KRUGMAN

‘Last Thursday there was a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to protest pending health care legislation, featuring the kinds of things we’ve grown accustomed to, including large signs showing piles of bodies at Dachau with the caption ‘National Socialist Healthcare.’ It was grotesque – and it was also ominous. For what we may be seeing is America starting to be Californiafied. The key thing to understand about that rally is that it wasn’t a fringe event. It was sponsored by the House Republican leadership – in fact, it was officially billed as a G.O.P. press conference. . . . The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here – and it’s very bad for America.

Worth reading it all.

TWO KINDS OF SAVING

Both good, one more real than the other.

A friend I’ll call, simply, Not Charles, so nobody knows who it is, was paying $177 for his monthly allotment of 2000 AT&T cell phone minutes. I happened to see this friend’s bill and noticed 17,114 ‘rollover minutes,’ good for a year . . . but with 1,600 of them rolling off into oblivion just the month before. On this friend’s behalf, I called AT&T and asked to have his plan scaled down to the minimum $39.95-plus tax 450-minute plan, figuring to save him about $125 a month for more than a year until his rollover minutes were running dry and it was time to step up to some intermediate plan.

Tasha from AT&T said she’d be happy to do that for Not Charles, but was I aware that reducing one’s plans wiped out the accumulated roll-over minutes?

How’s that for rotten?

I could have folded or I could have exploded, but I took a middle ground and professed dismay. ‘No. Really! They sure don’t tout that feature when you sign up. Gee whiz’ – I thought ‘gee whiz’ was a nice touch – ‘I know you don’t make the rules, but that’s rotten.’

Tasha was sympathetic but agreed she didn’t make the rules – would Not Charles like me to go ahead and reduce his monthly minutes?

‘Gee whiz,’ I repeated, wholesomely. ‘Is there any leeway in this, or should he just switch to another carrier? That’s really rotten. Do you have a supervisor who might be able to help?’

My guess was not, or that there would be only a token accommodation. But Tasha came back after a sonata or two and told me her supervisor had been able to ‘uncap’ Not Charles’s plan, meaning that he could go down to the $39.95 plan and keep his 17,114 minutes.

I was effusive in my gratitude – and Not Charles will now save about $1,500 over the next year or so – which is after-tax money, and thus the equivalent of earning perhaps $2,500, depending on his combined federal-local-and-FICA tax bracket.

That’s one kind of savings (and I go on at such length in case you hadn’t checked your calling plan lately; to warn of the rollover catch if you downsize; and to suggest that some well-calibrated ‘gee whizzing’ interspersed with mentions of ‘switching to another carrier’ just might rescue them).

Here is another kind of savings. Every morning, when you boil water for your tea (I recognize that you don’t drink tea; I am making a point), boil just enough water, and not a potful as you might otherwise do. I mentioned this to someone – for convenience, I’ll call him, too, Not Charles – and he looked at me as though I were crazy. But look: you save perhaps half the water; half the cost of heating the water; half the time it takes to heat the water; and half the environmental impact of the fuel required to produce that heat. It’s nothing like the first savings of $2,500 – maybe it’s $5 a year. But where the $2,500 is just a more favorable series of accounting entries, this $5 is ‘real’ savings: less water, less fuel, less pollution, and all in less time, with zero sacrifice.

That’s also how I feel about the four 6-watt LED dimmable kitchen bulbs. I realize you must be getting very tired of my telling you about them; but I’m like an infant for whom the game of peek-a-boo never gets old. Every time I turn on those lights, knowing that I have replaced 400 watts of kitchen lighting with a nice, sunny 24 watts – a 94% reduction in energy use – I gurgle with delight.

 

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