Over the Cliff

     We’ve hurtled over the financial cliff.   It’s been front page news.   Yet for us it seems like old news.   As parents of twins in college and living in New York City, we went over the financial cliff years ago.  We invested in early intervention for our daughter on the autistic spectrum.  We paid for special schools, speech therapy, occupational therapy, vision and conceptual therapy, Applied Behavioral  Analysis, you name it.  Nobody in government twenty years ago thought much about autism or the suffering of parents or siblings because it had not yet become an epidemic ; thus there was no political pressure on insurance companies to pay for "experimental treatments." We were on our own with no tax breaks, and no medical deductions.
     
     So after years of sacrifice, it’s a big victory to pay for Sarah’s fifth year of college.  Unlike the real estate we could never afford, or the stock market which crashed, Sarah has defied the odds and improved beyond the developmental ceiling many professionals had predicted for her.  Always determined to be independent and successful, Sarah works harder than anyone I know. She also complains less. Sarah wakes up every day with a smile on her face and the courage to persevere through a labyrinth of social and academic challenges.  She is not one of the brilliant Asperger kids, nor is she “cured.” Yet somehow Sarah graduated from Landmark College cum laude with an Associate’s Degree.  Now she’s in a special program at Pace University with a merit scholarship and a 3.4 average.  She lives in a dorm, gets along with her room-mate and keeps busy with a few good friends on weekends.  Our daughter was the best investment we ever made.
  
   If only American politicians worked half as hard as Sarah, I might not mind paying Obama’s higher taxes (which apparently are still not high enough to save the country from going over the fiscal cliff).  It may come as a great surprise to Obama, but earning over $400,000 (and he argued for $250,000) does not make you “wealthy”—not  if you happen to live in one of the country’s most expensive cities where local and state taxes are especially high.  And if you also have a child on the autistic spectrum or with other serious special needs?  Forget about wealthy.  Think exhaustion, worry and sacrifice, a quantum leap beyond the concerns of most middle class families.

     Meanwhile, Democrats want more taxes while the Republicans clamor for cuts to Social Security and Medicare to balance the budget.   Neither side seems willing or able to communicate or compromise.   This deadlock among “normal” politicians is worse than autism.  Or could it be that politicians are born with faulty wiring too?  Aren’t government officials supposed to take care of all their citizens—the people who elected them to serve, as well as those who voted against them?  Dream on, right?  Everyone knows politicians prioritize their own constituents and the special interest groups who funded their campaigns and got them elected. An understanding of fairness—supposedly the normal developmental achievement of a grammar school child—is clearly in the eye of the beholder. 

      Of course almost everyone agrees that sequestration is colossally unfair and a terrible idea.  Jobs will be lost, our defense budget cut, funds for education will disappear, and our fragile economy  will worsen.  Even the politicians who devised the plan for sequestration never imagined that they would fail to come up with a better plan.  But fail they did.  As terrible as all of this sounds, I’m too exhausted from raising an autistic daughter for 22 years to imagine that going over another fiscal cliff could create  any more pain for me and other parents like me than we suffered on the day our child was diagnosed with the A-word.

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