Skip

Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America
March 24, 2013 7:10 PM   Subscribe

"In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government." A multimedia story by Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, also featured on This American Life this week.
posted by liketitanic (179 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 


I vaguely recall an article about disability benefits in Arkansas and how a surprisingly high number of people aged 18 to 65 are currently receiving SSI. I thought it was something like 1 in 5, but...

Back of the envelope calculations based on the population of Arkansas (911,281 people aged 18-65) and SSI data gets me to ~7%.

Does anyone remember this article? My Googling skills are shot today.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:29 PM on March 24, 2013


Excellent reporting by NPR; I've had a sense for a while that SSDI/SSI has been turning into, in part, a backdoor welfare program, but I've never seen hard figures confirming that sense until now.

However, I have grave misgivings about how this story will be received. To put it simply, which of the following reactions do you think Congress and pundits in Washington are likely to have?

(A) This is unfortunate. In the absence of a true social safety net, many of our most vulnerable fellow Americans are turning to disability benefits as a last resort. We should consider more cost-effective alternatives, such as strengthening unemployment benefits, wage subsidies, or even a basic income, so that people who have been left behind can have some measure of dignity.

(B) This is unfortunate. We need to kick these deadbeats off the rolls tout de suite. We're a nation of makers, not takers.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:30 PM on March 24, 2013 [65 favorites]


Dr. Timberlake is making a judgment call that if you have a particular back problem and a college degree, you're not disabled. Without the degree, you are.

And that's the point where Dr. Timberlake should lose his license to practice medicine. He's using non-medical reasons to make medical diagnoses.

Yes, I read the following parts, where there are no businesses that offer suitable work for these people in Hale county. Bummer. They need to move to where the jobs are. Or Hale county needs to improve its business climate and its educational infrastructure.

Instead, the federal government is subsidizing Hale county's existence, keeping people on the dole and keeping Hale county limping along. Twenty-six percent of this county lives below the poverty line. By all means, let's just send them subsistence checks instead of, you know, try to improve anything.

But then, this isn't surprising, just tragic. The government subsidizes lots of bullshit, at far greater numbers than Hale county.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:34 PM on March 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Of course it'll be B, Cash4Lead. It's always B.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is unfortunate. We need to kick these deadbeats off the rolls tout de suite. We're a nation of makers, not takers.

Judging from comments from my own right-wing family members, this has been the precise talking point re: disability for about a year now.
posted by scody at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


According to the article, 9% of adults in Arkansas aged 18 to 64 were on disability in 2011.

I'm still reading through the links, I'll report back when I'm done.
posted by subdee at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Couple of comments removed; let's not start this off with a fight over whether some specific diagnosis is a "real" disability.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:42 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Instead, the federal government is subsidizing Hale county's existence, keeping people on the dole and keeping Hale county limping along.

You ever looked at those maps of which states take in more tax dollars than they pay out?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:45 PM on March 24, 2013 [21 favorites]


Though I don't see anything wrong with Instead, the federal government is subsidizing Hale county's existence, on the face of it. Some people aren't psychologically cut out for packing up everything they own and are, leaving behind their entire life story and social safety net, and moving somewhere else where they will have to compete with many others who have done the exact same thing. Plus, more people competing for a limited amount of work tilts the scales even more in employers' favor, and all jobs become shittier as a result.
posted by subdee at 7:46 PM on March 24, 2013 [25 favorites]


It's worth noting that the growth in people on disability pensions is a global issue. It's easy to look around and find stuff on this for pretty much (all?) developed countries.

Here is something on Australia. Here is a paper with data on (pdf) Germany, Belgium, Finland, France and the Netherlands.
posted by sien at 7:51 PM on March 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also I find it funny that the blame is on governments for providing for the disabled and not on capital for making the disabled.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:53 PM on March 24, 2013 [72 favorites]


Also thank you liketitanic and Horace Rumpole for the point / counterpoint. The Media Matters response reminded me of Fat Curt, the first person we meet in David Simon & Ed Burns' The Corner. Fat Curt, after yet another hospital stay:
"The caseworkers are not hopeful. Maryland is cutting back public assistance for adult males, and, as for federal disability benefits, it's a dead certainty that any applicant will be turned down for SSI benefits on the first attempt unless he's stone blind or quadriplegic."
I think he only gets on disability after the hospital where he racked up ER bills dispatches their own paperwork whiz to get him enrolled, so they can finally get paid.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:54 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


They need to move to where the jobs are

I'm curious, if you went to your relevant government office and told them you need to do this, would they help pay for travel expenses or something similar to help you out? When I applied for welfare and explained my situation to the Provincial Ministry (Canadian, if you were wondering), they offered to pay for a plane ticket to my parents home. This was not a viable option for a number of reasons I wont get into, but suffice it to say they eventually forked over my sweet, sweet gubmint cheez.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 7:54 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Capital is guilt free, Pope, the markets are pure.
posted by Max Power at 7:55 PM on March 24, 2013


They need to move to where the jobs are

"If they were financially responsible, these hipster kids I've been hearing about would settle down and invest in a house."

*@%&^)#
posted by tychotesla at 8:00 PM on March 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Article: Dr. Timberlake is making a judgment call that if you have a particular back problem and a college degree, you're not disabled. Without the degree, you are.

Cool Papa Bell: And that's the point where Dr. Timberlake should lose his license to practice medicine. He's using non-medical reasons to make medical diagnoses.


No, he's not. *Disability isn't a medical diagnosis.*

Dr. Timberlake is operating within his scope as a physician to assess the extent of his patients' functional limitations with respect to work activities. Despite the article's implication, all he does is supply the medical evidence of functional impairment. The Social Security Administration, through state-based Disability Determination Services, decides whether a person's impairments (as documented in his medical records) prevent him from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
posted by gingerest at 8:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [24 favorites]


Simply requiring wealthy people to pay the same Social Security taxes as everyone else fixes any deficits in the trust fund out to 2085. (details) Guess what - it's not a conspiracy of poor people that's manipulating the government to get far more than their share and robbing the rest of society blind, whatever Cash4Lead and similarly-minded pontificators may say.
posted by XMLicious at 8:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [67 favorites]


I'm curious, if you went to your relevant government office and told them you need to do this, would they help pay for travel expenses or something similar to help you out?

I'm not sure if you're serious or not. But if you are, the answer is: ha, ha, ha, ha, no. Your bootstraps are meant to buy you that plane ticket.
posted by hoyland at 8:05 PM on March 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Bootstraps only work for computers
posted by hellojed at 8:07 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


XMLicious, are you picking up on something in Cash4Lead's comment that I didn't?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where is this magical land where people with back problems and no degree can find a job? Sounds adjacent to Big Rock Candy Mountain.
posted by emjaybee at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


Hale County Alabama is one huge catfish farm owned by four or five families. The 39-bed hospital in Greensboro stays busy sewing fingers back onto folks from the catfish processing plants. There are no other jobs. All the land is owned by the catfish farmers and out-of-state paper companies who lease it out for hunting when they aren't cutting it. Their elected officials range from corrupt and incompetent to corrupt and damn good at it.

Next door in Greene County, they've got crushing rural poverty too, but they've got a rinky-dink dog track propping up their economy. Down south in Marengo County, Demopolis has a genuinely good public school system, a couple paper mills, a lock and dam, and a stable and comparatively integrated middle class. They even got a Wal-Mart, instead of a Dollar General.

But Hale County?

They got fuck all. (Except for a place that makes really good pie.)

Maybe being poor and uneducated and stuck in Hale County isn't a medical disability. But it's damn sure crippled a lot of people for life.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:11 PM on March 24, 2013 [76 favorites]


They need to move to where the jobs are

Right. Because the number of people who need jobs just happens to match the exact number of open positions in these "places where the jobs are."
posted by scody at 8:14 PM on March 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


I remember when a good friend, who has panic attacks in public places and has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, had to undergo disability evaluation from a judge.

She was told that she was probably faking it, that they wanted her off the books asap, that she would be removed from the list if she managed to make any sort of start back into financial stability, and that her money would be in the hands of her parents whose emotional abuse is one of the reasons she's on disability in the first place.

I totally get that false claims could be a problem, but god damn.

You can't tell people to move from place to place at will and expect them to own a house and have 2.5 kids + dog. You don't get to tell people to work dehumanizing jobs for low pay and have them be happy and healthy.

Efficiency is great, I love me some capital and division of labor, but if you think that comes at no cost, fuck you, learn something about life. Pisses me off.
posted by tychotesla at 8:17 PM on March 24, 2013 [47 favorites]


Right. Because the number of people who need jobs just happens to match the exact number of open positions in these "places where the jobs are."

And if they all move to places where there are jobs, but more move than are jobs, why, those people deserve their unemployment even harder!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:17 PM on March 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


Related: Two Lawyers Strike Gold In U.S. Disability System (WSJ, December 2011)

I heard part of a news radio segment on Binder & Binder today, but they left out the bit on alleged backdating documents and leaving out potentially damaging information.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:23 PM on March 24, 2013


Guess what - it's not a conspiracy of poor people that's manipulating the government to get far more than their share and robbing the rest of society blind, whatever Cash4Lead and similarly-minded pontificators may say.

That wasn't what I was implying. In case it wasn't clear, I favor reaction A in my last post--if it's the case that SSDI/SSI is being used to support people who could work, but can't find a job, then that means we need to strengthen our social safety net, not reduce it further. Ideally, we would have a guaranteed basic income, allowing people to find whatever work is suitable for them, and not have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads. But I recognize that isn't in the cards any time soon. That's why I would back stronger, more long-lasting UI benefits and/or wage subsidies, so that people can work and support themselves even if the job doesn't pay enough for them to do that.

As an aside, one thing the FPP reveals is the hollowness of the neoliberal faith in "job training" as a way to help displaced workers. This part was devastating:

"Scotty, I'm gonna be honest with you," the guy told him. "There's nobody gonna hire you … We're just hiding you guys." The staff member's advice to Scott was blunt: "Just suck all the benefits you can out of the system until everything is gone, and then you're on your own."
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:24 PM on March 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


Dr. Timberlake is making a judgment call that if you have a particular back problem and a college degree, you're not disabled. Without the degree, you are.

And that's the point where Dr. Timberlake should lose his license to practice medicine. He's using non-medical reasons to make medical diagnoses.


Whether or not one is eligible for disability benefits is not a medical diagnosis; it is a decision based on multiple criteria, one of which is a medical diagnosis. Age and education are factors in the disability determination alongside the functional capacity to do work. It is part of Dr Timberlake's role in conducting the consultative exam to advise Social Security on what tasks the applicant can and cannot perform (e.g., lifting, standing) based on the physical examination. (SSA: How We Decide If You Are Disabled)

I was disappointed in TAL for broadcasting this story. It was so...facile. Every time I expected Ms Joffe-Walt to dig into one of the complexities of the disability programs, she lobbed a cheap shot instead. Her closing line implying all 14 million people on the disability rolls have chosen to be poor and unemployed was both offensive and shockingly ignorant for someone who claims to have been covering disability issues for years.
posted by weebil at 8:26 PM on March 24, 2013 [27 favorites]


Oops - yeah, now that I re-read your comment Cash4Lead, I must have confused it with something else.
posted by XMLicious at 8:32 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


BitterOldPunk, now I really really want pecan pie. The good stuff.

Thanks for sharing the Pie Lab link though. I forgot about the Project M folks, who are part of that whole Architecture for Humanity / Design Like You Give Damn cabal of let's make things beautiful and socially just.
Founded in 2009 by a group of designers working for the greater good known as Project M, PieLab is a much more than your ordinary bakery. PieLab makes a tremendous impact in the community by being the platform for conversation, ideas, and design, as well as donating all profits to a charity (H.E.R.O.) which provides a multitude of housing and disaster resources, empowers Greensboro citizens, and much more.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:42 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is unfortunate. We need to kick these deadbeats off the rolls tout de suite. We're a nation of makers, not takers.

Not to be cynical but most people I have met who are on disability are also poor, conservative and religious. Not all, but most. I don't think going after disability checks is going to play well for the right wing.
posted by fshgrl at 8:45 PM on March 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


In my experience right-wingers hate every single government assistance program they're not on. And often the one they're on, somehow.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:47 PM on March 24, 2013 [57 favorites]


US underbelly be gettin' softer!
posted by telstar at 8:49 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good for the doctor. I just came back from a shortterm disability leave from cancer treatment and one of the tests to get cleared to return was a series of questions about precisely what kind of work I do---at the desk, driving, walking, etc. It wasn't a test of my general physical state to work in some undefined way.

If you think you can just pack up and move some place where there are jobs, you haven't been unemployed in the last few years. Age discrimination is just one of the problems. More important, those jobs just are not there. (We had better start creating jobs for people, get my generation out of the market and into retirement and get everyone else to stop working 60 hours a week so other people can get jobs, for starters.)

We have a mismatch in jobs, and too many people who are injured and unable to do the few remaining jobs because of physical demands. I saw a list of job openings in a grocery store this week but the sign said applicants had to be able to stand for at least four hours. Not too many people in their late 50s, with even the slightest knee or back problems, can do that.
posted by etaoin at 9:12 PM on March 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


Dr. Timberlake is operating within his scope as a physician to assess the extent of his patients' functional limitations with respect to work activities. Despite the article's implication, all he does is supply the medical evidence of functional impairment. The Social Security Administration, through state-based Disability Determination Services, decides whether a person's impairments (as documented in his medical records) prevent him from engaging in substantial gainful activity.

This. I went from doing blue collar work to white collar over the last year and suddenly I understand why skiing is a white collar pursuit: You can show up to work with a broken leg and still get paid.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:17 PM on March 24, 2013 [24 favorites]


I understand why skiing is a white collar pursuit: You can show up to work with a broken leg and still get paid.

Also, it's expensive.

Anyway as someone elsewhere pointed out re: this article, part of the issue is that there's a shrinking market for raw, untrained physical labour in the US. Most of these people are effectively uneducated for 21st century jobs. But definitely part of the problem is that the jobs they are qualified for are disappearing before their eyes.
posted by GuyZero at 9:23 PM on March 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's a reason PCG goes to all this trouble. The company gets paid by the state every time it moves someone off of welfare and onto disability. In recent contract negotiations with Missouri, PCG asked for $2,300 per person. For Missouri, that's a deal -- every time someone goes on disability, it means Missouri no longer has to send them cash payments every month. For the nation as a whole, it means one more person added to the disability rolls

I guess the scum always seems to collect around the cracks.

What if that $2300 was used for relocation, job training, etc. The solution above seems so damn shortsighted. Or better yet, make states and the federal government equally responsible for welfare and disability payments? I am not well versed in how these things work but it just seems that there should be a easier, more economical solution that satisfies everyone involved.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:24 PM on March 24, 2013


My wife and I are navigating SSDI and SSI right now. It's tough because anyone with any sense can see that she'll never be neurologically able to engage in gainful activity, but the system requires that applicants be publicly, repeatedly brought low before the eyes of society before it will deign to pay them. Like the loss of career, competence and continence aren't enough.

American society is marked by forgiveness for wrongdoing, but it also has a tendency to point out fault where there is none. Nowhere is this more apparent than the federal disability benefits process.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:24 PM on March 24, 2013 [33 favorites]


I don't know how job training and relocation can fix things when there are a ton of smart, well-educated, able-bodied people all over the US who can't find a job.
posted by Jeanne at 9:30 PM on March 24, 2013 [37 favorites]


Wow , Media Matters was quick off the mark with that rebuttal. On a weekend too...
posted by Bwithh at 9:37 PM on March 24, 2013


I don't know how job training and relocation can fix things when there are a ton of smart, well-educated, able-bodied people all over the US who can't find a job.

Just to clarify, I am not a proponent of relocation/training as Thee One and Only Solution to the problem. I was speaking more to the idea of paying some bottom-feeder company like PCG making $2300 per. Surely there must be some better way to turn that $2300 around and use it to benefit people who need it, in some other way.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:57 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Costs are defined as man-hours required from society to provide necessary resources.

It costs relatively little to keep a human alive.

It costs a lot to manage a human that is near death (jail/ER/etc). At least 100x.

So the bias is to just pay the cost.

But then, you have a slowly growing deadweight population, some (not at all, all) of which would carry its own load if you weren't paying the cost.

It's a wicked problem.
posted by effugas at 10:00 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just FYI for anyone who might not realize it: SSDI is not enough for most people to get to the end of the month. It's still a shitty existence.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:04 PM on March 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


Brocktoon, that's the point, to try to find the point where it stops the exponential cost of someone REALLY not getting enough, but not so much that it prevents those that could work, from doing so.
posted by effugas at 10:09 PM on March 24, 2013


After the whole Mike Daisey/Apple in China fiasco for This American Life, I am sure that a piece of this length has gone through significant fact-checking. You can argue color and opinion, but I think the facts should stand up to scrutiny.
posted by gen at 10:10 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Iron Law of Social Science is that people without enough food, riot. (The only exception, North Korea, requires an entire society designed around managing this rule.)

Providing enough food is fairly cheap -- really, couple man-hours will feed 10,000 at this point. Most of the cost is in distribution, but even then.
posted by effugas at 10:12 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


That will also explain at least some of the concetration of SSDI in poorer places. If you are forced on to disability and have a choice of living with your sister in NYC or your brother in
Hale County Alabama everything else being equal you'll choose Alabama because your fixed benifit will go farther because your rent will be less.
posted by Mitheral at 10:12 PM on March 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is there a formula for SSI / SSDI payments? I see numbers floating about from time to time and I'm wondering if it's adjusted at all by regional CPI or some other cost of living factors.
posted by pwnguin at 10:16 PM on March 24, 2013


I understand why skiing is a white collar pursuit: You can show up to work with a broken leg and still get paid.

Also, it's expensive.


Eh. My friends took two basic career paths: go into construction/ fishing/ surveying/ military something physical right out of high school or college- interns- sometimes grad school- professional. Those of us who went to college were around 30 before we made close to the same money the kids who went into construction or fishing were making a year out of high school (often $80K). The military guys made a ton of money if they were deployed a lot and were officers or specialists too. Quite a few of my friends are approaching 40 and looking at retirement. They're married over a decade, kids are near graduation, they own a couple properties and have marketable skills that they can translate into part time work like a masters license or a heavy equipment operators license or military skills like piloting or medical stuff. The college bound friends meanwhile have infant children and are facing another 30+ years of work. Who did it "right"? I dunno.

I did both and always made a LOT more money doing non desk based work. But you hit 30 or 35 and your body starts to worry you and you transition to desk work or management if you can. Many of the people who don't are just never going to get along in an office environment, even if they got a job.
posted by fshgrl at 10:25 PM on March 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


Is there a formula for SSI / SSDI payments? I see numbers floating about from time to time and I'm wondering if it's adjusted at all by regional CPI or some other cost of living factors.

In my experience (just as a recipient) you must have worked within the last ten years - I knew someone who had been a mother at home with the kids who was told she wasn't eligible even though she had a crippling chronic illness that put her in the hospital regularly - and the payments are calculated off of your wage or salary when you worked. (There might be other factors, idk.)
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 10:30 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just FYI for anyone who might not realize it: SSDI is not enough for most people to get to the end of the month. It's still a shitty existence.

I have a sister-in-law on SSDI and I can confirm this is true, 100%.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:31 PM on March 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is there a formula for SSI / SSDI payments?

Yes.
posted by kithrater at 10:35 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is so much wrong in "Unfit for Work", so much wrong but a few things stand out for now. First, this passage:
They also get disability payments from the government of about $13,000 a year. This isn't great. But if your alternative is a minimum wage job that will pay you at most $15,000 a year, and probably does not include health insurance, disability may be a better option.

But going on disability means you will not work, you will not get a raise, you will not get whatever meaning people get from work. Going on disability means, assuming you rely only on those disability payments, you will be poor for the rest of your life. That's the deal. And it's a deal 14 million Americans have signed up for.
This entire section strongly implies that everyone on disability, all 14 million of us, were faced with a choice between working minimum wage with few benefits, or getting less money on disability but more benefits. Once faced with this choice, we made the deal and took the disability. This is extremely shoddy journalism. Actually, it's just a flat out lie and it's a dangerous one. This is saying that everyone on disability could work but getting disability is easier so we've made this choice. I think even the most hard-nosed conservative knows that there are people who can't work.

Joffe-Walt must know it too, because a significant portion of the piece is dedicated to undermining the claims of people whose disabilities aren't legitimate enough, which means that some people must be genuinely disabled even in her eyes. Right now I don't think I have the strength to deal with her attempts at distinguishing between the "truly" disabled and the mooching wimps. When faced with a woman who cries every day at work because she is in so much pain, Joffe-Walt thinks it's not "clear" whether or not this woman is disabled. I can't really deal with that. Or the subtle slander of Jahleel's family, who are assumed to be reluctant to give up the disability income if it meant he could succeed in school. Many poor parents would move heaven and earth for their kids to do well and have a future. No one in his family was even asked.

Is there a formula for SSI / SSDI payments?... I'm wondering if it's adjusted at all by regional CPI or some other cost of living factors

Well they're not all that similar. SSDI is for people who have contributed enough to FICA before they were disabled that they qualify for the program. It depends on how long you worked and how much you earned. It's much more complicated to calculate with a maximum of $2533. I receive SSDI, $947 a month, because I worked just long enough to qualify for it although I never made much money. There are no regional adjustments as far as I know, but there are cost of living percentage increases that we all get each year if it's in the budget. We all get the same percentage increase.

SSI is a maximum of $710 for an individual and $1066 for a couple. And that's if you get the maximum. This is for people who didn't work enough hours to contribute enough to FICA.
posted by Danila at 10:37 PM on March 24, 2013 [23 favorites]


I caught this on NPR and it bugged me for a few reasons, mostly already mentioned. But also because I was a child that received SSI benefits, but not disabled or in poverty, and there was a lot of vague handwaving about children, disability, and SSI. Even the mediamatters rebuttal bothers me because of the conflation with "recieving SSI" with "disabled". Perhaps they really just mean SSDI, or only the children who are disabled and on SSI, but if they are sloppy with their wording I have trouble believing the statistics and graphs they are presenting me.

(That's not to minimize the problems of being disabled in the US or saying that it's really not that bad. Just that this is another example of some really messy journalism in there).
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 10:40 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


After the whole Mike Daisey/Apple in China fiasco for This American Life, I am sure that a piece of this length has gone through significant fact-checking. You can argue color and opinion, but I think the facts should stand up to scrutiny.

This is hilarious. Literally your entire argument that the facts in the coverage are correct is that the same people fucked up the facts in different coverage. That's some incredibly broken logic.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 PM on March 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


I guess I don't see how saying that if your alternative to disability is a $15,000 job with no medical insurance, then disability may be a better choice, strongly implies that everyone on disability, all 14 million of you, were faced with that choice.
posted by Flunkie at 10:45 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


kithraters link goes to what looks like a calculator for retirement only but this one does the disability calculation too:

http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/AnypiaApplet.html
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 10:45 PM on March 24, 2013


It does both, but assumes you died/became disabled today (scroll down on the results page). In any case, a reading comprehension fail on my behalf, as what was asked for was the formula and not the calculator. The actual formula for your Social Security benefit can be found on page 2 of this pdf.
posted by kithrater at 10:51 PM on March 24, 2013


I wanted to point out that disability is not adjusted for where you live. $710 a month is the maximum for an individual on SSI whether you're in Arkansas or New York. Also, you can't save much money. If your countable resources, such as a bank account, exceed $2000 you are no longer eligible for SSI until you get rid of it. This is for the rest of your life.

I guess I don't see how saying that if your alternative to disability is a $15,000 job with no medical insurance, then disability may be a better choice, strongly implies that everyone on disability, all 14 million of you, were faced with that choice.

She said 14 million people have made that deal. That's where it's strongly implied. Those choices probably don't apply to the vast majority of people on disability.
posted by Danila at 10:53 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The hole that needs plugging, as mentioned late in the article, is a government attorney "defending the government's decision to deny disability" through the appeal process. From my experience, the only evidence provided to the judge to base any possible denial were two evaluations, one physical and one mental, that were ambiguous at best.

On a separate note, this article includes an interesting graphic, the share of disabilities by diagnosis. Note that for the most part, the vast bulk of these are not life-threatening. A great percentage of the disabled can expect to live normal lifespans. Even heart disease patients are living far, far longer now than would have survived in 1961.

This leads me to what I see as the biggest failing of the Social Security Disability system, the utter lack of any type of occupational rehab. Medicare certainly doesn't cover physical rehab at that level, only modest programs focused on independent living. Education or training? Forget it.

As the article states, the few who return to work after receiving SSDI are the exceptions. The overwhelming remainder could very well continue receiving SSDI benefits for decades.
posted by Ardiril at 11:00 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


This leads me to what I see as the biggest failing of the Social Security Disability system, the utter lack of any type of occupational rehab.

Well Social Security does have the Ticket to Work program, available to anyone receiving federal disability benefits. Using that program any individual can receive occupational therapy through their state vocational rehab. In addition, members of that program can start working and still receive their full benefits for an extended period of time, and if they become too disabled to work again then they can immediately start receiving benefits if they have stopped.

So this is available but there is a problem. There have to be jobs that can accommodate disabled people. What you're saying is needed is something that changes the disabled individual so they can work, such as rehab, education, training etc. What may be more necessary are many more jobs that can be fitted to the disabled, but that is never the focus. I think this is related to the heavy focus on individualism in America. The disabled person has to do all the work, jump through all the hoops to find a way to work, but we don't really expect employers to have to make an effort to make jobs for them.
posted by Danila at 11:12 PM on March 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


kithrater: "It does both, but assumes you died/became disabled today (scroll down on the results page). In any case, a reading comprehension fail on my behalf, as what was asked for was the formula and not the calculator. The actual formula for your Social Security benefit can be found on page 2 of this pdf."

That's the retirement benefit, what I want to know is how they derive the disability number. Makes sense in a thread about disability, yes?
posted by pwnguin at 11:20 PM on March 24, 2013


Interesting geographic breakdown by state of % of population receiving disability.
posted by davidmsc at 11:32 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is hilarious. Literally your entire argument that the facts in the coverage are correct is that the same people fucked up the facts in different coverage. That's some incredibly broken logic.

Jesus, man, do you always need to go for the throat? It's abundantly clear that gen was suggesting that because they'd so publically screwed up before, they'd be more careful in future. Whether or not that is actually the case, it's perfectly logical.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:38 PM on March 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


Just finished listening to the episode and went through the Media Matters rebuttal. Two things struck me, and I'll preface this by saying that my interpretation of both the episode and the rebuttal may be coloured by my personal perspective. I'll explain that later. Anyways: first, the episode did not seem to imply to me that the disability system was full of deadbeats who should be working.

The picture it painted to me seemed far more nuanced: disability is a social safety system that, thanks in part to a fundamental shift in the labour economy and in part to the federal government downloading the cost of welfare to the states, is now being asked to do far more than it was intended to. The people on disability now aren't necessarily undeserving; Joffe-Walt only gets into "should these people be on disability?" in the first segment. At first, it sounds like she's making a pretty awful argument—I have back pain, and I can still work as a reporter, so why are these people on disability for back pain unable to work?—but it turns out the segment is presenting a common argument against disability in order to knock it down afterwards.

Joffe-Walt talks through her personal epiphany (which, to be fair, is one of the more annoying occasional tendencies of This American Life) that she can get away with back pain because her view of labour is fundamentally different from the people of Hale County. It's probably obvious to a lot of people, but not to everyone, so it's worth covering. Meanwhile, the people who already get that Hale County is entirely manual labour and thus has a different standard of "ability to work" have to wait for Joffe-Walt to bring the rest of the audience up to speed. I don't know if it's an effective way to tell the story, but I don't think she's making the argument that the people of Hale County are genuinely unworthy of some kind of support, or even of disability specifically. Anyways, that's just one example of how I thought the episode might have been more nuanced than some of the arguments give it credit for, but I'll move on now to act two.

Act two: the Media Matters rebuttal. It's not actually a rebuttal, in that nothing in the piece seems to directly contradict the facts in the episode. The most direct rebuttal is the first point, about the number of children on SSI. The episode says the number now is seven times higher than 30 years ago; Media Matters says it's only grown marginally since 2000. It turns out both things are true; NPR's own expanded coverage shows the full graph from 1974 to 2011. In 1983, the number of children receiving SSI benefits was about 200,000; now it's over 1.2 million. Furthermore, Media Matters says that NPR's assertion that families are using kids to pull in disability income isn't true; it's the increase in diagnosed conditions and an increase in child poverty that did the trick. But those things don't necessarily contradict each other; an increase in diagnosed conditions can lead to more kids getting on disability, and the increase in child poverty could lead more families to become dependent on that income.

This is a common thread throughout the Media Matters report: it claims the This American Life episode says families are doing this or that to cheat disability, and then shows how that's not true. But in none of the cases does it actually seem like NPR is making out people on disability to be cheats. Joffe-Walt didn't say that a child's eligibility for disability isn't dependent on a medical diagnosis, or that families were exaggerating the medical conditions of their kids to get disability. Media Matters saying that a qualified medical diagnosis is required to determine eligibility isn't applicable; what Joffe-Walt seems to be saying is that kids already on disability could start losing benefits that the family depends on if they appear to be recovering or overcoming their diagnosed disability. Similarly, Media Matters claims NPR is saying disability discourages families from working, and then shows how parents continue to work even after their child starts receiving SSI. But the quote Media Matters uses talks about the CHILD beginning to work, not the parent. And the other person Joffe-Walt interviews during that section is also not a parent, but someone who herself was diagnosed at an early age with anxiety and depression, and who fears she cannot have a job because it would put her reliable disability payments at risk.

So here's where my personal perspective comes into play. I think you can take Joffe-Walt's report in one of two ways, as someone earlier in the thread already stated: either tons of people on disability are liars and cheats, or the fact that so many people are on disability now is indicative of a greater failure of the American social safety net and the economy.

Personally, I fall into the latter camp. When I hear about people in Hale County going on disability because they literally cannot conceive of jobs where you don't have to stand all day, this to me sounds like a symptom of the collapse of the manufacturing sector in the U.S., and how poorly the country has prepared its now-redundant work force for the next phase of the American economy. I'm pretty sure Joffe-Walt says something to this effect in her report. And when I hear about how kids can't do "too well" in school or else it will jeopardize the family's income, I don't see that as an indictment of parents who are too lazy to find jobs to support themselves; I see that as an indictment of a social safety net that can't help families bridge the gap caused by an interruption of disability payments, just like welfare programs that give people strong incentives to stay unemployed by aggressively clawing back benefits if you start making an income.

But I can absolutely understand that other people might take the first view instead, that disability is a cesspool of poor people cheating the system. And even more people might be worried that someone will listen to the This American Life episode and come to that conclusion. I feel like Media Matters is trying to preempt that line of thinking with their rebuttal, which is a laudable goal in itself. I just don't think that's what the episode was trying to communicate in the first place. And though I would've liked This American Life to state its thesis more clearly, I don't think this is anywhere near a Mike Daisey level of failure.
posted by chrominance at 11:50 PM on March 24, 2013 [38 favorites]


chrominance: "This is a common thread throughout the Media Matters report"

Of course it does. From their about page:
"Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

So basically, they counter propaganda with... more propaganda. I can see how you made the mistake; I thought they were a nonbiased group as well. Certainly nothing in the name suggests they're progressive. I guess we were both conflating MediaMatters with factcheck.org.
posted by pwnguin at 12:06 AM on March 25, 2013


I finally got onto SSI after dealing with a totally hostile job market for way longer than I should have. Where are all these great jobs for disabled people? Again, as others have said, if able-bodied folk with degrees can't get jobs, what the Hell is up with getting all over the disabled for not working?
The call center jobs are over-seas. That's what I did to get off welfare. Callednpeople and solid them lightbulbs. It wasn't an adequate livelihood for me and two kids at all. I would have been financially better off on welfare or SSi. I eventually became an insurance agent, but I personally never sold insurance. I had to be an agent in order to schedule an agent's appointments or even to approach potential clients.
That was decent work. The Sept. 11 Attacks affected insurance heavily. Companies held off getting health insurance.
Some disabled people were uninsurable.
I only had ONE boss who did not do any discrimination towards me, that was wwhen I was an insurance agent.
He changed to dealing more in stocks and bonds. I could not get the hang of that.
I went back Tito school. By the way, not to knock my DVR worker, she's a good lady, but I watched everything I trained for start getting outsourced.
DVR did not want to fund what I could very well have done from home. That WAs being outsourced. Now the oitsourcing on that Kine of work has begun to reverse.
People over-seas didn't have the ethics or the language skills.
Working when you are disabled has a paradox, you are expected to be so much better, but you will get less pay and less respect.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:30 AM on March 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


Cash4Lead: "That's why I would back stronger, more long-lasting UI benefits and/or wage subsidies, so that people can work and support themselves even if the job doesn't pay enough for them to do that."

The problem with wage subsidies (like the earned income tax credit) is that between 20-30% of the subsidy ends up going indirectly to employers who can get away with paying lower wages because of it.
posted by wierdo at 12:39 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have two graduate degrees and am receiving disability.
I am no longer capable of performing the thing that I got my first degree for, because of past/continuing medical problem. My second graduate degree qualifies to do the one thing I can do. Teach writing at a college level.

I have been pushing myself close to a state of exhaustion working what is almost full time (teaching and tutoring). I was hoping to stop receiving SSD. It's not going to turn out that way for a while. I can do a lot, but keeping up with an insane schedule that has me (today) up at 4 AM to prep for an 8 AM class (after being up since 12 AM for disability-related reasons) and will keep me working til 8 tonight, I'm crying uncle.

I remember reading some poet about how most of the poets she knew were on disability, because, duh, no money in poetry. Well, maybe that's expanding a bit.
posted by angrycat at 1:22 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I understand why skiing is a white collar pursuit: You can show up to work with a broken leg and still get paid.

Also, it's expensive.


Yeah, if you're poor and you like to ski, you have to support yourself via the ski resort industry somehow, pretty much. There was an AskMe (trying not to derail) in which this answer was given:
I have several friends who are ski instructors. None of them thought that it would be reasonable to take off 1 weekend day per week. Most of them laughed when I asked if that would be possible.

Can't imagine how someone would get by with a broken leg; you just don't work for X months, I guess.

The problem with wage subsidies (like the earned income tax credit) is that between 20-30% of the subsidy ends up going indirectly to employers who can get away with paying lower wages because of it.

Indeed. Would you imagine pennies an hour? That's what over 1/3 of Goodwill centers pay.

There's also a labor-market angle whereby institutions that provide work for the disabled are, probably, taking away work from others (and legally able to undercut on price) -- similar to the prison labor issue.

It could also be said that by going on disability, people increase competition for workers and indirectly influence higher wages for the remaining few workers. The past practice, of course, was that people who could no longer support themselves depended on their families, diluting the higher pay workers might receive because there was more demand for them.

So basically, they counter propaganda with... more propaganda. I can see how you made the mistake; I thought they were a nonbiased group as well. Certainly nothing in the name suggests they're progressive. I guess we were both conflating MediaMatters with factcheck.org.

Media Matters has been a prominent media watchdog since the 2004 Presidential elections, and there has never been any attempt to conceal their politics. It may interest you to know that the founder is David Brock, who was a right wing shill during the 90s, paid handsomely for writing books and articles attacking the Clintons and liberal icons such as Anita Hill, but eventually became disillusioned with the amount of actual wrongdoing his extensive research turned up, causing him to recant and switch sides.

For comparison, two of his primary nemeses on the right have names such as AIM (Accuracy in Media), the Media Research Center/Newsbusters. In any case, their mission is to monitor the media and issue rebuttals and talking points.
posted by dhartung at 1:23 AM on March 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


TLP asserts that - essentially - SSDI and anti-depressents are the last barriers to blood-in-the-streets social unrest. I find myself surprisingly swayed...

The rise of psychiatry parallels the rise of poverty in industrialized societies. The reason you see psychiatry in the U.S. but not in the Sudan isn't because there's no money for it in the Sudan, but because there is not enough money in the US to make some people feel like they're not in the Sudan. Hence Zoloft. It is the government's last resort to a social problem it may or may not have created, whatever, but has absolutely no other way of dealing with. - TLP

let's not make this another referendum on TLP, mkay?
posted by j_curiouser at 1:58 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Jesus, man, do you always need to go for the throat? It's abundantly clear that gen was suggesting that because they'd so publically screwed up before, they'd be more careful in future. Whether or not that is actually the case, it's perfectly logical.

You're right that I should be less aggressive, but on the other hand, a history of fucking up is in no other case considered a credential.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:24 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Maybe let's just drop the Daisey/TAL/accuracy nitpicking now? And yes, direct communication here works a lot better without the sarcasm.]
posted by taz at 2:42 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I share the disappointment in the Media Matters “rebuttal” – quoted because it seemed mostly to be talking about slightly different things, often contradicting the claim in their own write up – e.g. claiming that “When you are a kid, a disability can be anything that prevents you from progressing in school” is untrue because it requires a medical professional’s evaluation, when the very next sentence in their quote says exactly the same thing.

I do think that there are, as various people have commented above, some room for criticism but this felt like they've been fighting right-wing propaganda long enough to see that battle everywhere, coupled with fear that this story will support a reaction to drop the program rather than deal with the underlying problems.
posted by adamsc at 4:45 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Humans generally will do whatever it takes to survive. If your options are a (hopefully full-time) minimum wage job at $7.25 an hour without benefits, or $1000 a month with health benefits, then the choice for survival is easy. We as humans have not done enough for the other humans who have to face this choice. It is great we aren't all there and we can judge from outside this situation.
posted by Kale Slayer at 4:49 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What this TAL piece does is over and over insinuate something:
"Scotty, I'm gonna be honest with you," the guy told him. "There's nobody gonna hire you … We're just hiding you guys." The staff member's advice to Scott was blunt: "Just suck all the benefits you can out of the system until everything is gone, and then you're on your own."
i.e. people are going on disability because they can't find work and, at the end of segment, she drops in something approaching factual:
I talked to a bunch of mill guys who took this path -- one who shattered the bones in his ankle and leg, one with diabetes, another with a heart attack. When the mill shut down, they all went on disability.
So, you have a situation where a bunch of guys who might have worked in pain or worked themselves to death at the mill go on disability instead. So, it fact checks fine but the viewer is left with a different impression than what the facts state.

And then she ends with this:
Somewhere around 30 years ago, the economy started changing in some fundamental ways. There are now millions of Americans who do not have the skills or education to make it in this country.

Politicians pay lip service to this problem during election cycles, but American leaders have not sat down and come up with a comprehensive plan.

In the meantime, federal disability programs became our extremely expensive default plan. The two big disability programs, including health care for disabled workers, cost some $260 billion a year.

People at the Social Security Administration, which runs the federal disability programs, say we cannot afford this.
From Chana Joffe-Walt, graduate of Oberlin College, daughter of liberal rabbis, a stew of right-wing talking points about class and economics. How did she get into her white-collar job:
Last August, Adam Davidson sent me a message on Facebook. He was starting a cool new project and wanted to talk. I was reporting for KPLU in Seattle at the time and freelancing for NPR. This new project thing would be about the global economy, would help listeners understand complex economic concepts and would be really fun. Honestly, I had no idea what he was picturing.

I started in radio volunteering as a host and news writer at a community station outside Seattle.
Oh right, volunteering and freelancing while her dad lives on Martha's Vineyard. Yup, what vital "skills" does she have? Or is it some other thing which got her a job?

The "hacker" news thread where I'm sure this comes from starts off with an anecdote:
I know I've mentioned this on here before but it's relevant: my dad hung sheetrock for living. He stopped going to school after 6th grade. There was no way he could have made to age 64 -- people thought he was crazy to be doing it until age 53 -- which is when he died, almost 10 years ago. From a combination of issues related to what his work did to his body.
and then an epic pile-on where people dispute that hanging sheetrock killed this guy's dad... oh and sorry for your loss, dude.

So, that's where politics in this country is going. Young princes and princesses who have floated effortlessly upward and can' t even begin to imagine what living on the ground is like.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:59 AM on March 25, 2013 [29 favorites]


"Young princes and princesses who have floated effortlessly upward and can' t even begin to imagine what living on the ground is like."

And too often go on to fine careers making the laws that the rest of us have to live with. Funny how that works out.
posted by metagnathous at 5:32 AM on March 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Simply requiring wealthy people to pay the same Social Security taxes as everyone else fixes any deficits in the trust fund out to 2085

Uh, they do, up until $113,700 of gross income in 2013. I've personally chipped in about $50K to SSI over the last four years. SSI has been my, oh, fourth or third greatest annual expense over the last 6 years, (fourth when I was buying a car, third otherwise,) after housing and Federal tax.

And, btw, I pay it willingly and gladly.

See, the reason for this deal was to make the wealthy play along. They don't need SSI. Not one bit. They have money already, and they objection to paying for a defined benefit plan they didn't need, period, end stop. Those advocating for the poor, however, weren't willing to build a defined benefit plan that would hand millions to the rich, which is what happens when you tax everyone on every dollar and use the pay-in to calculate the pay out.

So, the deal was made. Everyone pays, until the cap. Everyone, including the wealthy, gets paid out, based on what they paid in, and since the paying is capped, the payout is capped as well.
If you're wealthy, you get a nice bonus check for all those years paying in. Unless you die before payout, in which case, thanks! If your poor, you get something, far more than you saved, for the rest of your natural life.

And remember -- the guy making $150K and the guy making $1M pay the same amount into the plan. They also, however, take the same amount out. It's not built to let rich people build up a huge handout, which is what would happen with unlimited tax and equivalent payout. They have reserve capital, they have ways to do that themselves -- far better ways, actually, if they're smart.

You can just demand more tax out of the rich. This is why they fund the Tea Party. If you get them into a deal, they play along, and that's exactly how SSI happened. They knew that they would pay, but only pay X, and they knew that they could get that back if they lived long enough. And, of course, they were far more likely to do so.

You can argue that the limit needs to be adjusted. I disagree, actually, because you're fixing a problem by straight taxation that can be fixed in a better way. Get unemployment back down to 5%, and watch SSI fix itself. If, in fact, the problem with SSI probably doesn't exist. Every chart I've seen assumed something silly like 1.2% annual GDP growth. Amusingly enough, they'll be put next to charts showing how private retirement is so much better, charts assuming 3.5% annual GDP growth. So, whenever you see that, ask what the basis growth is on those charts, and if they are not identical, then you are being lied to, and be sure to tell the person to their face that they are lying to you.

Because people telling you that SSI is in trouble are lying to you, and are doing so to destroy the program, when the correct answer is to restore the third-rail-of-politicis status, and if, and *only if*, the trust fund shrinks to 10% of what it is now, start paying more into it. Because even the worst case dips have a very short interval where we can't pay 100% of benefits, and then we climb right back out and end up positive again. So, let's fix that problem if, and when, it occurs -- given that it occurs in the 2030-2040 timeframe.

I tink we have far worse problems we need to address right now than SSI, and wasting political capital on it, other than to defend it is stupid. (Yes, Mr. President, I am talking to you.)
posted by eriko at 5:56 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


See, the reason for this deal was to make the wealthy play along. They don't need SSI. Not one bit.

I know this isn't the thrust of your comment, but this is false. I've known a few wealthy people who were let go (or couldn't find work) after their 50s, mismanaged their finances, and then relied on SSI later in life. They didn't get back as much as they put in -- but it was still a better return than a lot of their investments. It'd be nice to say rich people know what they're doing and always save appropriately for retirement, but that's just not the case.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:01 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah what I don't get is that in order to work in a grocery store I have to answer a bunch of questions about my job performance capacity. "Are you organized? Can you remember things? Do you forget things? Are you accurate with numbers?"

If I answer those questions honestly I will not get the job. I tend to make cash registers off by at least 2-10 dollars and am not good at working machines in general.

I'm not sure what work I'm supposed to be doing. Employers are allowed to say "Are you disabled in a way that will impaired your work?" as long as they don't ask using the word "disability". And if you are too low functioning they don't hire you.

So what I mean is, the workplace seems more stringent about weeding out low performers. It wasn't like this 15 years ago when I worked food service all you had to do was show up and you could get the job. I was never fired despite knowing I probably made more errors than the average person. In fact because I had a good attitude and am good with costumers service I've always had good relations with bosses despite also getting the feedback that, well I make a lot of errors.

What's more, most people can't work physically demanding jobs through their 90's. I mean come on, if you're working food service or some other gruelling job then ifyou get shingles or firbro or any other pain related disorder under the sun you're whole career IS fucked. I can't work on my feet all day or I start getting dizzy and vomitting and getting fevers. No I don't know what's wrong either but I guess thankfully since I can't see a doctor I can't get disability since I don't have proof of something wrong.

Something I find ironic though, is that while I am too disabled for low wage work the sitting jobs that my mother and grandmother work would work for my disabilities just fine (they too have many health problems that are exacerbated by stress and physical activity).

My grandmother mentioned she has never been able to get to a job on time regularly and neither has my mother. My grandmother had a flexible schedule and could stay at work late if she came in late. My mother has flex time too. They are both high functioning mentally different people (spacey forgetful sickly) but once you get a chance to prove what your higher level skills are people will forgive your flaws with basic functioning.

It's like the lower you are on the totum the less you're allowed to have minor disabilities with work performance and a small difficulty suddenly means you are considered UNFIT for being a shit worker with no benefits and shit pay.
posted by xarnop at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


But meanwhile while that's how the employers define you, good fucking luck convincing people offering disability benefits the employers see you that way!
posted by xarnop at 6:09 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've personally chipped in about $50K to SSI over the last four years. SSI has been my, oh, fourth or third greatest annual expense over the last 6 years, (fourth when I was buying a car, third otherwise,) after housing and Federal tax.

No, your FICA taxes do not contribute to the SSI program. Your FICA taxes are paid into the Old Age and Suvivors Insurance and Disability Insurance trust funds and cover the Social Security programs. SSI is a welfare program funded by the General Fund (income taxes, excise taxes, etc.).
posted by weebil at 6:19 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not sure why the ad hominem is relevant here, ennui.bz: most people who work in media, particularly high-prestige media like NPR, interned after getting a degree from a high-ranked college. That's true across the political spectrum (google "Pacifica radio intern" and you get tons of CVs from people touting theirs, for example). We didn't bring up Ira Glass's background (Degree in semiotics from Brown, son of a famous therapist and an accountant, started his radio career as an unpaid intern) in the Harper High thread...

I think the piece makes it absolutely clear that (as others have pointed out) Jaffe-Walt is not trying to present people on disability as liars: she's trying to make a case that disability is becoming a default alternative to welfare as the safety net falls apart, with some potentially bad consequences. She may not do that very well, but she's hardly part of an evil conspiracy here. Pointing out her background in such detail makes it sound like you think she's a sleeper agent of some sort, rather than someone who may not have made her intended point as forcefully as we might hope.

That said, one part of this story that struck me was her interview with Jahleel Duroc. She seems to have taken his less-than-coherent responses to her questions (repeating his whole name, listing all of the classes at school as "favorites") as proof of his enthusiasm and energy, rather than evidence of a fairly severe intellectual impairment. Maybe she interviewed an expert who said he could improve in school and didn't use it? As it is, the piece makes it sound like she's just guessing, based on zero expertise, her affection for Jahleel, and a lack of understanding that "learning disabled" sometimes doesn't just mean "dyslexic". To follow that by using his family as an example of bad incentives to parents of kids on disability seems like really sloppy (not conspiratorial!) reporting, and almost begs to be taken the wrong way.
posted by Wylla at 6:29 AM on March 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


I can't find the links now, but mefi's own The Last Psychiatrist wrote a lot on his blog about disability becoming welfare.
posted by gertzedek at 6:34 AM on March 25, 2013


The Planet Money partnership was the thing that really helped me kick the This American Life habit. Aside from those two or three well-received shows on the financial crisis, basically everything the Planet Money team produces is generic neoliberal propaganda. I find they've made TAL much worse.
posted by gerryblog at 6:43 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Gerryblog - I find that the every time you send a liberal to take a look at the way financial markets really work, they stray from 19th century leftist dogma, which is a good thing. Notice that being pro-market and being pro-business are two completely distinct things.
posted by gertzedek at 7:02 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Uh, they do, up until $113,700 of gross income in 2013. I've personally chipped in about $50K to SSI over the last four years. SSI has been my, oh, fourth or third greatest annual expense over the last 6 years, (fourth when I was buying a car, third otherwise,) after housing and Federal tax.

I'm pretty sure the point was that maybe they should contribute on income above $113,700. As it stands, the system is obviously regressive. I don't know offhand why the decision was made to cap contributions, so I don't know if it was a good decision or not, but it's pretty silly to pretend you're paying the same percentage of your income into Social Security as I am, as that's not the case (if I understood the implications of your comment correctly).
posted by hoyland at 7:05 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


19th century leftist dogma

The Wealth of Nations was actually published in 177... Oh, you were talking about me.
posted by gerryblog at 7:25 AM on March 25, 2013


I am not sure why the ad hominem is relevant here, ennui.bz: most people who work in media, particularly high-prestige media like NPR, interned after getting a degree from a high-ranked college.

Just like most people who live in Hale County, AL are gutting catfish or unemployed: why is that? It would make more sense if she were a "sleeper agent" of some kind instead of the well-bred scion of liberal/progressive parents.

My point is that, when she says that the US suffers from a mismatch between skills people have and jobs (as if everyone could be a reporter at NPR or web designer...) she is most certainly not counting herself among those people who, when it comes down to it, don't have very many useful skills at all. Can she gut catfish, run an industrial saw, hang sheet-rock?

I think the piece makes it absolutely clear that (as others have pointed out) Jaffe-Walt is not trying to present people on disability as liars: she's trying to make a case that disability is becoming a default alternative to welfare as the safety net falls apart, with some potentially bad consequences.

If those people are claiming disability when they aren't, they are liars, yes? You got her point exactly, except that the facts don't match up. It's hard to get on SSI, and (to go back to the saw mill example) the people who do get on SSI, get on, for the most part, because they have actual medical problems. The guy with a "heart attack" had bypass surgery... and the thing is, he would have worked, even it killed him. So, she gets to truly say people are claiming SSI because they are unemployed even if it gives a false impression of the situation.

And then sit back and regurgitate right-wing talking points about work and the economy and cash her pay check.

It should be personal.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


either tons of people on disability are liars and cheats, or the fact that so many people are on disability now is indicative of a greater failure of the American social safety net and the economy.

Same thing is happening with food stamps. Right wingers are complaining loudly about how many moochers are on food stamps, but the fact that the numbers are increasing means there is a problem. The problem is we are trying to paper over the rot at the core of American-style capitalism.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:40 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Joffe-Walt must know it too
Joffe-Walt thinks it's not "clear"
Joffe-Walt talks through her personal epiphany


I would bet I'm not the only person who keeps thinking things like "Joffe-Walt fills in my fibers and I grow turgid. Violent action ensues" or "Joffe-Walt is the hot light in the darkness."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Joffe-Walt is a like a storm raging inside you.
posted by hellojed at 7:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


ROU Joffe-Walt Talks Through Her Personal Epiphany
posted by ennui.bz at 7:56 AM on March 25, 2013


Thanks to eriko for the excellent summation (except for the minor mixup concerning SSI and FICA).

The elephant in the room here is *everyone* MUST pay into this specific fund that serves a specific purpose. Thus, any individual who meets the criteria is entitled to receive it. This is what separates SSDI from many other so-called entitlement programs.

No one who receives SSDI is a deadbeat (as opposed to fraudulent claims) as every single person who gets through the initial process had worked at a job for a specified period and had already paid in their fair share. SSI (no D) is a different story altogether.

Equating SSDI to welfare is a false comparison. More accurate is calling it long-term disability insurance administered by the federal government.
posted by Ardiril at 8:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find that the every time you send a liberal to take a look at the way financial markets really work, they

Hey, I'm right over here and can hear everything you're saying.
posted by liketitanic at 8:11 AM on March 25, 2013


My single mother was on SSDI from the time I was 12. If it wasn't for the help of friends and family bending several rules and laws we probably would have been homeless, it was still horrid and depressing for the both of us.
posted by Mick at 8:16 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joffe-Walt is the power of life... hot warmth in the cold Void.
It flows through all things, binding them together, making them one.
You are Non-Joffe-Walt, you cannot understand.

You have taken something from us which we value... which is important to Joffe-Walt.

We do not interpret the will of Joffe-Walt.
Only the source is so empowered.
Until instructed otherwise, Joffe-Walt requires that we remain here.

Joffe-Walt is All
but you are not a part of Joffe-Walt
therefore you must cease existence.
We shall make you cease to exist, for Joffe-Walt.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then sit back and regurgitate right-wing talking points about work and the economy and cash her pay check.

It should be personal.


Well, you may very well think so, but the overt ad hominem on display does tend to have the side effect of people not taking your arguments seriously (not that I'm implying that you had a cogent argument in there somewhere).
posted by amorphatist at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"My point is that, when she says that the US suffers from a mismatch between skills people have and jobs (as if everyone could be a reporter at NPR or web designer...) she is most certainly not counting herself among those people who, when it comes down to it, don't have very many useful skills at all. Can she gut catfish, run an industrial saw, hang sheet-rock?"

I don't know what ennui.bz is saying in the rest of the paragraph but this is perfectly coherent to my standards and relevant.

The jobs we are asking people to do often don't match their skill sets and can be physically and psychologically damaging to human health. NOT EVERYONE CAN DO JUST ANY TYPE OF JOB. Human skill sets are not that flexible and building up the physical and emotional strength to withstand different kinds of working conditions can take a long time or be impossible for people with already poor health to start.
posted by xarnop at 8:46 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can she gut catfish, run an industrial saw, hang sheet-rock?"

I don't know what ennui.bz is saying in the rest of the paragraph but this is perfectly coherent to my standards and relevant. [...] NOT EVERYONE CAN DO JUST ANY TYPE OF JOB. Human skill sets are not that flexible


I have no reason to believe that the author wouldn't be able to gut catfish, run an industrial saw, or hang sheet-rock, do you? Which makes the whole thing incoherent by my book, and anyway, why is the ad hominem even slightly acceptable?
posted by amorphatist at 8:54 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


the well-bred scion of liberal/progressive parents.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:37 AM on 3/25


Disgusting
posted by rosswald at 9:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The argument could have been made better. Removing the red herring you're annoyed over, my point is- physically demanding jobs can physically damage some (most) people's bodies and those who can withstand the conditions usually have already built up physical capacity to withstand the conditions.

When I last was working food service the place I was working for had huge turnover, people would get on the job and within days be sobbing. People were getting SICK. Really really sick. I kept getting sick and they said they had other people with compromised immune systems that had to leave because they kept getting sick.

Workplace hazards affect different people differently but they can really destroy health when the person is not in a good place to withstand them.

I'm totally cool with you not liking the way the comment you dislike was stated, but I'm not sure whether you're arguing based on disliking the wording or based on disliking the concept that certain types of work are very hard on many people's health for various reasons- and that many people simply don't have the capacity to do many of the jobs being offered them.
posted by xarnop at 9:01 AM on March 25, 2013


xarnop, I have no disagreement with what you just said, and would like to hear more about the food service place where people were getting sick... was this a case where the OHSA were involved, or what exactly was going on there? That sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

But the ad hominem nonsense from the other commenter will just turn this thread into a shitshow, when this topic has got plenty of good discussion in it.
posted by amorphatist at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2013


a stew of right-wing talking points about class and economics

You didn't actually listen to the episode, I gather.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:12 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's worth pointing out that Joffe-Walt is a business reporter -- albeit one fairly new to the subject, as described above -- and not a sociologist, statistician, or historian. *shrug*

Her show, Planet Money, mostly does pieces just under 20 minutes long, and with a personal angle so as to humanize the subject matter. Shorter items appear on NPR news broadcasts, and every so often one will get stretched out and dished to This American Life (as with this piece).

That personal angle sometimes reveals things about the reporter that may or may not also be discussed. I often hear small prejudices revealed by the reporters, and it interests me whether or not they are called out and faced.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:13 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well since no one had insurance no one could really see doctors. Who knows what was going on. Nobody in that pay bracket will be hiring a lawyer any time soon.
posted by xarnop at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would suggest it was the huge wafts of nasty smoke coming out of the oven and chicken friers though personally. Exposures to cleaning agents and chemicals are other hazards that can lead to and exacerbate disease in health sensitive people. Also, poor people get sick and can't see doctors and can't afford to miss work (And aren't allowed to miss work) so low wage jobs are themselves probably breeding grounds of diseases.

Also, misery and being in workplace hell, overworked and barely able to live, is probably not so good for immunity or human health to begin with.
posted by xarnop at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well since no one had insurance no one could really see doctors. Who knows what was going on. Nobody in that pay bracket will be hiring a lawyer any time soon.

Fair enough, but a phone call or a letter to the OHSA is basically free, and even though you aren't working there anymore, it's worth doing for the sake of the current or future employees of that place. It sounds like some serious violations must be occurring there for employees to regularly be getting "really really sick".
posted by amorphatist at 9:20 AM on March 25, 2013


I would suggest it was the huge wafts of nasty smoke coming out of the oven and chicken friers though personally.

Restaurants are pulled on ventilation issues all the time. Call OSHA.
posted by amorphatist at 9:22 AM on March 25, 2013


Fifty or forty years ago a lot of the people that are currently on disability payments probably would have been finacially supported by parents, spouses or children. Neither side would have had a lot of extra money, but they would have made do and stretched it out. This was the time of a man's wage being a family wage; for all that women are paid a little bit more then they used to, most of that "gain" was in the stagnation of men's wages. Now almost everyone is living so close to the bone, with extra medical expenses/insurance payments, it just isn't possible to support a non-contributory (financially) member of your family. And if your family of origin can't - or won't - help you out financially, then the small monthly payment are the only thing keeping body and soul together.
posted by saucysault at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, whatever, if only OSHA wasn't gutted by Bush the Second and this administration.
posted by lineofsight at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had an argument with someone about this article on Facebook. My main beef is that the Planet Money reporter misses the point - since there are no jobs for these folks besides working at Walmart or a similar service industry job that requires them to be on their feet all day, these folks are effectively disabled. The unsympathetic judge can easily manage his high blood pressure while performing his job.

The bigger issue is the hollowing out and slow collapse of the American economy. There are either professional-class jobs, or highly technical jobs, or jobs working at Whole Foods. And that's it.

On top of that, although the article didn't right out and say it (or maybe it did, I forget), the majority of these folks are either black or come from the very bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder.

There's no political will to transform education (as I recall, perplexingly the article talked about the need to stay in school to get better jobs) for these people.

The powers that be would prefer to see these folks starve, die, fuck off, get incarcerated and manufacture cheap products that can compete with China, whatever.

So, why not claim disability.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:32 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I had an argument with someone about this article on Facebook. My main beef is that the Planet Money reporter misses the point - since there are no jobs for these folks besides working at Walmart or a similar service industry job that requires them to be on their feet all day, these folks are effectively disabled. The unsympathetic judge can easily manage his high blood pressure while performing his job.

She didn't miss this point at all. If you listen to her on TAL, she emphasizes this precise point.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:39 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I had an argument with someone about this article on Facebook. My main beef is that the Planet Money reporter misses the point - since there are no jobs for these folks besides working at Walmart or a similar service industry job that requires them to be on their feet all day, these folks are effectively disabled. The unsympathetic judge can easily manage his high blood pressure while performing his job.

I think this is pretty much one of the key points the reporter was trying to make overall ( I listened to the TAL version ) . Unfortunately it got muddied by the dramaedutainmentish and somewhat condescending "storytelling craft" of the piece. I don't think the reporter agrees with the moron judge but she's using his voice to help set up the "drama " of discovery and engagement with the story she's guiding the listener through.
posted by Bwithh at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, okay. I just saw red and, blinded, started banging on the keyboard.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:46 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I would be curious to see some statistics on how generational poverty has increased in the last 20-30 years and whether that has impacted the increase in the disabled population. There is very definitely a culture amongst some people that one should apply for every and any benefits that one could potentially receive. It makes sense to me that people who know a lot of others on disability (e.g. the residents in Hale County) might be more aware of the process of applying for benefits. It doesn't mean they are not actually disabled, just that they see SSDI as an option whereas some others may not. The article directly says that people are encouraged to seek it. It would seriously have never occurred to me before this article to see high blood pressure as a disability.

I grew up middle class and I only know two people on disability: one who had a specific work-related accident, and one who has had longstanding health issues with lots of hospitalizations. I had some serious health problems as a kid and the only person who suggested SSDI was someone who grew up poor and knew a lot of people who had government assistance. I did not pursue it because I did well in school and I'm able to work, but this person absolutely could not understand why I wouldn't take advantage of it.
posted by desjardins at 11:09 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shorn of the loaded language and some of the other rhetorical freight, Joffe-Watt's piece has some interesting points to think about. This NBER report summarizes a substantial part of the dilemma even more cogently, however:

Adding to the economic cost of the SSDI application process is its substantial duration. In recent years, approximately 35 percent of SSDI applicants have been awarded benefits at the first stage of applications. The average time to a decision in this stage of the process is 4.3 months. More than half of the 65 percent of applicants rejected at this stage appeal their decision. This appeal leads to a reconsideration, which takes five months on average. This lengthy reconsideration process is mostly pro forma, however. The SSA awards only 10 percent of appeals at this stage. The vast majority of applicants who are rejected at the reconsideration stage appeal their rejection. They ultimately appear before an administrative law judge (ALJ) who adjudicates their claim. The average wait time from the initial application to an ALJ decision is two years and three months. Notably, ALJs overturn SSA’s initial rejections in approximately 75 percent of cases that reach them. Many of those rejected at the ALJ stage will appeal again, first to Social Security’s Appeals Council and ultimately to the federal courts, with average overall processing times of 35 months and 57 months, respectively. During the applications and appeals process, claimants receive no income support, workplace accommodations, or medical benefits from the SSDI program. But they face strong incentives against participating in the labor force—even on a trial basis—since evidence of gainful employment would disqualify their claim. Moreover, recent work finds that claimants who experience longer administrative delays during the SSDI application process are less likely to return to work after the process is complete—even if they are denied benefits. (Emphasis mine)
posted by blucevalo at 11:34 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I just saw red and, blinded, started banging on the keyboard.
posted by liketitanic at 11:37 AM on March 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


Unfortunately it got muddied by the dramaedutainmentish and somewhat condescending "storytelling craft" of the piece. I don't think the reporter agrees with the moron judge but she's using his voice to help set up the "drama " of discovery and engagement with the story she's guiding the listener through.

There's nothing muddy about the piece:

She believes Reagan's quip about "welfare queens" is about not wanting to be a chump:
In the '80s, Ronald Reagan argued that a robust economy would do more to eliminate poverty than any federal program. When Reagan used the term "welfare queen," it was clear where he stood. He didn't want to be a chump.
She (or history, I guess) believes that Clinton's plan to "end welfare as we know it" would have been great success, if all those people hadn't been shifted over to SSDI:
History has judged Clinton's welfare reform a big success.... But when you include disability in the story of welfare reform, the picture looks more ambiguous.
She believes problems in unemployment come from not having skills, or being falsely labelled as disabled:
Somewhere around 30 years ago, the economy started changing in some fundamental ways. There are now millions of Americans who do not have the skills or education to make it in this country.
She believes that we can't afford SSDI (because spending general funds on disability is unsustainable, why?):
The two big disability programs, including health care for disabled workers, cost some $260 billion a year.
People at the Social Security Administration, which runs the federal disability programs, say we cannot afford this.. The reserves in the disability insurance program are on track to run out in 2016, Steve Goss, the chief actuary at Social Security, told me. Goss is confident that Congress will act to keep disability payments flowing, probably by taking money from the Social Security retirement fund.
All of this probably puts her politically somewhere to the right of Eisenhower. And then on top of it, you can' thelp but get the impression, even though she never says some explicitly, that the growth in disability payments is because of reclassifying able bodied workers as disabled... which just isn't true.

I have no reason to believe that the author wouldn't be able to gut catfish, run an industrial saw, or hang sheet-rock, do you? Which makes the whole thing incoherent by my book, and anyway, why is the ad hominem even slightly acceptable?

Try gutting catfish all day without inflicting a deep tissue wound on yourself, no one should be in a saw mill except robots, (there's a reason why all those jobs got exported overseas), and it would take her a month to do the work an experienced crew could get done in a day ( plus the only way to deal with hanging sheet rock all day is to drink hard.) But, for a college educated person working for a business radio program, she admits she doesn't actually know anything about finance or business: in a skills based economy what exactly were her skills that got her that job?

Why does someone who would otherwise appear to be politically liberal espouse a bunch of right-wing bullshit?
posted by ennui.bz at 11:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


She believes
She believes
She believes


[citation needed]

Why does someone who would otherwise appear to be politically liberal espouse a bunch of right-wing bullshit?

You're reading things into the piece that aren't actually there. Again, you should actually hear the entire piece before dismissing it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:02 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


" It's the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net."

When a piece starts itself off with this inflammatory language I find it hard to give the author the benefit of the doubt here. Good intentions are good, and all, and I'm sure she has them, but she's basically making some very serious claims about how burdensome providing a safety net to people in need is.

While I too want reform and think we could do this much better, making claims of disability benefit abuse and how too much is being spent on a safety net that is "uneeded" is pretty conservative territory.

I would LOVE... LOVE if we would help people find and cultivate their skills, and HELP them get into good jobs instead of creating the most brutal and compassionless workplace we can possibly create where every person is in it for themselves and we're all too happy to weed out the low performer whenever possible instead of working WITH human beings to help them perform their best and accommodate the reality that life and health and emotional well being can be a messy thing.

Most people can do SOME things, the problem is we don't have the kind of workforce that is interested in hiring people to do SOME things. We have a workforce that wants a person who is excellent at producing in an economical fashion and anyone who doesn't make the cut can fuck off. Which is cool but as long as that's the case then YES these people are effectively disabled-- i.e. considered too low functioning for employers needs.
posted by xarnop at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


But going on disability means you will not work, you will not get a raise, you will not get whatever meaning people get from work. Going on disability means, assuming you rely only on those disability payments, you will be poor for the rest of your life. That's the deal. And it's a deal 14 million Americans have signed up for.

It's wrong for other reasons too, Danila (if they weren't already mentioned). You can work and/or go to school while on SSDI.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2013


Is it weird that I have no problem with people taking advantage of disability services? Honestly, the economy is shit and so is the job market. Really doesn't matter to me, I'd prefer my tax dollars go to support people rather than buying 1/60th of a stealth bomber or whatever.
posted by hellojed at 12:30 PM on March 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Is it weird that I have no problem with people taking advantage of disability services?

No way is it weird. With wealth distribution so astronomically skewed in this country, it would be "weird" if we were to continue to bash on the poor.

Compare this to the bailout and perpetual corporate welfare (and defense as you mentioned), and if you don't get extremely angry, you're not doing it right.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:36 PM on March 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, the reality is when people work in wage labor they often are subjected to seriously health damaging conditions- physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

As we learn more about epigenetics and pregnancy, it's turning up that exposures to toxins and to high stress environments (that includes housing and food instability due to low pay)... makes it harder on fetal development and child development in households with more crisis, problems, and health issues and less money to pay for the damages.

People who grow up with this kind of poverty and feel like society owes them? Hell yeah society does owe them. For using up the labor of the desperately poor at the expense of their health and well being and the welfare of their families so that the middle and upper classes can have the luxuries they enjoy.

Of course, now that we used up our own poor, we've moved on to other countries and will use them up until they figure out how to stand up to the greed of people who find nothing wrong with the luxury of their society being built on the suffering of "lesser" people.
posted by xarnop at 12:38 PM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is it weird that I have no problem with people taking advantage of disability services?

But they aren't taking advantage of (ie, "abusing") disability services. For the kind of work they are qualified to do and that is available where they live, they are disabled.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:21 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


eriko: And remember -- the guy making $150K and the guy making $1M pay the same amount into the plan.

Yes, that's exactly the problem I was talking about. The guy making $1M or the Mitt Romney class equity lord or the David Koch class equity lord get to completely avoid paying Social Security tax on the vast majority of their income, work every trick in the book to ensure that they underpay their other taxes - in 2009, six of the top 400 income earners in the U.S., being people who make more than about a quarter billion dollars a year, paid no income taxes whatsoever - then use that savings to fund a political machine that crows "Debt and entitlements are destrooooying this country!!!" and inspires things like Romney's 47% comment.

They knew that they would pay, but only pay X, and they knew that they could get that back if they lived long enough.

Did you read the thing I linked to from the Social Security Trustees? (The entire ssa.gov domain isn't loading for me right now but I'm still seeing it in Google hits so that's probably just temporary) That solvency plan still involves even the wealthiest people getting credited for their full contribution.

If you're the $150K guy making just over the cap rather than one of these guys, I'm really sorry that you'll have to pay marginally more Social Security tax (which you curiously refer to as an "expense" despite also emphasizing in your argument that you get the money back) into a suboptimal investment and suffer from lost time-value of money, but if as you yourself say the program is worth saving it's also worth saving by taking the in-no-way-unreasonable position that maybe everybody should invest in the security of society in equal proportion.

If anyone has spread all these lies about solvency issues around as you say, and evidently in your opinion induced the Social Security Trustees themselves to lie about it every year in their annual report, then the ones who arranged that are going to be the Mitt Romneys and David Kochs. I would actually find it quite amusing if the result of that campaign were that they had to suffer this terrible painful calamity of having to support Social Security in the same proportion that everyone else does.

They aren't going to stop trying to screw the rest of us in every way they can come up with, so even if as you claim it's unnecessary to fix those particular numbers out to 2085 I can hardly think it's a bad thing to have an extra margin of error. If as you seemed to imply the reimbursement rate for people in the upper echelons is problematic, and the figures indicating that we're rapidly approaching insolvency are completely fake as you say, well then we'll be able to afford adjusting that reimbursement rate to make it more appealing - after we can get to the point where we're all contributing at the same rate. It would be quite a nice state of affairs to have those guys clamoring for an increase in SS benefits for once.
posted by XMLicious at 1:32 PM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


xarnop: "We have a workforce that wants a person who is excellent at producing in an economical fashion and anyone who doesn't make the cut can fuck off."

Well yeah, why split a job that requires two able bodied people into one job that can be done by a disabled person and another that can be done by an able bodied person. That reduces the flexibility of the workforce donchaknow? (I'm rolling my eyes just typing this shit)

XMLicious: "in 2009, six of the top 400 income earners in the U.S., being people who make more than about a quarter billion dollars a year, paid no income taxes whatsoever"

Keep in mind that's the top 400 earners/families who bother to tell the IRS they made money. There are many that make "no income," yet somehow constantly increase the size of their fortune despite never having appreciable income. Layer the trusts just so and this all becomes legal.
posted by wierdo at 2:14 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the kind of work they are qualified to do and that is available where they live, they are disabled.

There's already a word for this, it is "unemployed". How can we even begin to address this issue if one refuses to even acknowledge that it exists? There's a lot of discussion to be had on this topic, universal healthcare, training programs, and so on. But this is silly. I apologize if I'm mischaracterizing your position, but this is how it reads to me: Apparently, if the catfish plant closes, and Bob can't find work in his locale, he is now "disabled". But let's say that a new catfish plant opens, and they're hiring for roles that Bob would be able to do, is he no longer disabled? Or what if the work is seasonal, is Bob "disabled" only in the winter, and is magically un-disabled in the summer time? Or if Bob's family moved to the next state over that has a catfish plant that's hiring, he's now un-disabled again? And when did he become un-disabled, when he crossed the state line?

Nonsense, utter nonsense. The word is "unemployed".
posted by amorphatist at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2013


Well giving the example you're focusing on, of course "unemployed" makes more sense but considering unemployment is not currently a life long paid position, and there are no catfish plants opening up- if you decide to reverse this state of affairs by simply revoking his benefits because PRINCIPLES! FACTS! Have you made things better?

But I'm not specifically talking about Bob. I'm talking about Billy who was working in the office of the catfish plant and when it closed he's left with only the knowledge of an ancient computer system and no physical skills or ability to stand on his feet and a bunch of referrals to jobs that involve standing for long periods of time or office jobs that require he already have three years experience with (specific software for our office xy and z). Or jobs that involves heavy duty manual labor and expect physical capacity for high output and quick learning.

So essentially for the jobs available, yes he has physical or mental limitations impairing his ability to do the job. That is essentially how we define disability.

I agree with you, it's a stupid definition. When the school system labels me disabled instead of designing a program that matches my learning needs, I am equally baffled.

Except the system doesn't like to conform to individuals. It likes to maintain a status quo of efficiency and real human beings injured in the process are necessary collateral damage. The path of least resistance will win. Unless people stand up and specifically decide that human beings actually matter more than upholding a stupid system.
posted by xarnop at 3:04 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll put it another way Billy has been physically "disabled" the whole time. In fact you could say Bob has been cognitively disabled this whole time. He's a slow learner, it takes him years to master a trade and he's not good with work outside of specific manual labor.

But because both had found positions where they were allowed to be themselves and use the skills they had for the benefit of others their disabilities were not necessary to define. This actually defines a LOT of people who are employed currently if their field went out of existence.

Most people have limitations in functioning if you measure out strengths and weaknesses.

People aren't meant to be standardized the way the school system and workforce is attempting to standardize and label people. It's grotesque. I'm in favor of changing it but not by denying aid to people in need when the system is totally fucked up as it is.
posted by xarnop at 3:12 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


if you decide to reverse this state of affairs by simply revoking his benefits because PRINCIPLES! FACTS! Have you made things better?

Yes, Bob is in a tough position, and I don't want to make things worse for him. If I were able to dictate the system, there'd be universal healthcare, free for low/no income people, which I think would remove a lot of the incentive to go on disability. And there'd be a meaningful long-term unemployment system, training, education etc (pipe dream, right?) But you wouldn't go on "disability" unless you were disabled to the degree that you would be unable to do any open job whatsoever, in any locale. And pretending that Bob is "disabled" instead of "long-term unemployed" is basically giving up on him ever holding a job again. Not to mention the fact that it's dishonest, and, by my book, essentially fraud. Yes, if I were in his shoes, perhaps I would go on disability too, partly out of necessity, partly as a FU to the real thieves higher up the food chain. But I would know that I was gaming the system, *I* would feel shitty about it, and I'm very glad I've not had to face that choice. I'm not judging everybody who's been forced to make that choice. But how can we address this issue if we pretend that Bob's "disability" is of the same nature as say, Alice, whose spine was crushed, or who has severe schizophrenia or so on? Unlike Alice, Bob could (and should) be moved back into the workforce. We need to be able to distinguish between the two cases (and the grey in between).
posted by amorphatist at 3:29 PM on March 25, 2013


I apologize if I'm mischaracterizing your position, but this is how it reads to me: Apparently, if the catfish plant closes, and Bob can't find work in his locale, he is now "disabled". But let's say that a new catfish plant opens, and they're hiring for roles that Bob would be able to do, is he no longer disabled?

Ah, sorry, the comment of mine you quoted should be read with my previous couple of comments in this thread. I think you will find that we agree.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you will find that we agree.

Thank god, I wasn't looking forward to getting into a fight with somebody with "Ryu" in his name...
posted by amorphatist at 3:57 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


But, for a college educated person working for a business radio program, she admits she doesn't actually know anything about finance or business: in a skills based economy what exactly were her skills that got her that job?

Why are you insisting on discussing the author?
posted by gertzedek at 4:39 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Better to commit fraud or starve to death? Which is more ethical?

I'd say letting a person die over a stupid fucking principle that disregards human welfare is morally wrong.

I think when the author is trying to expose others for being morally inferior and a burden on society, her relative worth is worth taking about. Why is it important to her that we call these people out?

I think that people who haven't lived with a disability that makes it extremely hard to do well in work or school tend to get really judgy about what is or isn't disability and I think it's wrong. People who are curled in a ball sobbing in fucking pain every day do not need more poverty and more shaming and more being defined as burdens who don't deserve to live.

Maybe if the journalist in question had talked about how excruciating or job interfering her pain is, it might help explain why she sounds so merciless about a woman is crying daily from the pain. I've dealt with gall bladder infection (went on for like a year since, yay no insurance! Wait til I'm dying to get medical care!), labored two children into the world, shingles, rape, abuse, back pain, fibro, virus and bacterial infections.. I'm sick all the fucking time and my body hurts on a regular basis. I'm allergic to everything, everything hurts. The author wants to play whose pain matters- her life can be part of this discussion.

I'm not on disability, and frankly I WOULD RATHER WORK. But this piece was cruel and makes it even harder for people with disabilities who will now face even more scrutiny.
posted by xarnop at 5:28 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think when the author is trying to expose others for being morally inferior and a burden on society

I didn't read it that way at all. She sounded, to me, more incredulous than anything else. Like a nice middle-class person who is honestly shocked that people actually live like this and that she's not so much blaming them for the situation but amazed that the situation exists at all.

She doesn't come off merciless to me. Matter-of-fact maybe at worst. I read it as her trying not to editorialize.
posted by GuyZero at 5:48 PM on March 25, 2013


I guess as a person who lives with a lot of pain and can't get through school or earn a living wage-- I saw it as rather merciless in how she just says "I have back pain, why don't I get disability?" unless she's really crying every day and can't stand which it doesn't sound like is the case.
posted by xarnop at 6:10 PM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


amporphatist: the word isn't "unemployed". It's "disabled". The piece told the story of a man who'd had a heart attack who went on disability because his job had also vanished when the plant closed, but when his dad had a heart attack, Dad went back to work at the plant. Well, we don't know anything about the severity of Dad's cardiovascular disease versus Son's, or Dad and Son's work activities.

This is what happens with potentially disabling circumstances. SSA-approved doctor takes a history and performs a physical examination of Worker, evaluates abilities and where appropriate, makes diagnoses. If the diagnosis is on the Big Bad List, Worker is automatically disabled. If not, he goes through a process matching what's left of his functional abilities against requirements of various work. The state Disability Determination Services agency evaluates whether he is able to do the work he did before he was disabled; if not, then he is evaluated to establish whether there is other work he could do. If there is no such work, and he's found eligible, he may be able to receive disability benefits. If Worker was employed long enough and paid into the Social Security Disability Insurance system, then his state may judge that he is eligible to claim against that insurance program. Otherwise, if he's really poor, then he may qualify for Supplemental Security Income.

What is really different here is that 1. the population structure of the United States is skewed towards older age groups, because there were a lot of babies born after WWII, a greater proportion of them survived childhood than ever before, and people in the US are surviving to greater ages than ever before and 2. wealth gaps - the people making up the poorest proportions of our economy have been losing ground since the 1980s, and many of them are formerly productive workers who have been disabled, especially by disorders of ageing.
posted by gingerest at 7:12 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like the lower you are on the totum the less you're allowed to have minor disabilities with work performance and a small difficulty suddenly means you are considered UNFIT for being a shit worker with no benefits and shit pay.

Probably because shit workers are easily replaced with other shit workers whose bodies haven't gone to hell yet. The higher up you are, maybe that's less so?

It is pretty ridiculous that there's no way to get anyone into a sit-down job when they bombed out of school early or couldn't afford it or whatever. What made me sad was that Ethel in the story who only knew of one sit down job in existence. But.... well, either you work with your body or your brain, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:31 PM on March 25, 2013


From gingerest's Big Bad List:

2.10 Hearing loss not treated with cochlear implantation.

A. An average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater in the better ear (see 2.00B2c).


This describes me, but since I wear hearing aids, I'm sort-of okay. I have a graduate degree and I've worked steadily since then. I could definitely not work in a call center or other occupations that rely on hearing accurately. But I have a difficult time thinking I'm disabled.

(note that the hearing test specifically excludes hearing aids)
posted by desjardins at 8:03 PM on March 25, 2013


Hey, it's not MY list. Take the details up with the Social Security Administration. But I misspoke (mis-wrote, oversimplified, whatever) - Worker isn't "automatically disabled", s/he has a medical condition assumed under the law to confer impairment severe enough to meet the criteria for disability without further medical or functional assessment. But if you're working, your disability status doesn't matter. (People get to decide whether they consider themselves disabled, in my book - people with functional impairments have enough challenges to their human agency without my going around sticking labels on them uninvited. If I did that to you, I apologize.)

This has been linked above, but here's SSA's How We Decide steps.
posted by gingerest at 8:29 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


amporphatist: the word isn't "unemployed". It's "disabled". The piece told the story of a man who'd had a heart attack who went on disability because his job had also vanished when the plant closed, but when his dad had a heart attack, Dad went back to work at the plant.

From the article: Scott's dad had a heart attack and went back to work in the mill. If there'd been a mill for Scott to go back to work in, he says, he'd have done that too. But there wasn't a mill, so he went on disability.

If there had been a job available, Scott would be working. Would he also be "disabled" at the same time?
posted by amorphatist at 8:33 PM on March 25, 2013


Better to commit fraud or starve to death? Which is more ethical?

Also this... are there people starving to death because they didn't go on disability? What? Where?
posted by amorphatist at 8:38 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there had been a job available, Scott would be working. Would he also be "disabled" at the same time?

From the steps:
If you are working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, we generally will not consider you disabled. The amount changes each year. For the current figure, see the annual Update (Publication No. 05-10003).

If you are not working, or your monthly earnings average the current amount or less, the state agency then looks at your medical condition.
It's not some crazy paradox. It's just whether the functional impairment arising from the medical condition allows the worker to take part in substantially gainful activity. Because I was clumsy in my wording, we just heard from a real live person who is working but whose medical condition is included on the impairments list.

The idea isn't that the condition makes it flatly impossible to function at all - it's that medical conditions can impair activities of daily living, which include a variety of functions, to variable degrees. For some conditions, the SSA just says, "Fine, enough people with this condition find it so difficult to pursue gainful employment that the assessing agencies can just declare these folks 'disabled' for this purpose." For others, the applicant has to provide evidence that the condition makes it really hard to perform gainful work.

Elibility for benefits is necessarily a binary condition (yes/no). But impairments occur in multiple dimensions of function, to varying degrees. Moreover, by taking into account age and education, the SSA acknowledges that there exist dimensions contributing to employability lie outside the realm of those functions affected by the medical condition. In people with conditions so severe that the SSA just takes it as read they are disabled, those dimensions are not relevant. But in more complex cases, the many dimensions contributing to "disability" and "employability" must be distilled to that binary of eligible/ineligible. There's bound to be some edge cases and some error.
posted by gingerest at 9:06 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


For some conditions, the SSA just says, "Fine, enough people with this condition find it so difficult to pursue gainful employment that the assessing agencies can just declare these folks 'disabled' for this purpose."

We have no reason to believe that Scott's heart attack was such a condition.

If you are working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, we generally will not consider you disabled.

So Scott would not be disabled if he took the job, and there's nothing in the article that leads us to believe that he wouldn't be able to carry out the required job functions. But he couldn't get work, he was unemployed, and he chose to go on disability. If a suitable job opened up, he could choose to go off disability and rejoin the workforce (although per the article, this basically never happens, and one of the reasons to resist the growth in disability rolls).

Scott is not disabled in the meaning of the word that most people hold. He's on disability. He should be in some sort of (non-existent?) long-term unemployment program. I wish he had better options than to go on disability, but what he's doing is fraudulent in spirit. Like I said above, it's possible I'd make the same choice, but this is wrong, and we need to recognize that this problem exists, so we can have a rational conversation about how to help the long-term unemployed (or unemployable).

That said, I suspect one of the reasons that people don't want to acknowledge the situation here is that they fear that if the long-term unemployed are separated from the disabled herd, then the GOP will just throw them to the wolves, which seems a legitimate fear.
posted by amorphatist at 9:33 PM on March 25, 2013


I can't read all the comments, but I want to point out something that's recently hit home with me. I worked for 31 years, full-time, often two jobs, was never out of work and paid into the system the whole way. At 48 I was diagnosed with Parkinson's, right out of nowhere. The symptoms were horrendous (I thought I had a brain tumor) and I had so much trouble adjusting to the levodopa that I just vomited it up every time I took it for probably a year. I worked for 14 months through all this and then finally gave up and applied for SS disability (SSDI, since I had worked enough quarters to qualify for it). I had to have an income of zero for six months minimum (9 months for me) in order to be eligible (I can't even describe what that's like), and I was denied twice, each time after a "medical examination" by different doctors. The first one had the attitude that everyone is trying to cheat the government and by God, they weren't going to get through him, no sir. The second doctor spent 12 minutes talking to me about his young daughter and her love of skiing; that was it - no examination, no nothing. Each of them said I was able to work. The third doctor, also a neurologist (this one was an "expert" in his field and flew here to examine me) declared me disabled. A few months later I began receiving disability checks from SSDI. Of course, I'd used my credit cards to live on throughout that 9+ months and was financially - and emotionally - bankrupt by the time this was over.

That was a long time ago. For the past many years, this is what I get: SSDI now at $1266 a month, HUD-subsidized housing (rent is 1/3 of income), Medicare, and because my income is at the level it's at, I am eligible for "extra help," meaning the State pays my Medicare premium of $104 a month and my medicine copays are low. Up until recently, the "extra help" business also got me a break on my monthly basic phone bill, which has been nice; I don't have long distance, but I do pay a separate charge for internet and one for call waiting, which are my choice, obviously. I don't have television, so no Comcast or satellite bill and I don't have a car.

Now - to the point of all this: The latest is that I'm eligible for a small amount of food stamps each month, which I don't need and have no interest in receiving, but ... from now on, if I want to continue to get the break on the phone bill, I have to sign up for foodstamps/ECT card.

Then they can add one more old lady to their statistics on food-stamp recipients - oh, how those numbers are going up, folks. So here I am, one of those "takers" - what do you think? I'm now on regular Social Security, since I actually lived for years after I was supposed to die and actually made it to 65 (!) even though I'm on 5 liters of oxygen 24/7 now - but how about it? Should I be kicked off the "welfare" rolls and sent back to work? Or just take my food stamps and shut up?

All their numbers have twists and turns to get there; it's all about the man behind the curtain, folks.
posted by aryma at 10:14 PM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I didn't read it that way at all. She sounded, to me, more incredulous than anything else. Like a nice middle-class person who is honestly shocked that people actually live like this and that she's not so much blaming them for the situation but amazed that the situation exists at all.

That's what made me see red - how out of touch the writer seemed to be. Which is no big deal, except that a lot of the people who make decisions - I've worked with some of them when I was in government - are also out of touch.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:16 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"We have no reason to believe that Scott's heart attack was such a condition...
So Scott would not be disabled if he took the job, and there's nothing in the article that leads us to believe that he wouldn't be able to carry out the required job functions."

Sure there is. Either he met the criteria on the Big List, or the Alabama Disability Determination Services agency determined that he wasn't able to work. That's why he's receiving disability benefits. There's no evidence in the piece, but the facts speak for themselves. The piece suggests, supported only by anecdotal evidence, that a large proportion of those collecting disability benefits do so solely because they are ineligible for unemployment benefits but there is no local employment. But one of the mitigating factors considered in whether a person with a non-listed diagnosis is benefit-eligible is the existence of employment to which an applicant can reasonably be expected to travel, taking into account the activity restrictions inherent to the applicant's condition.

In other words - part of qualifying for disability benefits is whether you are able to commute or relocate. The "fraudulence in spirit" is not a fraud of any sort - it's a dimension of being able to work, acknowledged in the letter and spirit of the SSA's regulations.
posted by gingerest at 10:24 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other words - part of qualifying for disability benefits is whether you are able to commute or relocate.

I will bow to your superior knowledge on the details, obviously it must work in a manner similar to what you describe, or we couldn't have seen such explosive growth in disability enrollment.

However, it shouldn't work this way. I think Scott should be on a long-term unemployment program, not disability, as statistically he shall never return to the workforce, and it seems that he wants to work, and believes himself mentally and physically able to. What do you think the correct approach is here, or do you think the existing situation is correct?
posted by amorphatist at 10:32 PM on March 25, 2013


The US social safety net is more hole than net. I'd like to see it expanded all over the damn place. Expanding unemployment benefits is the least of it - I'd love to see whatever comprehensive reforms are needed so that someone who is making the minimum wage could afford to pay for herself and her children to see a physician before she or they have a minor medical matter develop into a disabling condition, for example.

I think, as I said, that much of the increase in disability enrollment can be attributed to population structure changes, and that this article is a misleading beat-up. What worries me most is that it is going to be widely (and shallowly) read as a condemnation of people who engage in welfare cheating because they're too inflexible to move to where there's work. Maybe that's concern trolling. But I think that what's really going on is that our top-heavy economy is breaking the bodies of people who don't have a personal safety net of rich families, extended educations, and high-status work history. I am okay with it if what saves them is SSDI and SSI.
posted by gingerest at 11:04 PM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


The US social safety net is more hole than net. I'd like to see it expanded all over the damn place. Expanding unemployment benefits is the least of it - I'd love to see whatever comprehensive reforms are needed so that someone who is making the minimum wage could afford to pay for herself and her children to see a physician before she or they have a minor medical matter develop into a disabling condition, for example.

Agreed.

I am okay with it if what saves them is SSDI and SSI.

I have an ethical issue with people (like Scott) who are able to work being on these programs, that's not what the intent was, and it feels deceptive. I understand why people would think "fuck it, the system is broken, it ain't getting fixed soon, so let's just dump needy folks onto these programs", and I'm not condemning anybody in that boat. But I think we should be able to do better than this.
posted by amorphatist at 11:13 PM on March 25, 2013


"I have an ethical issue with people (like Scott) who are able to work being on these programs, that's not what the intent was, and it feels deceptive."

Whose intent? Deceptive to whom? Congress and the Social Security Administration have included in the disability analysis a person's age, education, and experience, and the availability of jobs the person can do. Scott's situation--where the jobs he can do have simply ceased to exist--was contemplated by Congress and the SSA, and they decided that someone in his situation is disabled. It was obviously their intent to do so since they've gone to a lot of effort crafting these requirements. It seems completely rational to me, when asking whether a person can work, to include non-medical factors. Otherwise you'd have stupid and cruel results like a person with severe back pain and a tenth grade education being denied disability because, hey, there are white-collar managerial jobs available where you can sit all day! Disability in this context isn't a question of whether you've achieved some satisfactory state of debilitation in a vacuum, it's a question of whether you can engage in substantial gainful activity. That's a question that can't be reasonably answered without considering non-medical factors. You may not like the way Congress and SSA have chosen to define disability, but it's not deceptive or unethical for Scott or anyone else to satisfy that definition and receive benefits.
posted by Mavri at 3:53 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am deeply conflicted about this. I have close friends who have used the disability system for "good reasons" -- serious medical conditions that really, truly prevent them from working. I have other close friends who use it for "bad reasons" -- they really are disabled by the letter of the law, but their biggest problems is lack of relevant job skills, not medical problems. So as angry as it makes me that relatively healthy people are taking money intended for the sick, I can also see that it is necessary in the current system for them to do that.

As I see it, there are two paths to financial success. One is "the climb" -- step by step through levels of education, certification, raises and promotions until you have what you want. The other is "the scramble" -- using whatever assets you have, working in multiple fields, teaching yourself how to do things, and leaning on whatever contacts you have to get ahead. But the mismatch between education and available jobs means that more and more people are going to have to scramble. The standard public school/college route isn't going to teach you to be a CAM operator or Ruby developer or highly specialized medical assistant -- those are things you have to go out and get for yourself. Plenty of people are earning high salaries in those fields with only a high school diploma and maybe a bit of voc tech. But many people haven't got the aggressiveness for the scramble, or maybe haven't figured out that it even exists (since no one ever talks about it). So they think that because they failed at the climb, they are doomed. I know I've fallen into that kind of despondence many times myself.

It sounded to me like a few people in that radio program could do quite well of they figured out how to scramble. But they might not know it, and give up.
posted by miyabo at 4:29 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Scott is not disabled in the meaning of the word that most people hold. He's on disability. He should be in some sort of (non-existent?) long-term unemployment program. I wish he had better options than to go on disability, but what he's doing is fraudulent in spirit. Like I said above, it's possible I'd make the same choice, but this is wrong

I agree that people on disability who should be on unemployment is wrong (though I don't necessarily agree for any specific person here, not knowing enough about them), but the wrongness is not that people are trying to get by, the wrongness is in the (lack of) social safety net.
posted by jeather at 5:38 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Also this... are there people starving to death because they didn't go on disability? What? Where?"

WOW. I'm sorry, what? Have you not ever seen homelessness in America? Do you have any idea how much malnutrition related disease does result in death and serious disability?

What planet are you on?

I have WATCHED people who EAT OUT OF GARBAGES. I have sat with them while they slowly go fucking insane.

You have clearly, no idea, NO IDEA what hell is like for people at the bottom rungs of this society.

And like kokuyru I have a huge problem with people like you trying to set policy because your clearly educated voice carries way more weight than many of the people who face starvation voices will ever carry in this society. Your words translate to real policies while their words don't exist. You don't hear them. They don't make a dent in policy.

You seem to have no idea what it's like to be thrown to the wolves considering that to you this is just a thought exercise about what people in hell should do to be more moral. You are talking about throwing people under the bus like it's some sort of unpleasant side effect of doing the right thing. Oh people don't really DIE from starvation in this country. Surely... I mean, it's not a real concern so they should just not take SSI and... you know. You know. Not die. Which is easy for people wtih NO JOBS and NO ASSISTANCE to do.
posted by xarnop at 6:03 AM on March 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


[I'd appreciate if we could tone down the rhetoric a smidgen and keep this discussion calm and civil and pleasant for everyone, thank you all.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:55 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whose intent? Deceptive to whom? Congress and the Social Security Administration have included in the disability analysis a person's age, education, and experience, and the availability of jobs the person can do. Scott's situation--where the jobs he can do have simply ceased to exist--was contemplated by Congress and the SSA, and they decided that someone in his situation is disabled.

Congress' intent, and deceptive relative to Congress' intent. I spent a bit of time searching on this with no results, but there's a lot of potentially relevant text, so being that you seem quite knowledgeable on this, perhaps you can point me at the appropriate documents. Where did Congress lay out an intent that persons (eg Scott) physically and mentally able to work certain jobs, who are unable to find work in a particular locale, can go on "disability" instead of moving to find work? I'm not claiming that this isn't in the legislation/regulations somewhere, I'm just surprised giving the right-wing politics of this country that this did happen.
posted by amorphatist at 8:08 AM on March 26, 2013


"Also this... are there people starving to death because they didn't go on disability? What? Where?"

WOW. I'm sorry, what? Have you not ever seen homelessness in America? Do you have any idea how much malnutrition related disease does result in death and serious disability?


Homeless persons with mental or physical illnesses should be on disability (and it's most often mental illnesses from my experience). And no, I'm not aware of a case where a person starved to death in America because they couldn't get on disability, but it seems you're about to enlighten me. Any starvation case I've heard of has been due to mental illness, neglect, or abandonment of the infirm.

You are talking about throwing people under the bus like it's some sort of unpleasant side effect of doing the right thing.

Get off your high horse. I clearly stated above that there should be universal healthcare, and a program for the long-term unemployed, as well as continuing the disability program for those who are disabled to the point of not being able to work. I have not advocated kicking people off disability (even when they're on it for "bad reasons" as miyabo noted above) in the absence of an expanded safety net. I'm advocating for expanding and reforming the safety net.

And like kokuyru I have a huge problem with people like you trying to set policy because your clearly educated voice

So much of a problem that your allergic reaction prevents you from understanding what is being proposed. Calm down.
posted by amorphatist at 8:29 AM on March 26, 2013


I saw it as rather merciless in how she just says "I have back pain, why don't I get disability?"

She spends the rest of the piece answering that question and others.

A lot of people here are picking and choosing parts of the transcript instead of listening to the entire piece.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:35 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Again, starting now, be decent to each other, go to MetaTalk or take a walk. Those are your options.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 AM on March 26, 2013


Ok. Nicely, I have worked and lived with homeless populations. Yes deaths happen due to malnutrition. I believe you are speaking from ignorance and yes it's frustrating that people who are uneducated about homeless issues get to dictate policies about their relative need of food/shelter/and financial assistance.

When you're talking about dismissing the suffering of real people I've seen, it seems kind of heartless to also say "Calm down, I just want to make sure people don't get their needs met, but you don't understand my intentions are good."

I get your intentions are good. I also know that most people do not understand health or disability very well and are disinterested in learning about it. And then these people set policies that harm real people. So it's pretty tragic and leads to real suffering. That's what is so upsetting to me about these conversations, people who will survive regardless of how we set these policies are setting them without the understanding that real humans will suffer and die because of bad policies.

When working with homeless people, disability status is way to hard to achieve for people who clearly can't work. We need to be working harder in the OPPOSITE direction of expanding how we understand human needs and services, not in the direction of closing doors to needed services if it doesn't please politically correct sensibilities.
posted by xarnop at 9:17 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe you are speaking from ignorance and yes it's frustrating that people who are uneducated about homeless issues get to dictate policies about their relative need of food/shelter/and financial assistance.

When you're talking about dismissing the suffering of real people I've seen, it seems kind of heartless to also say "Calm down, I just want to make sure people don't get their needs met, but you don't understand my intentions are good."


Utterly disingenuous. At no point have I advocated (or "dictated" ??) any policy to remove services from the homeless, quite the opposite in fact. This is an imaginary conversation you're having with somebody not on this thread.
posted by amorphatist at 9:56 AM on March 26, 2013


Sincerely I get that you THINK you're advocating making these changes "as long as there is a safety net" but homeless and disability services have been fighting this battle for years and years to get these services to people in any way they can and because you're NOT going to get that safety net in place in the way it should be, you're basically just asking to undo all the safety nets that ARE keeping people from starving due to the hard work of social workers trying to get human needs met in a broken underfunded and understaffed system.

I've had all the ideas you've had, I want to fix everything too, but we have a strong faction who is opposed to helping the needy and you're not going to win them over in time to get the resources to people when they need them. It's a broken system but a lot of what you're ranting about is the way that social workers and policies have been set to get resources to people in need who can't access them any other way.

The low rates of starvation are DUE TO THESE EFFORTS. So you're simultaneously talking about how without disability people wouldn't starve, but that is BECAUSE of the efforts of human services and charitable organizations who do exhaustive amounts of work to navigate these barriers to getting needed items and foods to those in need. And funding sources often want to see "disability" stamp of approval before they want to put funds toward it.

If you're talking about not believing people could really starve and not believing that is a real thing that can happen without aid, then I do think you have an unrealistic perception about what needs are happening.
posted by xarnop at 10:13 AM on March 26, 2013


When working with homeless people, disability status is way to hard to achieve for people who clearly can't work.

Why is this? I'm asking in good faith. It seems like it would be much harder to find work just because the person's homeless, even before looking at physical or mental ailments. Is it harder to get just because there is no fixed address?
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on March 26, 2013


[xarnop/amorphatist take this to MeMail or maybe take a breather from it for a while and let other people back into the discussion ]
posted by jessamyn at 10:16 AM on March 26, 2013


Here is a map of disability-adjusted life year values for nutritional deficiency in countries around the world based on 2002 WHO numbers. The DALY measure seems to be trying to encompass both death and disability due to the disease. I'm noticing that the level for the U.S. is the same as for Mexico.

For comparison, diabetes and HIV/AIDS (though the HIV/AIDS map uses a different coloring scale) and others.
posted by XMLicious at 10:53 AM on March 26, 2013


Disability status is hard to get when you are homeless because government programmes demand that forms be filled out in a specific way - with a black pen, not red, the forms cost money to print out, some forms can only be filled out online - in fifteen minute increments on the public computer at the library while the next person in line reads over your shoulder about your incontience and illnesses, documents have to be submitted - in triplicate - five or ten dollars in printing and photocopying costs, appointments have to be made (do you have any minutes left on your telephone?) and kept (ride public transit three hours one way only to arrive five minutes late and find the appointment cancelled and a reappointment can only be made if you pay the steep "less than 24 hours notice cancellation" fee) and the caseworker needs a contact address/telephone number and if you don't respond in 24 hours your file will be closed and you have to start the process again.

These are the barriers I can come up with off the top of my head; the longer the person has been disabled the worse the downward spiral is - someone with diabetes, without a stable living situation/income quickly becomes incapable of properly eating or taking pills at the right time. Diabetes affects cognition, mood and general health in huge ways. And then they start to lose limbs and can't get around and fall even deeper in a hole that an adequate monthly disability cheque would have prevented.
posted by saucysault at 8:41 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I listened to this today, and as damning as I wanted to find it, I actually thought it was very compelling. The right is going to misconstrue it horribly, there is no question; but that doesn't mean we should stop looking at the tough questions because our adversaries are unsympathetic assholes who don't understand nuance.

I've recently had my life turned upside-down because of chronic illness. My doctors aren't even entirely sure what is wrong with me, and have labeled it "atypical fibromyalgia". I was just dumped by a doctor over voicemail yesterday because he said he just doesn't know what he can do for me, and sent me back to the pain clinic. Who sent me to him in the first place because they don't know what to do with me. I'm in pain most of the time, and have crushing fatigue. It built up slowly but got bad about a year before I just couldn't work anymore.

I have lived an affluent upper-middle class life style, having grown up in a blue collar, working class home and deciding I wanted a better life and I was going to fight for it tooth and claw. I never considered it might end, that I might not be able to just "willpower" my way through any adversity that came my way like I always have. I hate it, but it's been a huge wakeup call in not only my own life, but how completely fucked disability is. I am struggling to try and maintain a lifetime of forward economic advances I've made, and I'm grasping at straws. I'm not sure I'm going to make it.

I should have private disability coverage from my former employer. I got 5 weeks pay at the start, and then the disability insurance provider just decided I didn't need it anymore. They work extremely hard to avoid collecting all the facts, and ignore requests from the doctors, like HIPAA compliant forms. You'd think a company managing disability insurance and dealing with medical records would have HIPAA compliant forms. You'd be wrong. The customer service reps from the insurance company are actually pretty nice and helpful, and frequently sound exasperated about how poorly I've been treated, but they are limited in what they can help with. The actual case reps, on the other hand, are terrible. And they're the gate keepers of all the important stuff, so you have to talk to them. They've even gone so far as to ignore letters from my lawyer. (Which fortunately, may help me but is dragging the process out.) I'm convinced they're intentionally incompetent. My lawyer has told me, yes, it's in their best interest to be incompetent in areas that help them.

Which, BTW, I had to get a lawyer. My disability was supposed to protect me by covering 60% of my salary. It was a benefit paid by my company. But now I'm going to owe 1/3 of that to a lawyer plus all the record fees. I'm up to over $1000 in record fees that I'll have to pay no matter what. Meanwhile, the insurance company continues to dick me around. The lawyer can't help until the disability is denied, so initially I dealt with the disability company myself. Well, my husband and I have. They have a bag of tricks - they don't call you when the doctor's office contacts them for more information. They refuse to speak to my husband even though he's been added to the account officially to speak as my proxy with a signed form and everything. They are trying to blame it on depression even though two therapist have attested it's situational depression based on grief over my illness and the loss that has brought over my life*. They've dragged up and tried to support their depression claim because I was on antidepressants 7 years ago due to anxiety from a very specific circumstance, one that I put an end to as soon as I was able. Yet they fail to request all the relevant documentations from my doctors and then base their decision on the lack of information. And they took an extremely long time to get me the pittance of short term disability before denying me further. I got 5 weeks disability covered 3 months after my initial claim; and they told me and my company it would take two weeks to process the claim. At two weeks they hadn't even requested information from my doctors.

Now, the way commercial disability is set up is a complete scam. There is a law, called ERISA, which is set up like so many laws of it's ilk, that purports to help the little guy, but is a big give away to companies. It offers them numerous protections and me very little. I can't do anything to go after them for malicious handling of my case, so it is in their best interest to deny as many people as they can. Now that I'm going through the process, I can see that clearly and wish I had known sooner, because I wish I had known enough to make noise about this issue earlier. Yes, we don't want people "scamming" the system, but unfortunately it's setup in such a way that when you are at your most vulnerable, they try and take advantage of you. If I didn't have my husband's help, I would have given up a long time ago. I suspect many people do.

You say, what does this have to do with SSDI and the TAL episode? I'm getting to that. As part of my long term disability**, I have to apply for Social Security Disability. If I am awarded it, then the insurance company pays only the portion above and beyond Social Security Disability. This is, to put it bluntly, horse shit. Two reasons - The first is that my disability insurance is supposed to cover "own occupation", i.e. if I can do my job. If I can't, then even if I could in theory take another job, the insurance company still has to pay my disability (unless I actually do take another job, then they only pay after subtracting my earnings). With SSDI, it's disabled from working any job. They're different bars to qualify.

But the real anger-making part of having to apply for SSDI is that they subtract any SSDI money from the payment they're supposed to be making to me. I'm not interested in double-dipping, or anything like that, but rather, I hate the idea that I'll be dipping into government provided social security disability that should go to someone that doesn't have private disability insurance. Instead, I have to tap into that as part of the deal my company struck with the insurance carrier. But it's not like it was a malicious thing that just my company did, this is how most (maybe all?) private disability insurance works. The government money should go to people that don't have commercial insurance, those that have more of a "need" than I do. Instead, it has to come out to line the pockets of this shitty insurance company. Oh, and even though the bar for qualifying for SSDI is higher than my private insurance (SSDI is disabled from any job, my private insurance is disabled from "Own Occupation"), it will hurt my chances of getting disability if I don't qualify. And I can't opt to not apply, or I automatically disqualify myself from my LTD benefits through the insurance provider. (Oh, and unlike the government, the private insurance carrier does have lawyers that fight against disability claims in court.)

I enjoyed the episode. It didn't tell my story exactly, but it was entirely relatable because I've gotten to see just how screwed up the disability system is. I was shocked though to hear the revelation of how welfare has transformed into disability. In a way it's not surprising, but I can't believe that it's been "hidden" for as long as it has. Of course states are going to pull crap like this. There is a need for a security net, and we refuse to directly address it.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about disability, the poor, welfare, and working for the better part of a decade, having nothing to do with my own illness. For one, you can count me in the box of people that think it's great that people take advantage of a system that otherwise is out to get them from the beginning. I have always felt that way, long before I was in a position to need it. I remember "shocking" republican coworkers a few years back because I told them that I do not mind taxes and wish I paid more, as long as we all were. So this is nothing new. But the past year I've been hearing other people's stories about work, unemployment, disability, insurance woes, job loss due to automation and outsourcing and I've had a lot more time to ponder it. I think we absolutely need a guaranteed minimum income, along with single payer. Hearing about the disability-as-welfare hole has only further solidified my belief that this is necessary to keep from becoming a shitty 3rd world country for the majority of the population. Sadly, it's just never going to happen in the US because of the short-sightedness of my fellow Americans. And this makes me deeply, deeply sad.

* And strangely, I think I've handled this better than many people would have. I have times I'm really upset because fuck, it hurts. And I have times I'm depressed because I can't *do* all the things I want to do. I can't even do a fraction of them. But I've also done very well at adapting, at trying to set at least new short term goals, and putting aside long term goals as a "later" thing. I've been trying to work out what life will be like if this is permanent, while continuing to think about making the best of what life is like now. And I keep searching for answers, preferring not to "give up" in the face of it all. In the grand scheme of things, I think I've handled it pretty fucking well, and if you met me on a good day (or even a bad day with the right medication) you'd have no idea the shit I'm going through because I want to talk about goals and dreams, not being sick.

** My Long Term Disability benefits are only 24 months - many jobs have lifetime or at least 10 years. I never knew to look at that when looking at benefits. As someone in my 30s, I just never thought about it, as I'm sure most people my age don't. If I get back to working, I'll be absolutely sure to check those benefits.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:06 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now - to the point of all this: The latest is that I'm eligible for a small amount of food stamps each month, which I don't need and have no interest in receiving, but ... from now on, if I want to continue to get the break on the phone bill, I have to sign up for foodstamps/ECT card.

Then they can add one more old lady to their statistics on food-stamp recipients - oh, how those numbers are going up, folks. So here I am, one of those "takers" - what do you think?


I doubt anyone is trying to inflate the numbers; certianly not as a matter of policy. A more charitable explanation is:
  • Administering the phone subsidy costs the same or even more than the subsidy itself
  • The vast majority of the people who qualify for the phone subsidy also qualify for food stamps
  • Elibility is the same or very similiarso very little cost to roll the two programs together
  • It's a net win for everyone's budget to administer the programs together even if it means forcing benifits on people who don't "need" them.
As a solution why not take the money they are giving you for stamps and donate to a local food bank or shelter? As long as you don't actually give them your stamps (IE: you buy food you need with the stamps) and you donate in cash the money gets where it's needed and you continue to get your phone sudsidy with essentially no chance of getting caught.

Watch out if you are doing this that the stamps aren't of a use it or loose it variety.
posted by Mitheral at 8:19 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Haven't finished listening to the show, but have read a bunch of this thread. Figure I'd just like to say that I think that the derision directed at the reporter for somehow not being able to conceive of the existence of a place where no seated labor is a bit overdone.

Put another way: I, when listening, was shocked that a woman couldn't imagine some kind of seated job. Or -presumably- couldn't even bring up the notion of seated work existing. That really surprised me. So yes: we who assume that white collar jobs (or nominally white collar jobs with blue collar wages) are a given part of the world are real people, not ciphers or spoiled princesses or princes. Thanks.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:39 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Supplemental Security and Temporary Assistance: How "This American Life" Got the Story Wrong

Some key points made by Pollack:

1. “Child SSI caseloads are not exploding. Nor are large numbers of single moms transitioning from traditional welfare (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF) to SSI. … Rising poverty rates, not lax program rules, is the critical factor.”

2. “[T]he rise in the child SSI caseloads is dwarfed by the decline in the number of children receiving cash assistance after the 1996 welfare reform."

3. “Child SSI is simply a small matter when shown alongside one of the tragic policy failures of the Great Recession: TANF’s failure to remotely keep pace with macroeconomic crisis and rising child poverty.” Here Pollack points to a graph showing that the percentage of children below the poverty line receiving either Temporary Assistance or Supplemental Security has fallen by more than half since the mid-1990s.

4. Two graphs juxtaposed by Joffe-Walt—one showing the decline in the number of families with children receiving Temporary Assistance and the other showing an increase in the number of low-income adults generally receiving Supplemental Security—“just don’t go together. They cover different populations, whose dynamics are influenced by different processes.”

5. Pollack points to a longitudinal study that tracked particularly disadvantaged single parents receiving Temporary Assistance between 1997 and 2003: “By the end of the survey period, 37 out of 532 women ended up on SSI or SSDI. 114 others had applied for disability benefits, but were found ineligible within a supposedly lax disability system.”

From CERP:

The core incentive problem with Temporary Assistance isn’t that it gave states some new incentive to shift parents and children to disability programs, it’s that it gave states a huge new incentive to not help parents and children at all in meaningful ways, without providing any mechanism to counter this new, adverse incentive.

So for both Supplemental Security and Disability Insurance ... the real story is about the combination of an aging population and an economy down 9 million jobs from its growth path that isn’t providing sufficient opportunities for workers. The massive jobs gap is particularly harmful for people with disabilities, who have a tough time finding work they can do even when times are good. If we had 7 million more jobs, people with disabilities would have a much better shot at finding work they could do despite their functional limitations, and fewer of them would need to turn to disability insurance.
posted by 6ATR at 10:42 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


NPR: Unfit to Write About Disability
Driven by anecdote rather than cultural analysis, her thesis is simple: the number of unemployed Americans receiving disability benefits has skyrocketed over the past twenty years. She intimates without fully declaring it, that there's a vast social "scam" taking place--in the absence of good middle class jobs, and following the "end welfare as we know it" enterprise, poor people simply decline into aches and pains, thereby getting themselves declared unfit for work. Alas, Joffee-Walt hasn't done her homework, a matter that may be inapparent to many of NPR's readers, just as Reagan's audiences were unaware that behind the curtain the Gipper believed "facts were stupid things" and was untroubled by any and all of the misrepresentations of social programs that propelled his candidacy for president. Such arguments depend on pathos rather than facts. Joffee-Walt fails to address the biggest fact in the room, that disability is a social construction even more than a medical category, and in turn the artificial architectural and physical constraints marshaled against people with disabilities are both products of history and the industrial revolution. One wishes she had bothered to read Lennard J. Davis' essay "Constructing Normalcy: The Bell Curve, the Novel, and the Invention of the Disabled Body in the Nineteenth Century".[PDF]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:29 AM on March 31, 2013


Joffee-Walt fails to address the biggest fact in the room, that disability is a social construction even more than a medical category...

Didn't read your linked post, but that statement is false. If you listen to the story on This American Life (or read the transcript), you'll see this:

Chana Joffe: Joseph and Ethel Thomas live in a depressed town in a poor state in a national economy that is basically in the process of fully abandoning every kind of job they know how to do. Being poorly educated in a rotten place, that in and of itself has become a disability.

This is a new reality. This gap between workers who are fit for the US economy and millions of workers who are increasingly not. And it's a change that's spreading to towns and cities that have thrived in the American economy. Places that made cars and steel and batteries and textiles.


I think that passage covers how disability is socially constructed.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:31 PM on March 31, 2013


Didn't read your linked post

This is a great combination of two things that are increasingly annoying about the level of engagement that appears to be spreading on this site! One is not reading the links and yet having both the courage and intelligence to talk about them. The other is assuming that posts that are a link and a pullquote perfectly reflect the opinions, values and viewpoints of the person who posted them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:43 PM on March 31, 2013


Sorry! It's quite valid to criticize me for not reading your linked post, though in my sort-of-defense I figured you were linking to something several pages long & not just a few paragraphs. But commenting without reading isn't necessarily a good thing.

Now that I've read it, I think that your pullquote was well chosen for expressing the author's opinion: he thinks NPR didn't consider how disability is a social construct. He provides some other facts to support the idea that disability is socially constructed, plus some ad hominem opining about NPR listeners.

From the opinion I inferred that the post's author didn't pay close attention to the story, given that Joffe-Walt made what I thought to be a fairly clear point about how disability is indeed socially constructed - thus my providing the excerpt from the transcript.

While there is some more substance in the post in terms of specific examples of issues felt by the blind, I took from your pullquote that the focus of the post was animus against NPR (which I still consider to be true) and so I responded to it.

My critique wasn't aimed at you or your opinions. Given that you posted the article, I figured that you found it thoughtful & interesting. I don't have any idea if you agree with its thesis, & I didn't want to imply such. Rather: you added to the discussion by providing an outside blog post, and noting that the author of said blog post appears to have not listened to the corresponding This American Life Story also seems worth noting. When listening to the story, this element really popped out.

That's a lot of words on my part, so sorry for going on so long. I guess what I should really just say is: it seems reasonable to criticize blog posts that get put into the conversation. If someone posts a pullquote from a blog that looks to be making false statements, it's reasonable to comment & point out that said pullquote appears to contain a false statement. I totally agree that unless someone specifically posts "I SUPPORT ARGLE BARGLE!" we shouldn't that they support Argle Bargle.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:27 PM on March 31, 2013


taken wholesale from The New Inquiry's Sunday Reading:
Why every penny you’ve allocated to NPR should go to The New Inquiry edition:

8 former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration discuss “the dangers of mischaracterizing the disability programs via sensational, anecdote-based media accounts” from NPR.

Facile extrapolation at NPR; fun for the whole Joffe-Walt Family.

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities rebuts NPR.

Respected Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law says: “Tell NPR to Retracted its Startlingly Distorted Series on Disability Programs.”

NPR is getting the disability story “incredibly, tragically wrong.”

The disability “program is also a lot more stringent than” NPR would have you believe.

Breitbart celebrates NPR; new CNN-style alliance possible?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:38 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Baffler: Ira Glass' Fact Problem
The most damning criticism came from attorney Jennifer Kates in an analysis published last week: “Joffe-Walt’s reporting very closely tracks a set of talking points disseminated by a handful of linked think tanks,” Kates writes, including the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation—talking points also disseminated by Nicholas Kristof in a series of New York Times columns, subsequently debunked, about spongers in Kentucky who kept their children out of school in order to game the system. But This American Life is sticking by the story. “We know of no factual errors,” said host Ira Glass.

Should it surprise you that TAL is giving oxygen to right-wing bromides about greedy bureaucrats and work-shy benefits recipients? In a word: no.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:36 AM on April 12, 2013


« Older "Magna est veritas et praevalet"   |   Quentin Tarantino Screenplays Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post