By Tony Russell|
Democratic headquarters had nearly emptied out, as staffers headed home to the suburbs or their Georgetown digs. Danny and Barb, who had stayed behind to go over the latest polling numbers on possible campaign issues, were the last ones left in the office. They were clearing off their desks when the cleaning lady maneuvered herself through the door, pushing a mop and a bucket in front of her while balancing the vacuum cleaner strapped to her back. "Hope I'm not interruptin' anything," she said. "I thought everybody was gone."
"That's okay, Juanita, go ahead and work around us," said Danny. "We're about to head out of here."
"Is it still raining?" asked Barb. "I just had my hair done yesterday, and I'm afraid it's going to get ruined."
"Still rainin'," said Juanita. "But not like down in Louisiana. I been trying to reach my sister to make sure she's okay, but the lines must be down."
"Gulf Coast oil supplies are going to be cut off for a good while," said Danny thoughtfully. "The price of heating oil is going to go through the roof this winter!"
"Oh, Lord," said Juanita. "I had to borrow money from my aunt to pay the heating bills last winter. I been workin' two jobs, but seems like I just can't get ahead when I'm only makin' minimum wage. Hasn't gone up since 1997!"
"Has it been that long?" said Danny curiously. "Gas and oil prices were only half then what they are now. If you're not making any more now than you did then, you've lost a heck of a lot of ground."
"I know the pressure you must be under," sympathized Barb. My husband and I together barely make $100,000 a year, so I share your pain."
"Why don't you go on the budget plan?" said Danny. "That's the way to go. It evens out your payments year 'round."
"Doesn't make any difference if I'm on the budget plan," said Juanita. "It can be too much for me to pay every month, twelve months a year, or it can be way too much four months a year. Why don't they just put a lid on fuel prices, and say you can't gouge people no more?"
"Why don't you do what we're going to do?" suggested Barb. "We're going to put some solar panels on the roof. You can actually get a tax break for that, so it won't end up costing that much."
"'That was an important Democratic initiative," said Danny. "Tax breaks encouraging solar energy. We just don't get credit for a lot of our good ideas."
"Huh," said Juanita. "Didn't notice I got any tax breaks. Rich folks get all kinds of tax breaks. Then they get their taxes cut. Now they wanta do away with the estate tax, and put more of the load on my back. It just ain't right."
"Something else we're doing you might want to think about," said Barb helpfully, "is a wood burning stove. Lots of experts are recommending them."
"In a third-floor walkup in Washington, DC?" asked Juanita incredulously. "You think the landlord's gonna let me install a wood burnin' stove in my apartment? And what am I gonna burn? My furniture?"
"I guess that's not too practical," admitted Barb. "But how about double-pane windows? We're putting them in every window in the house. They really cut heat loss."
"My landlord don't care nothin' about double-pane windows," said Juanita. "He don't care nothin' about windows. All he cares about is that rent check, and he better have it in his hand by the first of the month. Tenant's responsible for the heating bill, so he don't care how much the bill is."
"That's just terrible!" exclaimed Barb. "If I were you, I'd buy my own place, or find an apartment with more responsible management."
"Yep," said Juanita, "if you were me, I expect that's what you'd do."
"Well, see you tomorrow, Barb," said Danny. "Maybe, after a good night's sleep, some issue will jump out at us in the morning. There's got to be something to show Democrats are champions of the common man."
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