words for people who refuse to wear a face covering in public. She said it is “a game of Russian roulette.” She even pronounced Russkaya ruletks in Russian!

I am hopeful. I am glad the State of Illinois has such good leadership. I hope that people will behave responsibly. This morning on WBEZ, I heard a discussion about students returning to colleges in the fall. Hopes are that there will be positive peer pressure because you can’t really police students on campus. And that’s my hope as well. During the current health crisis, the younger generation appeared to be more responsible than the older one, on average, of course. We shall see. I will be posting about our reopening, and about the health situation in the state.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Moview

I do not remember how that movie ended up in my watch list. After I started to watch Siskel From Your Sofa movies, all the third parties started to send me their newsletters, so it should have come from one of those. I was intrigued by it’s description and was looking forward to watching it.

Maybe, I had too high expectations, but the movies left me with a question: so what? Everybody should pay taxes? Richer people should pay higher taxes? Yes, I know, I agree, so what now?

Not like I didn’t like the movie, I liked it, but still…

If anybody is interested in watching, here is a list of current and future virtual screenings: Capital Movie

Financial Relief

I want to write about these things not because they made a big difference for me, but because they are good things.

I have two gym memberships – one at Anytime Fitness, which is five minutes’ walk from my house, and the other at LifeStart, which is in our office building. I rarely use the latter one, but I found it’s a good idea to have it just in case. Naturally, both gyms are closed since mid-March. I didn’t expect any of them to stop charging membership fees, but they both stopped. In fact, LifeStart charged the April fees on April 1, but then they sent an email to the members saying that since they had to close all facilities, they will apply the April fees to May (and I am guessing, that if Illinois doesn’t open in May, they will transfer these fees to June or whatever).

And at the same time, they are streaming a lot of live classes for free! I believe they have six classes a day, and also nutrition seminars, and stress-relief techniques, and lots of other activities, and personalized workouts – you name it! I was delighted to see a yoga class held by my “second-favorite” instructor. I had him at LifeStart when I worked at Enova and was very sad that I lost him :). And now, since these online classes are available to all the LifeStart members, regardless of the specific location, I can attend his classes three times a week!

Back to the good things. My parking permit at the Palatine train station is automatically renewed every month. The other day, I saw an email with the words “Parking permit” in the header, which usually indicates that the fee for next month was charged. But when I opened that email, it read: we realize that most likely, you didn’t use the parking facilities in April, so we are applying your April fees for May.

And the last surprise came from the Federal Student Loans. I still pay the last of my Parent Plus loans (and Vlad is paying it back to me). I knew that the temporal suspension of the Student Loans repayment was a part of the relief package, but I thought that everybody would need to apply. Once again, to my surprise, I received an email that my scheduled payments won’t be auto-debited till the end of September. For me, it does not make a material difference to my budget, but I was happy for Igor and Vlad, that they both have that relief. And it’s great that no applications are required – it’s the Student Loans forbearance for everybody. I feel good that at least some thing are handled in a sensible way.

The State of the United States

I don’t understand how officials of all ranks issue their orders without even thinking about the consequences—both for the economy in general and for each person.

I can’t imagine the impact on the entertainment/catering/restaurant business. All so sudden and so abrupt. I talked to Vlad yesterday; he said he would be fine, but he worries about other employees in the bar, people who are paid hourly wages, and who now will get no paid time off, and no tips. That is such a significant portion of the country’s population! They have no safety net, no savings. When I was talking to Vlad, just twenty hours ago, he was saying that the closing will only apply to bars and restaurants, that the fast-food cafes will stay open – not anymore!

I do not understand how people are expected to manage: schools are closed, daycare facilities closed, and you should not ask grandparents to babysit, and you are still supposed to work. And some are not even allowed to work from home.

Last week I was saying that the world is canceled. But I was optimistic – this week, it is even more so now. I could not even imagine how many things could be canceled. Most of my volunteering is canceled, including the youth shelter; they do not reply to my emails, although they sent a generic email about preventive measures. I do not want to think that I was the only person who answered that I could come. The Forest preserve volunteering was canceled last weekend, which made me mad – ten people outside – really? The weather was bad anyway, but I was still upset with the fact itself. The only volunteering which is keeping the schedule is Clinic escorts. I went to escort on Saturday. It was a bad idea because it was cold, and I do not tolerate the cold when I need to stand in one place. But I felt I needed to do at least something good.

Continue reading “The State of the United States”