The Life of Zachary
Imagining how the next generation will fare in the Obama administration’s scenario
By Nicole Gelinas | 4 May 2012
The Obama reelection campaign has created a fictional character, “Julia,” whose starring role in an online slideshow, “The Life of Julia,” has gone viral online. Julia’s story is meant to show voters “how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime.” Viewers are supposed to understand that Obama-administration policies—including funding Head Start for pre-kindergartners, mandating that insurers cover birth-control prescriptions, and preserving Medicare—have made Julia’s life better. For instance, at age 31, Julia “decides to have a child,” benefiting from “maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.”
How might Julia’s son, whom she names Zachary, fare in a post-Obama world? Herewith “The Life of Zachary.”
Age 0: Zachary is born. Nine months earlier, Julia’s government-provided birth control failed. Unprepared for this development, Julia’s sexual partner texted her that he was not ready for a child. Julia went ahead and had the baby, and so Zachary has entered the world without a father. He starts off with disadvantages because of Julia’s “choice.” But luckily, he’s a smart, sturdy tyke.
Age 3: Zachary gets an earache. Though distressed that Zachary is in pain, Julia is relieved that her government-provided health care will take care of everything. She calls up Zachary’s pediatrician to make an emergency appointment. Zachary’s doctor’s assistant reminds Julia that the doctor’s practice sent out letters months ago to patients informing them that the practice no longer accepts health insurance. Reimbursement rates are far too low for the doctor to make a profit that way. The assistant gently suggests that Julia sign up for the doctor’s concierge service, which offers visits for a $5,000 annual retainer and a $200 per-visit fee. Otherwise, she can go to the local emergency room. Julia opts for the emergency room and waits seven hours for a check-up and prescription. Because she has no spouse to share this burden, she misses work and loses a day’s pay.
Age 17: Zachary applies to college. Julia isn’t too worried about the cost. She knows that her government takes care of such things for hard-working middle-class folk like herself. She is dismayed, therefore, when she learns that the federal government considers Julia to be pretty well-off (Julia makes decent money by this point, but she lives in an expensive state, so she doesn’t save much). So the feds don’t offer her and Zachary much grant money for college. Julia explains to Zachary that the only way he can get an education and compete in the world is to go deeply into debt.
Age 25: Zachary meets a nice girl. Zachary meets a woman at work (his employer has taken a legal chance on this hardworking young lady). But in getting to know her, Zachary learns that she has $70,000 in student loans, plus $10,000 in credit-card debt. She makes about the same salary that Zachary does. Zachary likes her, but he can’t help but worry that if he got serious with her, he would be taking on a tremendous debt burden. Zachary often thinks long-term; he realizes that if he married her in a few years, both of them would have to work full-time, even if they had children, in order to stay current on the debt. They remain friends.
Find out what happens to Julia after she retires, and how changes to Medicare and Social Security force her to move in with Zachary.