Friday, May 02, 2008

They're finally getting it

Front page LA Times today: High food prices may put farmers on a subsidy diet

The story goes on to explain how finally, finally lawmakers are making some connections between the subsidization of crops (particularly for ethanol) and the rising cost of food. How maybe, just maybe, it's not the smartest fiscal policy to give big subsidies to individuals earning over a million a year, whether they're growing crops or not (just owning farmland can get you subsidies - see the recent Bill Moyers report on this, based on the Washington Post's excellent investigation into the abuse of subsidies by landowners in Texas). Or to throw so much federal money behind ethanol as our only biodiesel solution, when in fact it takes as much petrol to create ethanol as you get at the end of the process. Even Bush is saying that it's gotten out of control, and when Bush is actually standing up against payments to the rich, you know things are serious.

So I am just taking this as my birthday present for this year, thank you very much. Maybe there's still time to salvage the farm bill. Maybe help can be found for the food banks and the millions starving around the globe. Not to mention the fact that it's quite likely that I'll be in those food bank lines sometime in the next year, and I'd really love it if I could get a veggie now & then.

Yeah, I'm not thrilled that it took such a crisis to make people wake up to what some of us have been advocating for over a year, but at least, at the eleventh hour, we might see some changes. It's at least still getting press, which is quite remarkable in this election year (esp considering it hasn't been that much of an election issue, beyond the way the cost of food hurts worse in the bad economy).

Speaking of bad economy, looks like J's summer classes don't have enough students to go. That's a big ouchie - about $6000 of income that we won't see now. That was going to pay for the move and help us get through the summer (and the possible extra insurance we'll be paying for). It's frightening, but I'm trying to just trust that everything will be OK. He might still be able to do it as an independent study, which would bring in about $500. That's better than nothing. Plus I'm actually putting in a lot of TA hours, so I'm contributing. We won't have that nice cushion of savings we were hoping for, but perhaps in the end that will work to our advantage, helping us qualify for Medi-Cal. (still haven't worked out the contract extension yet either, but apparently it's just winding its way through bureaucracy, and hitting walls like when nobody knows who has the authority to actually do something - gotta love that)

Had a bit of a rollercoaster ride this week with the housing situation. We are working out the lease details on the little house we found and I am beyond thrilled to be actually on the cusp of having it! I have longed and prayed for years to have a little space to call our own - to get out of apartments. And in California I knew ownership just wouldn't be possible. So this is truly incredible. We didn't even find the place - the owner saw our ad and contacted us, which is why I'm so sure that God just gave it to us. And I'm so tickled by all these little things that most take for granted: having a dishwasher !!!! having a washer and dryer !!!!!! having a back yard (and permission to plant a garden) !!!!!!! Having two actual bedrooms for ourselves, one for us and one for baby or one for sleeping and one for studying, whatever we decide. It's just such a gift.

But we can't afford it alone, so we have to find someone to share. And we actually found a really wonderful person moving there for grad school like us, from Atlanta. Nice guy and seems to fit us well. The only drawback with him is that he can't afford to pay much, which means the burden of the rent falls on us, and we have to pay more than we really want to (the plan at this point is to just take out loans - which unfortunately will include unsubsidized, a first for me - to cover rent for a year, just so we don't have to worry about that). Then on Wednesday this amazing thing happened: a couple contacted us, and they were also a great fit with us, and being two people they could afford to pay more, in fact to split it with us, which would put us in a WAY more comfortable situation. That was huge! Plus I loved my initial chats with them. But again, the coaster went careening down when they had second thoughts yesterday. Hopefully they are still going to look at the house, and maybe they will like it and it will work out. But we are probably back to our single guy and paying more than we want to. I mean, it's worth it, it's where I want to live. But it's just so difficult when this other perfect thing comes along and then drops away. Just kind of painful. (plus I liked the idea of having another woman in the house, and she'd even already offered babysitting...oh did that twist the knife!) Owie.

Mostly I'm sad b/c our personalities and interests really jived. But the money hurts too. Esp right now when there seem to be so many other ways that money is slipping away: car repairs, vet bills, and there's just SO much to buy for the baby! And the shower didn't really help that much in the necessities department, though we got some cute things that we'll use, but the registries have been sadly neglected. So we have to prepare to get a lot of stuff from our own pockets. Fortunately craigslist has already worked well on that front, and we will keep buying used as much as we can. We will take our list to the consignment shop and go nuts. It's funny...I wonder if my poor kid will ever wear anything not handed down. I kind of hope not. I really want her to learn to conserve and recycle, and that's exactly what we're doing. There's way too much baby stuff out there already anyway! (although we are getting some fabulous handmade things, quilts and a sweater and mom/grandma's making a sock monkey!, which to me is equivalently desireable to recycled items)

Anyway, that's the sitch on our end. Some ups and downs this week. But tomorrow is my birthday and I'm just going to try to have a nice day. My dear friends are hosting a Buffy musical singalong, and I can't think of a more fun way to party!

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