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Posted by on Mar 17, 2010 in Economy, Health, Politics | 32 comments

Health care reform and the homeless

As Congress gears up for a big vote on health care reform, it’s worth considering how vagrants’ health problems could affect municipal budgets.

Cross-posted at Cultural Imperialist

bum-carpal-tunnelAs cities face record budget shortfalls and public employee unions collectively bellow “why are you looking at me?” there’s another looming crisis on the horizon: Bums getting carpal-tunnel syndrome and suing.

Cup-shaking for change from passers-by is the first skill a novice bum learns from elder bums. And why not? Lacking the fortitude to stand up all day like a waitress or wait in a parking lot for manual-labor opportunities, bums learn to park their bums on the sidewalk, stare ahead blankly, and shake their moneymaker whenever two-legged mammals come within range. This exercise seems doomed to fail for all but the most pitiful and progressive (an overlapping category if there was one): It spares the emotional tenor of a verbal request in lieu of a beggar’s bicycle bell, warning pedestrians there’s trouble and passive aggression ahead.

Though I’ve been personally solicited by alms-seekers a handful of times in recent months, with sometimes poignant and always respectful stories about their hardships and appreciation of a few dollars (I’m a sucker for ’em), the Cup Shake seems likely to prevail indefinitely. Before an enterprising personal-injury lawyer jumps on this and starts flooding interactive billboards with promises of municipal payouts for hand-wringers, and a reporter in search of an easy Pulitzer does a six-part series titled “A Fair Shake,” cities had better pull together their lawyers and message men (er, persons). Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

Renewable bumergy. An enterprising bureaucrat would attach small generators to these bums’ hands, to create energy that can be sold back to the local power company, with revenue put into a Bum Fund to pay for their medical expenses – not just carpal tunnel, but also sore ass and Your Mother Told You Your Face Would Freeze in That Shape Syndrome. (The latter shouldn’t be confused with the inevitable acronym for non-heterosexuality, YMT-YYF-WFTS.)

Heavier coins. This will require some help from Uncle Sam. If the U.S. Mint starts pounding out chunky currency – from quarter-pound quarters to half-pound pennies – not only will pedestrians want to get rid of their change more quickly, but bums will be forced into a Hobson’s choice: keep less change in the cup to go easy on the wrists, and reduce the sonic effectiveness of the shaking, or actually ask people in English for change. The latter was successfully used by our president.

Punitive tax on change-givers. Create a field on tax forms that asks how much change you gave to bums last year. Those who are proud of their giving of course will dish, to look good for their preachy girlfriend, Governmentia. But this field actually calculates their Bum Maintenance Tax – because this stunt can only be pulled once before The Blogs are all over it, the tax will have to be a highly punitive figure, such as 1,000 percent. Next on my agenda – the Bird Maintenance Tax for bread-tossers.

Cities can also avoid this fate by licensing my Bum Stamps patent. Interested parties can contact me at [email protected].

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