Oh SNAP!
October 28, 2013 11:58 AM   Subscribe

“If you look across the world, riots always begin typically the same way: when people cannot afford to eat food.” Food stamp assistance in the US will be cut by $5 billion this Friday. Among those affected by the cuts, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are 22 million children and 9 million seniors and people with disabilities.
posted by Rykey (123 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Congress should budget for some extra riot cops then, I guess. That at least will be a thing they approve of.
posted by Artw at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is just straight up Dickensian
posted by hellojed at 12:05 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surely there's got to be a way to figuatively starve the useless bloviators rather than literally do it to the "useless eaters" of America?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:05 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of rich to eat to make up the difference.
posted by planetesimal at 12:06 PM on October 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


If libertarianism is the belief that Somalia is the best-governed country on Earth, then austerity is the principle that Haiti has the best economy.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:09 PM on October 28, 2013 [142 favorites]


Do 'they' have the energy to riot at this point? I am not affected directly, but I'm at a loss as to what to do*.



*outside of upping local services donations
posted by tilde at 12:13 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've heard it said that no nation is more than 3 meals away from revolution.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:14 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, now I'm depressed and more motivated to figure out how to help.
posted by Kitteh at 12:22 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of rich to eat to make up the difference.

Mostly gristle, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


What I think this will do is shift the burden to the states, who hopefully will start complaining loudly.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:25 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this a "call your congressperson" kind of thing? Is there something people can do? I feel like I want to do something but I also feel like I am a helpless plebe.

signed,
prefpara who only got to eat fruit as a kid because of food stamps
posted by prefpara at 12:25 PM on October 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


What I think this will do is shift the burden to the states, who hopefully will start complaining loudly.

Yes, probably by sending more teabagging morons to exacerbate the problems.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:27 PM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I honestly don't think there will every be a revolution of the poor in this country until they can't afford cable tv and flat screen televisions on credit.
posted by spicynuts at 12:29 PM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


The U.S. defense budget is over a trillion dollars, but let's call it an even trillion just to keep it simple. Five billion divided by a trillion is 0.005 percent, which means these cuts could fund the Pentagon for just under two days.

But, you know, priorities.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:29 PM on October 28, 2013 [62 favorites]


Congress should budget for some extra riot cops then, I guess. That at least will be a thing they approve of.

Local police forces have spent the last decade buying tanks, drones, sonic weapons, and becoming increasingly militarized with Homeland Security money.

When they say "Homeland Security", they mean it - the wealthy in this country know that destroying the domestic economy and the social safety net will cause unrest, and they're ready.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:31 PM on October 28, 2013 [56 favorites]


Local police forces have spent the last decade buying tanks, drones, sonic weapons, and becoming increasingly militarized with Homeland Security money.

What makes you think that is to fight against the revolution?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:34 PM on October 28, 2013


At this point, I think time-machine-avengers would be better off hunting for Horatio Alger, Jr., rather than Hitler.
posted by maxwelton at 12:34 PM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


What makes you think that is to fight against the revolution?

I don't - I think it's to make sure the wealth extraction continues smoothly.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:35 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some of these Iraq war statistics are interesting. For example,
- U.S. Annual Air-Conditioning Cost in Iraq and Afghanistan - $20.2 billion
- U.S. 2009 Monthly Spending in Iraq - $7.3 billion
- U.S. 2008 Monthly Spending in Iraq - $12 billion
- Lost and Reported Stolen - $6.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:35 PM on October 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm starting to become upset and emotional. Even if I believed that poor people are somehow morally compromised, which PS is awful pernicious bullshit, I still wouldn't want to starve them or feel like starving them and their children somehow added to my own moral standing. We don't starve criminals, including murderers and rapists. I am completely unable to empathize with someone who approves of this. Especially because, you know, not to be all "think of the children," but maybe we can nationally crouch down to get on their eye level and explain, "honey, your parents are shitty people, as reflected by the fact that their employers don't pay them enough to feed you, so we're going to take some more food away from you because we really don't like your parents, also PS if you're brown we're extra not sorry." No? Too busy drafting a new bill to slash hot lunches or something? This feeling of powerless anger and sadness is awesome. I'm going to go contribute to the tax base now. My ability to do so is powered by the food I recently ate for lunch without for a second worrying that I might not be able to eat a lunch today.
posted by prefpara at 12:37 PM on October 28, 2013 [66 favorites]


The U.S. defense budget is over a trillion dollars, but let's call it an even trillion just to keep it simple. Five billion divided by a trillion is 0.005 percent, which means these cuts could fund the Pentagon for just under two days.

5 billion / 1 trillion does = 0.005, but that's not 0.005 percent, it is 0.5 percent. Still disgusting, though.
posted by xedrik at 12:39 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think time-machine-avengers would be better off hunting for Horatio Alger, Jr.

I think it's to make sure the wealth extraction continues smoothly.


I love how the army of government hating, god fearing, constitution waving American "patriots" created by the pro-business misinformation machine over the last 50 years or so is now the Frankenstein's monster the machine fears most. It's like the terminator except instead of robots, it's your kooky racist aunt that can't spell and forwards you schmaltzy spam emails.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:43 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Krugman's latest feels relevant: A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

What is government good for, if it can't take care of feeding starving children?
Better send some more teabaggers to tear it all down then.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Aren't food stamps also kind of a stealth subsidy to the ag industry? I'm surprised they haven't been saved for that reason.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


We don't starve criminals, including murderers and rapists.

Careful. You're gonna give people ideas.
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


PRETTY SURE the Tulsa race riots (which like all of the deadliest "race riots" in US history entailed attacks of black people by white people) had nothing whatsoever to do with food. As have most "riots" in the US at least.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:49 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is government good for, if it can't take care of feeding starving children?

Wasn't there something about "promoting general welfare" in the constitution or did that part get erased to make room for a larger font for the 2nd amendment?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


Having a couple of staunch-ish Libertarian friends, I can tell you that the response to 'how can you starve the children' is usually something about how giving people free shit instead of giving them incentives to help themselves will never solve the problem of poverty and instead incentivizes people to not look for work and to try to scam the system. In other words, a few people scamming the system is reason enough to shut the whole thing down. Of course, they never apply this reasoning to defense contracts and other government contracts. Anyway, in their minds they aren't starving anyone, they are giving people incentive to help themselves. Not sure how a child or an elderly person does that but hey, I'm not a Libertarian.
posted by spicynuts at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


Aren't food stamps also kind of a stealth subsidy to the ag industry? I'm surprised they haven't been saved for that reason.

No. They've traditionally been the cost of giving huge subsidies to the ag industry as part of a compromise to get both rural conservatives and urban progressives on board with supporting the same legislation.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:56 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Never mind the military, libertarians themselves generally live a hugely subsidized existance that somehow never counts. As a philosophy it's basically a series of blind spots to enable whiney tax-dodging.
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2013 [35 favorites]


tilde: ...I'm at a loss as to what to do.

Well, here's an idea: if it's Scouting For Food week in your area, please give generously.

Last weekend in some places -- like where I live, for example, northern Rhode Island -- a Cub Scout will have left a plastic shopping bag at your mailbox or front door. And this coming Saturday morning at 9:00, most Scouts will fan out to the same neighborhoods to pick up any full bags. If you found that bag, please consider filling it with some staples and leaving it out.
Donors are encouraged to fill their bags with the Food Bank’s most needed items:
* Protein: Canned Soup, Tuna, Canned Meats, Peanut Butter, & Nuts
* Canned Fruits & Vegetables including Juices and Tomato Sauce
* Carbohydrates: Nutritious Breakfast Cereals, Whole Wheat Pasta and Rice
* Crackers, Granola Bars, as well as Cheese & Cracker Packages
* Canned or Dried Beans
Whatever your feelings about the BSA, this is a BFD for the hungry:
Since its inception in 1988, the Narragansett Council has collected more than 7.8 million pounds of food for those less fortunate. Last year [i.e., 2011] alone, Scouts collected close to 300,000 pounds of food, with 185,000 pounds being brought directly to the Rhode Island Food Bank.
That's a lot of Good Turns.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


At this point, I think time-machine-avengers would be better off hunting for Horatio Alger, Jr., rather than Hitler.

On the way back, can they also cancel Ayn Rand's Medicare payments and lose her savings in the stock market?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Not sure how a child or an elderly person does that but hey, I'm not a Libertarian.

Give an infant nutritional food and you feed them for a day. Teach a newborn to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and they don't listen? Fuck 'em, little shit deserves what's coming to it.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Never mind the military, libertarians themselves generally live a hugely subsidized existance that somehow never counts. As a philosophy it's basically a series of blind spots to enable whiney tax-dodging.

I'm sure this town is typical in that the favorite Libertarian meeting place is... the public library.
posted by Foosnark at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2013 [16 favorites]



In Maine, 47% of all able bodied people do not work and nationally, welfare recipients outnumber workers.

Clearly - if you believe in made up numbers - Americans are fat and drive free Cadillacs.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:18 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Canadians often say that we're more "socialist" than the States with our social safety net, but the one thing we do not have is a food stamp program. We instead rely as a society on privately run non-profit food banks. It's a bad system.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:19 PM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Call your Congressperson? Sure, but save your effort if your Congress critter is Tea Party. They want to cut spending (on others) no matter how many kids are undernourished or how many elderly must choose between paying for groceries and rent or prescriptions. You might get a lecture about welfare queens, but no mention of Pentagon cost overruns, tax incentives to businesses, unbalanced income tax schedules, etc.
posted by Cranberry at 1:20 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some more happy things to think about... I've linked to him before, but not to these, and this seems appropriate. Gwynne Dyer: The Future of Food Riots (Jan 2011) and Frog in the Pot (Jul 2013).
The first is about the increase food prices and the difficulty in producing enough food in increasing temperatures and with decreasing water. The second is about increasing populations and climate change which could decrease harvest amounts and that + many starving people = food riots.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Hidden Benefits of Food Stamps
The Economic Benefits of Food Stamps

When food stamps get spent, we all benefit. Despite critics’ focus on the costs of SNAP, research has shown that these dollars are among the best forms of government stimulus. Food stamp spending generates local economic activity, jobs in the farm and retail sectors and beyond.

Food Stamps Lift Millions Out of Poverty

In addition to boosting the economy and job creation, food stamps have helped millions of Americans climb out of poverty and away from hunger. The dollars put food on the table, and by covering much of poor people’s food expenses, free up vitally needed cash to cover rent and other necessities. That can help people stabilize their lives and get back on their feet. Since SNAP expanded in 2009, according to the USDA, "food insecurity among likely SNAP-eligible households declined by 2.2 percent, and very low food security declined by 2 percent; food spending rose by 4.8 percent."

Food Stamps Improve Kids’ Health

Children are especially vulnerable to the lifelong ripple effects of poverty—exposed to hunger, under-nourishment, and a greater likelihood of chronic illnesses and disease. But studies show that when poor families get food stamps, kids’ nutrition and health improve. This can be particularly critical during infancy and early childhood, when brain development and metabolic health get their start. The added food and nutrition from food stamps has been shown to create marked health improvements both in childhood and later years.

Who Gets Food Stamps?

An extraordinary number of Americans have benefited or will benefit directly from food stamps. Half of all adults (pdf) will receive SNAP benefits at some point between the ages of 20 and 65, while half of all children will receive them at some point during their childhood. In 2012, nearly 1 in 7 adults received food stamps.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:49 PM on October 28, 2013 [29 favorites]


Canadians often say that we're more "socialist" than the States with our social safety net, but the one thing we do not have is a food stamp program. We instead rely as a society on privately run non-profit food banks. It's a bad system.

That's because the actual social safety net is intended to actually provide enough money for everybody to eat without needing food banks (although obviously people do fall through the cracks), and doesn't have the same level of restrictions and requirements of seemingly similar programs in the US. It's like saying we don't have a series of government run health care exchanges and instead rely on for-profit health insurance companies and therefore have a bad system, which is true as far as it goes, but misses the 900 pound gorilla of provincial health care standing in the background. This helpful link is literally called "apples and oranges".
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:50 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The House’s food stamps cuts aren’t just cruel. They’re dumb.
If you don’t want SNAP to work well, if you want to make it miserable and complicated in order to benefit from it, if you want them confused as to what terms they qualify, then making changes like this is important. By making the design, to use the political scientist Steve Teles’s term, kludgey, the fact that it is poorly run is a feature, not a bug.

It’s worth remembering that wonky policy analysis isn’t just about the glamor and fun of it all -- minor changes like this can have major consequences for how policies actually interact with day-to-day people. Worries about how to best simplify government services while preventing program-inflicted traps are generally considered important things to take into account when designing policies.

But here Republicans are actually using the poor design to sabotage making a good program work better. They are also giving up on allowing states to run programs how they see fit, which was supposed to be an important part of how they think. It’s bad enough that the GOP wants to use every procedural tactic at their disposal to dismantle social insurance; it’s worse when they’ll actively pursue programs designs they know are bad ideas to make them work less well.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:51 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's because the actual social safety net is intended to actually provide enough money for everybody to eat without needing food banks (although obviously people do fall through the cracks), and doesn't have the same level of restrictions and requirements of seemingly similar programs in the US.

Welfare for a family of 3 (a mother and 2 kids) barely pays for rent. Canada needs a food stamp system.

I believe in the States you are eligible for food stamps even if you are working. In Canada you are not eligible for welfare if you hold a job.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:57 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


To put paid to the various lies and smears about what food stamps do and don't do, and for whom:

I am a 44-year-old single white woman with no children, who holds a full-time administrative assistant job at a multi-million dollar corporation in the third-largest city in the U.S. I have no health care insurance, no benefits, no 401k, no paid sick or vacation days, no pension plan, and I could not afford to buy food without food stamps.

My benefits will be cut by $11. That's two days' worth of meals, for me.

But what do I matter, really, in the long run, right?
posted by tzikeh at 2:00 PM on October 28, 2013 [68 favorites]


22 million children and 9 million seniors and people with disabilities.

This is gonna be one fucked up riot!
posted by hal_c_on at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


To be clear - $11 per month, not $11 total. I should have added that.
posted by tzikeh at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014

Incredible. That's about what a crappy school lunch and carton of milk cost...30 years ago.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 2:22 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm worried about this and not on an abstract level. I work in a low income high crime area in Brooklyn, and I am 'on eye-level' as prefara says with young people daily. Luckily our school lunches haven't been cut (yet) but hunger can motivate people to do some things they wouldn't do ordinarily. Scary. And unfair considering we are all familiar with how much money gets thrown around elsewhere...congressional salaries, anyone?
posted by bquarters at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, tzikeh, we here on metafilter have certainly spent our time complaining about companies that pay their workers so little that foodstamps are necessary.

Something is wrong with the incentives for large corporations when they don't pay their workers enough to live on. Should taxpayers really step in to subsidize the workforce for corporations which won't do so on their own? (Of course you shouldn't be the one hurting as a result, which is how it will be now; what's the way to hurt the corporations but not hurt the individual workers?).
posted by nat at 2:36 PM on October 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


When a system is put into place to prevent a bad thing from happening, and the system works well for a long time, people tend to forget why the system is there in the first place and start to neglect it. See, for example, our national refusal to spend money on infrastructure maintenance. Or, people's refusal to vaccinate their children. With regards to welfare, people tend to forget that able-bodied people will not, as a rule, sit quietly and starve to death.

February, 1931 —

"Food riots" begin to break out in parts of the U.S. In Minneapolis, several hundred men and women smash the windows of a grocery market and make off with fruit, canned goods, bacon, and ham. One of the store's owners pulls out a gun to stop the looters, but is leapt upon and has his arm broken. The "riot" is brought under control by 100 policemen. Seven people are arrested.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:38 PM on October 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can't imagine that many people are against food stamps as a concept. What many have a problem with is the amount of fraud that goes along with welfare, disability, and food stamps.

Is there no way to reduce the fraudulent waste? Yes, the vast majority of people on welfare are not cheating the system but even a small percentage adds up to incredibly huge sums.

There are a number of methods that spring to mind. I guess the better question is what methods would be politically acceptable?


I know that our politicians are guilty of far more fraud, that is another fight. Cutting back on welfare fraud should be an easier hurdle.
posted by 2manyusernames at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2013


What many have a problem with is the amount of fraud that goes along with welfare, disability, and food stamps.

How much is documented? How much would it cost to cut fraud even more? Would it cost more than the amount fraudsters are getting?
posted by rtha at 2:48 PM on October 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


What many have a problem with is the amount of fraud that goes along with welfare, disability, and food stamps.

Yes, the vast majority of people on welfare are not cheating the system but even a small percentage adds up to incredibly huge sums.


I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm genuinely asking: are these points true? Is there actually a lot of fraud that goes along with these systems? Do you have any documentation or studies indicating this? I've never gotten the sense that there is actually that much fraud going on or that the sums involved are that high.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:48 PM on October 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


Setting the Record Straight on SNAP, Part 3: Waving the “Fraud, Waste, and Abuse” Flag
Some House Republican leaders have sought to portray SNAP as rife with fraud and abuse to help justify their proposals to cut millions of people from the program and slash $40 billion from SNAP. The facts are not on their side. A history of bipartisan congressional oversight and strong attention to SNAP program integrity from the Agriculture Department (USDA) and states have made SNAP one of the most efficient and effective programs we have.

The SNAP overpayment rate — that is, the share of benefits either issued to ineligible households or overpaid to eligible households — was just 2.77 percent last year (see graph). The large majority of overpayments reflect inadvertent mistakes by recipients, eligibility workers, data entry clerks, or computer programmers, not fraud.

In addition, when you subtract SNAP underpayments — benefits that should have gone to eligible participating households but didn’t because of errors — the net loss to the government last year was about 2 percent of benefits. By contrast, the IRS estimates that about 15 percent of income taxes go unpaid.
[...]
While SNAP fraud is very low, any amount of fraud is unacceptable, and policymakers should continue to do all they can to fight it. But they should not use highly inflated rhetoric about SNAP fraud and abuse as a cover for deep benefit cuts that would take food away from honest, needy American families, children, and seniors.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2013 [56 favorites]


nat: On the other hand, tzikeh, we here on metafilter have certainly spent our time complaining about companies that pay their workers so little that foodstamps are necessary.

Yeah, I'm aware of that. These companies can get away with paying this little, and providing no options, because they know we have nowhere to go -- even those of us with years of experience and a college degree or two. It's almost as if all of the Giant Mega Corps got together and said, "let's pay poverty wages to our staff because fuck them--and if we're all doing it, they'll have no choice but to accept."

(I'm not kidding re: poverty wages--I make $100/month over the Federal Poverty Line for Illinois. When I was working a comparable office job in 2000, I was making nearly four times as much money as I'm making now--and I had far less on-the-job experience then.)

Lesson learned, if we ever invent time travel and you get to go back to 2004: if you come into enough money to live on for a few years as well as pay part of your tuition, do not leave your job to go back to school for a second degree, and then try to become a teacher. How fucking stupid do you have to be, in hindsight, to think that furthering your education in hopes of helping to further others' would be a good idea as compared to staying a mind-numbing-yet-well-paying desk office job?

I'd like to thank all of you for paying your taxes so that I can afford to buy not-quite-enough food on your dime. Screw all the slackers and moochers like me, right?
posted by tzikeh at 2:53 PM on October 28, 2013 [30 favorites]


2manyusernames: I can't imagine that many people are against food stamps as a concept.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.

What many have a problem with is the amount of fraud that goes along with welfare, disability, and food stamps.

See my response to your first sentence.
posted by tzikeh at 2:56 PM on October 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


What many have a problem with is the amount of fraud that goes along with welfare, disability, and food stamps.

Aah, same old, same old. Always trotted out whenever a program for poor people is at stake (or merely middle-class these day, seeing as 'poor' and 'middle-class' are rapidly converging), whether and old program or a new one just launched (see the hullabaloo over the webiste issues with the launch of ACA). Let's see what FDR had to say about all this back in the day on one of his famous fireside chats - Fireside Chat on April 28, 1935, in which he responded to 'conservatives who complained that his Works Progress Administration, the biggest work relief program of his time, was rife with inefficiency and wasteful spending':

""When an enterprise of this character is extended over more than three thousand counties throughout the Nation, there may be occasional instances of inefficiency, bad management, or misuse of funds. When cases of this kind occur, there will be those, of course, who will try to tell you that the exceptional failure is characteristic of the entire endeavor. It should be remembered that in every big job there are some imperfections. There are chiselers in every walk of life, there are those in every industry who are guilty of unfair practices;...but long experience in Government has taught me that the exceptional instances of wrong-doing in Government are probably less numerous than in almost every other line of endeavor. ...

"It is time to provide a smashing answer for those cynical men who say that a Democracy cannot be honest and efficient....I, therefore, hope you will watch the work in every corner of this Nation. Feel free to criticize. Tell me of instances where work can be done better, or where improper practices prevail. Neither you nor I want criticism conceived in a purely fault-finding or partisan spirit, but I am jealous of the right of every citizen to call to the attention of his or her Government examples of how the public money can be more effectively spent for the benefit of the American people."
"
posted by VikingSword at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2013 [23 favorites]


The amount of fraud in food stamps is lower than fraud in other forms of welfare. The system is pretty hard to beat and I'll agree that the current system causes too many people to be denied the help they need and deserve. As an example, the current method of considering assets can be a problem. I understand not wanting to give food stamps to a person living in a mansion and driving a new Mercedes. However having large non-cash assets doesn't mean you can afford to feed yourself and your family. Selling the mansion may get you enough food for a certain amount of time but what do you do after that money is gone and now you have a rent payment to further reduce your income.

I am talking about fraudulent claims of disability (the easiest by far to cheat). If you can get disability, you can usually get food stamps. Records would show there was no fraud in the SNAP program since there was no income hidden, but the source is fraudulent.

I have personal knowledge of many 100's probably 1000's of people on disability who are cheating the system.

Yes, I know that sometimes you think someone looks like they shouldn't be on disability but really do have a problem which makes them deserving of assistance. I'm not talking about that.

And understand I am not suggesting the amount of aid be reduced at all. In fact it should be raised along with free education to better oneself. I am just saying reduce the fraud to fund the increase and to silence at least some of those who do attack the needed safety net.
posted by 2manyusernames at 3:23 PM on October 28, 2013


When was the last time you heard someone propose the IRS cut itemized deductions due to fraud?
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2013 [37 favorites]


I have personal knowledge of many 100's probably 1000's of people on disability who are cheating the system.

This line is making it harder to give you the benefit of the doubt; can you back it up with anything?

Also, especially for food stamps but for many forms of welfare, it's not like being on them is so great that people with sufficient resources on their own are lining up for some sort of gravy train; for the most part, there aren't such huge sums of money at stake that it's worth the time and energy and hoops for someone committing fraud. Honestly, for food stamps at least, I kind of think that if you're even trying to commit fraud to get them you probably deserve them.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


I am just saying reduce the fraud to fund the increase and to silence at least some of those who do attack the needed safety net.

Even if you could somehow reduce the fraud to zero, a certain segment of the population wants to believe that fraud is rampant, and there's a whole echo chamber full of Hannitys and Becks that would be happy to meet that demand.
posted by Rykey at 3:51 PM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl: "
This line is making it harder to give you the benefit of the doubt; can you back it up with anything?
"

Well that is over quite a few number of years. My job has me interacting with a large number of families - many of which has every single member getting disability payments on the most slimmest of reasons. I interact with them long enough to really get to know them. Many times, I've seen their kids raised on disability payments from an early age, see them grow up and start the process all over again with their own families.
posted by 2manyusernames at 3:52 PM on October 28, 2013


I am talking about fraudulent claims of disability (the easiest by far to cheat). If you can get disability, you can usually get food stamps. Records would show there was no fraud in the SNAP program since there was no income hidden, but the source is fraudulent.

If disability really is the easiest to cheat, then I am firmly convinced that is literally no problem with welfare fraud in America. First time disability claims are denied 70% of the time. The only real way to win benefits if you're even a slightly marginal case is to appeal, usually twice. There's always going to be some fraud, but if you're making it through the complicated and claimant hostile world of SSI/SSDI, I'm going to assume that you're genuinely disabled upwards of 99% of the time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:54 PM on October 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


Some House Republican leaders have sought to portray SNAP as rife with fraud and abuse to help justify their proposals to cut millions of people from the program and slash $40 billion from SNAP. The facts are not on their side.


But when has that ever stopped them?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:56 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for responding, 2manyusernames. I have a question for you (again, serious question, not snark): Were these families getting disability payments because that was the only money they could get? Was going through that process, apparently fraudulently, actually beneficial to them? I would think that, under those circumstances, they wouldn't be making enough money to be worth it UNLESS they actually desperately needed the money to survive and that was the only option available to them.

I guess my question is whether the people you mention were desperately poor and had no other options? In that case, I'd like to suggest that the problem isn't that the disability system is too easy to game, it might just be that we don't have enough help and support for people who really need it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:59 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am just saying reduce the fraud to fund the increase and to silence at least some of those who do attack the needed safety net.

If they're complaining about 2% fraud, waste, and abuse that is largely made up of either clerical issues or the middleman defrauding both the system and SNAP recipients, I can tell you right now that it will silence between 0% and 0.00000001% of people who attack safety nets.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:01 PM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


If the amount being cut is a quarter of the amount spent on air conditioning in Iraq then I have a really good suggestion for saving an equivalent amount of money that won't hurt poor people.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:03 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Add to that the kids not getting educated. Or having the support in schools that will help them if things are rough at home. Plus, no expansion of Medicaid for the poor in PA.

Good job, U.S. /goes into hulk-mode and breaks a ton of shit. Only the cats are spared.
posted by angrycat at 4:08 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the amount being cut is a quarter of the amount spent on air conditioning in Iraq then I have a really good suggestion for saving an equivalent amount of money that won't hurt poor people.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:03 PM on October 28 [+] [!]

This is interesting, given that many (many) military families benefit from....food stamps.

That's right. Some of the men and women fighting and dying for our freedom aren't being paid enough to feed their families either.
posted by bilabial at 4:11 PM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


what's the way to hurt the corporations but not hurt the individual workers?

Unions. Minimum wage laws.
posted by heathkit at 4:14 PM on October 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


This gives me a great idea of how to bring jobs back to America. What's more, it's fully consistent with Traditional Values!

Are you ready?

Workhouses.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:17 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


George_Spiggott,
We already have those. The modern prison industry.
posted by daq at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


My job has me interacting with a large number of families - many of which has every single member getting disability payments on the most slimmest of reasons. I interact with them long enough to really get to know them.

My job also has me interacting with lots of families on disability. My experience does not match this. I haven't worked with a single person/family willing to subject themselves to the very long, extremely complicated and invasive process of disability applications if they can work...not for the $780 a month which seems the standard payment for my area. Some do have medical conditions that, if treated properly, would enable them to work. Until the ACA changes fully go into effect, they're out of luck.

H.R. 6083 Passed the House in July and I believe the Senate passed a revised/amended version in September. The House version included language that could disqualify people from SNAP eligibility if they own a modest car or have a small amount of savings along with other provisions that could disqualify millions of people from SNAP participation. I don't think (but am not certain) the car/savings exclusions passed.

It's as if they lifted the language for this bill right out of this 2011 Heritage Foundation "study":

Of course, poor Americans do not live in the lap of luxury. The poor clearly struggle to make ends meet, but they are generally struggling to pay for cable TV, air conditioning, and a car, as well as for food on the table. The average poor person is far from affluent, but his lifestyle is far from the images of stark deprivation purveyed equally by advocacy groups and the media.

It's a subtler form of Welfare Queens with Mansions, fancy clothes and Cadillacs, but more pernicious for the tissue thin veil of concern for poor people. Welfare Queens are too easy to disprove and too nakedly racist. Claims of pervasive fraud don't hold up anymore. Soooo, onto arguing that the poor aren't really all that poor because Air Conditioning! and living in homes/apartments that are in Good Repair! and Aren't Over-Crowded! Hell, American "poor" people even have more living space than French or Swedish poor people! Sometimes they even have more than one TV, Play Stations and more than one car.....so who the fuck are they to complain?

Many of these "luxuries" are remnants of better economic times for a family before loosing their jobs. Goods like TVs, Play Stations and DVD players often exchange hands several times in communities that use them for trade to get through really tight spots. The majority of rural and suburban poor live in areas so spread out and so lacking in adequate public transportation that only way to get to their minimum wage jobs is by car. The lack of transportation can be the final nail in the coffin that drives a family into permanent, irrevocable poverty. And Jesus Goddamn Christ, just about everyone in America lives a home larger than the French and Swiss.

Of course, they also care about the root causes of poverty.

..."welfare policy needs to address the causes of poverty, not merely the symptoms. Among families with children, the collapse of marriage and erosion of the work ethic are the principal long-term causes of poverty."

Read: “People are comforted by believing that they know that a person has to have done something wrong in order to be poor"...and comforted by the idea that they really aren't all the poor.

The Salon piece was, for me, pretty funny timing. The other day I emptied a box of books from my college days and found an old copy of Regulating the Poor, The Functions of Public Welfare. Naive, 19 year old me had a hard time believing that the folks making the most racket about cutting public assistance programs have the most vested interests in keeping them going. The real fight isn't about welfare, it's how cheap can we be until it stops being a useful cudgel.
posted by space_cookie at 4:55 PM on October 28, 2013 [27 favorites]


For what it's worth - there was an episode of This American Life that largely squared with 2manyusername's experience.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 5:19 PM on October 28, 2013


I think this sort of thing is just going to keep happening until the people who benefit in our society start being afraid of the poor and working class and "moochers". I'm not advocating violence, but in the past successful social movements and pushes for reform were gained in the context of some other radicalism. Oligarchs might have hated the New Deal passionately, but they also had first-hand memories of militant unions and Eugene Debs. Right now there is not that radical alternative. Populist anger was channeled into the Koch funded Tea Party.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:33 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this sort of thing is just going to keep happening until the people who benefit in our society start being afraid of the poor and working class and "moochers".

they ARE afraid

in my darker, more cynical and conspiracy minded moments, i've actually wondered if our wars in iraq and afghanistan have been a way for our troops to get good practice, and their leaders to get a good idea of what's effecitve, so that when we do see civil insurrection in this country, the elite will know how to deal with it and have soldiers that will be well trained

maybe i'm crazy for thinking that

maybe this country's going crazy
posted by pyramid termite at 5:41 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "... what's the way to hurt the corporations but not hurt the individual workers?"

Aren't sane minimum wage laws the obvious answer to this?
posted by kyrademon at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


“riots always begin typically the same way: when people cannot afford to eat food.”

This is a very old-fashioned statement. Obesity has a strong correlation with income, but it's a negative one. Poor people are often unhappy because they can't afford things they want, but fast food is cheap enough that they can still afford a lot of calories.
I don't think anybody would say that the London 2011 riots were about hunger, rather than boredom, dissatisfaction and a desire for free stuff.
posted by w0mbat at 5:43 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The This American Life (transcript) segment linked to by PissOnYourParade above is great. It's main lesson -- that as welfare and other forms of support have been cut, disability has picked up a lot of the slack -- is not new, but the exposition is wonderful: At first, this looks like a piece bemoaning all the fraud and graft of the sort worrying 2manyusername, but as it follows the thread -- using the anecdotes not just as illustrations, but as clues in the reporter's process tracing back the root causes -- we see how these people really are disabled, disabled in some terrible combination of societal and physical ailments, ailments which richer people might overcome, but poorer people, lacking both healthcare and the kinds of jobs that would allow them to work with their ailment, are defeated by. And then we see the legal and bureaucratic structures that grow up around this, accelerating a process that while dismal, is still better than the alternative (starvation). America still can't quite bring itself to leave millions of poor starving in the street, so we build these rube-goldberg devices that hide socialism from the right-wing fanatics behind a scrim of indirect aid. And every few years or decades, they discover another trick -- food stamps this year, disability the next -- and attack it, and the reasonable (too reasonable) people do what they can to kick the can further down the road. The only difference with Obamacare is that the rube-goldberg device was too out in the open, and the end goal -- the crazy, indirect, incredibly inefficient privatization of socialized medicine -- too explicit. A smarter technocrat might have just set up a few thousand clinics and let it grow from there. Or, of course, actually fight to directly help the poor. But that hasn't been the way even on the "left" for decades.
posted by chortly at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


.
posted by rue72 at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2013


Tangentially, MetaFilter's own No-sword has written a great blog post about the recently deceased Yanase Takashi (a true mensch and creator of the popular cartoon Anpanman) that touches on blog security:

What is left of Anpanman, then, when the historical accretions are stripped away? Or, rather, what has been at the core of Anpanman through all his adventures and transmigrations? ...The underlying message of Anpanman is simple: Everyone deserves to eat. Anpanman fights for justice (seigi), but Yanase’s experiences during World War II left him with the belief that food security is justice, objective and absolute.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:49 PM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


The This American Life (transcript) segment linked to by PissOnYourParade above is great.

Great, huh? That's funny, because people who actually know about this stuff, roundly panned that NPR segment as shockingly ill-informed and misleading:

"[An] overwrought and inaccurate "investigation" of disability aired on National Public Radio in March, numerous experts came forth to set the record straight. They included eight former Social Security commissioners, experienced analysts of the program, even the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, Steve Goss."

You can read the open letter from the former Social Security commissioners in response to the This American Life piece - pretty devastating. But, hey, those are only the people who worked day in and day out at the heart of the organization, so what can they know that a couple of flacks from NPR wouldn't, right?

The 'experienced analysts' whose job it is to study this, and Steve Goss (Social Security Administration's chief actuary) had their say too.

But it's never about the facts, is it, when a radio 'story' is so much more colorful - at that point, facts are irrelevant. And the societal discourse is all the more poor for such journalism that completely ignores or contradicts facts for the sake of an entertaining 'story'.
posted by VikingSword at 7:54 PM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yes, good. Riot for heaven's sake. Your country is broken, America.

And if the last several decades haven't made it apparent, things won't change unless you make them change. Whining about on the internet sure as hell ain't going to do it.
posted by dry white toast at 8:13 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vote, people, goddammit. Vote!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have personal knowledge of many 100's probably 1000's of people on disability who are cheating the system.

And what, may I ask, are your credentials for determining who is and isn't disabled? What criteria did you use to evaluate them by?

There seems to be an epidemic of arm chair disability experts.

As someone who is disabled but on a good day or with enough medication can function for a few hours to fool most people, I'm fucking glad you're around to tell me I'm okay. Especially after the grand I wasted to have a physical therapist tell me what I already knew, yup, I am in fact disabled.

Here is my secret for appearing normal to the casual person, when my pain level is bad, I stay in bed all day. Frequently, I have to cancel or reschedule my plans. Sometimes though, with a period of rest and appropriate medications I can go out. If my husband drives me places, I can travel outside my 20 minute driving radius. And even though a lot of my days are spent in pain and barely able to move from fatigue, when I am up and about, I'm generally a cheerful person. Probably because that day isn't sucking. If you met me, you probably would think I'm fine. I have a few friends who suspect I'm not "really that sick" because they haven't been around me on anything but my best days.

So yeah, go ahead and keep believing those people are not "really" disabled. But until you've sat with them 24/7, I'm going to argue that you have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:31 PM on October 28, 2013 [25 favorites]


I should add, in perhaps a less angry tone, that being disabled in the case we're talking about here is being able to work at a job day after day without too many absences that would get you fired. Depend on one's illness or injury, they might be able to do a job for a short while. They might even be able to go out, spend time shopping with friends and family, as long as they can regulate their schedule.

I've yet to find a job that will let you work when you feel okay and not when you don't. If there was a job out there that let me work say, a week out of a month, but didn't care what, when or how those hours came, I'd be set. I might even be able to work two weeks some months. But then there would need to be the months where my health goes sideways and I'm not doing anything for several weeks straight. Happened the last two winters; I suspect it will again this winter. The pain and fatigue have already increased again, and it's still only October.

So that's what I say to fraud. Most of it is assholes not seeing the complete story and passing judgement, be it disability, food stamps, etc... As the evidence shows, the actual fraud in food stamps is very low, but people presume it is high because they once saw someone buy something that apparently the poor don't deserve because they're poor. Or heard about the one person on the radio (which was likely apocryphal to begin with.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:43 PM on October 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


KokuRyu: "I believe in the States you are eligible for food stamps even if you are working. In Canada you are not eligible for welfare if you hold a job."

This is only sort of true; there are paths to employment that allow you start work without completely losing your benefits. Also welfare being a provincial responsibility it probably varies from place to place.

Really I think everyone should have a significant guaranteed annual income however you want implement it. An across the board food stamp allowance (IE: every legal resident gets $100 a month or whatever) would be a great step forward and would greatly help the poor in this country.
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


That seems like a lot of authority citation without much argument or evidence, but even so, I'm not sure what exactly is being argued with. Most of what the links are saying is consistent with the NPR story, which I read not as fear-mongering about fraud, but as a nuanced analysis of why society quite reasonably falls back on alternative safety nets when others (welfare, minimum wages, and jobs) fall apart.

For instance, in discussing the growing disability rolls, the LA Times article in your first link states:

LAT: When jobs are scarce, more people land on the disability rolls...As we explained in April, disabled people always have more difficulty finding jobs than others; when desk jobs disappear and all that's left are laborers' positions, the opportunities for the physically and mentally challenged shrink. A good economy allows more disabled persons to find gainful employment and stay off the rolls; in a bad economy that path isn't open.

That was exactly the point of the NPR piece.

NPR: So somewhere around 30 years ago, the economy started changing in some important ways. There are now millions of Americans who do not have the education or the skills for the current economy. And this does not seem temporary....Politicians certainly pay lip service to this problem during election cycles and such. But American leaders have not sat down and said, look, things have fundamentally changed. What are we going to do for these people? We need a plan....In the meantime, the disability programs have become the default plan.

That recent LA Time piece (which itself is more directly addressing a genuinely fraud-mongering 60 Minutes episode) also links to an earlier article responding directly to the NPR segment, where the same authors write:

LAT2: It's easy to assert, as do some academic researchers, that disability rolls should be shrinking because work is no longer as toilsome as it used to be. When the Social Security disability program was created in 1956, assert David Autor of MIT and Mark Duggan of the University of Maryland, "a substantial fraction of jobs involved strenuous physical activity [and] assistive technologies were limited and crude."

Yet the real-world workplace is still tougher than it looks from the faculty lounge. A 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 45% of workers 58 and older held jobs that were physically demanding or involved difficult working conditions. Indeed, disability rates are closely tied to work conditions. In West Virginia, which has the nation's highest disability rate (12.5% of residents receive benefits), 150 out of every 1,000 jobs involve transportation, hauling, construction or mining. In California, which has the eighth-lowest rate (4.8%), those categories account for only 95 out of 1,000 jobs.

The biggest factor may be the economy. With employment still running about 9 million jobs below where it would have been had pre-2008 trends continued, it's hardly surprising that disability rolls have grown. Disabled people always have more difficulty finding employment than others; when desk jobs disappear and all that's left are laborers' positions, the opportunities for the physically and mentally challenged only become more dire.


That too was exactly the point of the NPR piece!

NPR: It is that gap between the world I live in and Ethel's world that's a big part of why the disability program has been growing so rapidly. A gap that prevents someone from even imagining the working world I live in, where there are jobs where you can work and have a sore back, or, in her husband Joseph's case, damaged nerves in his hands.

Chana Joffe: Did you try to look for jobs that didn't involve your hands?
Ethel Thomas:What would you do? What kind of work could you do without your hands?
Joseph Thomas: I don't know. What could I do?


But it's tricky to pin the segment down, because it actually moves through a number of positions, speculating about fraud but I think mainly ending up, after it's done its investigations and interviews, on the side of the LA Times writers. They attempt to shoe-horn it into stupid right-wing reactions to disability, but their cherry-picked quotes do great disservice to the piece itself. While it does end on a somewhat disappointing note, most of its development is in the right direction. It may be that people didn't react that way when it originally came out -- and perhaps the author is even more right-leaning and anti-disability that it seems in the piece -- but the piece itself I think is very illuminating in showing just why disability rolls have grown (in addition to the basic demographic trends), and why that's more a fault of America's self-destructed safety nets than a sudden influx of fraud.


Similarly, the other links are also more consistent with the piece than they themselves seem to think. In fact, the open letter is arguably to the right of the NPR piece, since its main point is that they are quite strict in keeping only the neediest on the rolls -- whereas the NPR piece acknowledges (at least implicitly, in my reading) that looser strictures are not necessarily a bad thing when other safety nets no longer exist.

NPR: Dr. Timberlake is saying one in four people in Hale County are disabled, not because they eat bad food or party too hard or because they're cheating. He's basically saying one in four people should be classified as disabled because they can't get a job. A fact that doesn't really seem like it should be taken into account at all. You're either disabled or you're not.

At least when speaking of children, open letter writers grant that deteriorating economic conditions are largely to blame:

OL: The increase in the number of children receiving SSI benefits in the past decade is similarly explained by larger economic factors, namely the increase in the number of poor and low-income children. More than 1 in 5 U.S. children live in poverty today and some 44 percent live in low-income households. Since SSI is a means-tested program, more poor and low-income children mean more children with disabilities are financially eligible for benefits. Importantly, the share of low-income children who receive SSI benefits has remained constant at less than four percent.

Conversely, they seem to say something outright false when they discuss adults:

OL: The growth that we’ve seen was predicted by actuaries as early as 1994 and is mostly the result of two factors: baby boomers entering their high- disability years, and women entering the workforce in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s so that more are now "insured" for DI based on their own prior contributions.

This seems inconsistent with your other link, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In arguing that the growth in rolls are not as large as they seem, the authors write:

CBPP: Economic downturns lead some workers to seek DI benefits, but researchers conclude that a sour economy boosts applications by much more than actual awards... The Social Security actuaries express the number of people receiving disability benefits using an “age- and sex-adjusted disability prevalence rate” that controls for these factors. That rate rose from 3.1 percent of the insured population in 1980 to 3.5 percent in 1995 and 4.6 percent in 2012.

While not as large as the headline numbers of 300%, that's still a growth of 50% even controlling for age and sex. This directly contradicts the claim by the open letter folks that this was all predicted by actuaries based on baby boomer aging and women. Though what we should do about the fact that disability is picking up the slack as the economy worsens remains unaddressed by any of these folks. The NPR piece merely concludes:

NPR: There are options. We just never made a decision.


To sum up, I clearly read the NPR piece as much to the left of how these people and you seem to have taken it. It does fret over growing rolls and the possibility of fraud, but the evidence it actually presents paints a much more vivid picture of needy people drawing on whatever safety nets they can find, something which is clearly much better than the starvation alternative. And while it does point out many drawbacks -- such as dependency -- the main implication is that the fault lies much more with a system that relies on such round-about help rather than direct aid, and not with the individuals, doctors, or lawyers who do the best they can with a system they can't change.

Clearly, others didn't hear the piece this way, including many of the people you cite. But it might have made sense to more carefully read the NPR segment (and the tenor of my take on it) before bombarding us* with authorities who themselves seem not to have examined the piece very closely.

(Though clearly I'm not one to talk in the bombardment department!)
posted by chortly at 12:19 AM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are several problems with disability, notably that it's hard to get people off the disability register - it's relatively easy to prove you can't do something. Better to pay unemployment benefits, which mean the recipient has to prove they are looking for work, which means they are more likely to try to get it - which is better for them as well as society.

Minimum wages help some workers - educated women - at the expense of others - low-skill young men and women - and also hurt international competitiveness, so some kind of tax credit system may be better. But then you get massive poverty traps, and perverse incentives, and they are harder to administer. The very best thing is strong demand for labor, of course, and a good system of education.

Finally, and I'm a fairly right-wing guy: the single best way to manage the problems of poverty is to give poor people money. It doesn't "solve" poverty. It doesn't make them not poor in the future. It creates issues of poverty traps and disincentives. They might spend it all on crack. That doesn't matter. It still stops people starving, not matter who they are, and we owe that to them as moral socialists/Christians/cynical Libertarians who fear a revolution.

Giving poor people money has to be part of any poverty-reduction scheme.
posted by alasdair at 1:57 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't they actually have a sort of universal income credit in Alaska? How well does that work?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:37 AM on October 29, 2013


I am not a religious person, but there are a few Bible passages that I (fuzzily) recall from Sunday School. The Republicans who are cutting this funding should, as punishment, have this passage read to them at church this coming Sunday (apologies for such a big chunk of scripture, but it's a central teaching of the man that these people purport to worship, and these words are in stark contrast to their actions):
Matthew 25:31-46

New International Version (NIV)
The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
posted by zardoz at 4:19 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


it's relatively easy to prove you can't do something. Better to pay unemployment benefits, which mean the recipient has to prove they are looking for work, which means they are more likely to try to get it - which is better for them as well as society.


As a retired lawyer who did some SSD work before becoming disabled herself, I am here to tell you that you have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by angrycat at 5:09 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are several problems with disability, notably that it's hard to get people off the disability register - it's relatively easy to prove you can't do something.


No its not. As cited above, 70% of first-time disability claims are denied. This doesn't speak to 'get[ing] people off the disability register', but why would you want to do that?

Better to pay unemployment benefits, which mean the recipient has to prove they are looking for work, which means they are more likely to try to get it - which is better for them as well as society.

Fuck. One, it isn't true that people receiving unemployment benefits have to prove that they are looking for work. Also, your claim assumes that people aren't looking for work, or aren't already working. Which is to say is a fairly uncharitable assumption.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:13 AM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a retired lawyer who did some SSD work before becoming disabled herself, I am here to tell you that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Amen. I've done a few SSA cases myself, and it's really, really fucking hard to get someone benefits if they're at all borderline. The system is intricate, the standards are hard to meet, and bureaucracy is incredibly claimant unfriendly. I've been on unemployment, and that was much, much friendlier and easier; I'm sure that varies by jurisdiction, though.

I'm also not sure why getting people off the register is even a priority for anyone who genuinely cares about the disabled. The point of disability is that you're unlikely to be able to work in the near future because of health conditions. Getting people off isn't the point, supporting people who can't work is. Disability isn't unemployment, so there's no reason to treat it like it is. Moreover, asking people who are so disabled that they are unable to work to look for work isn't just counterproductive, it's needlessly cruel. I've never been disabled, but I have been out of work, and looking for work is hard and frustrating. I can only imagine that it's exponentially more depressing if you know that the likelihood of your finding a job is effectively zero for reasons entirely beyond your control. Why would want to inflict that suffering on someone we know is unlikely to find work? That's not better for them, and it's not better for society. Fuck that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:58 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't they actually have a sort of universal income credit in Alaska? How well does that work?

Well, they still elect people like Sarah Palin to office, so it can't be working that well!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:05 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl: ". I have a question for you (again, serious question, not snark): Were these families getting disability payments because that was the only money they could get? Was going through that process, apparently fraudulently, actually beneficial to them? "

Sometimes it is just one member. Many of the people I deal/dealt with looks at that as a baseline of income. They felt that even if they got a job paying $1800/month that is only $1100 per month more than they were getting without working.

More often is when everyone in the family was on disability. It may only be $780/month or so but when mom, dad, and 4 kids are all making $780 per month + other benefits it adds up to quite a bit of income. Netting nearly $5000 per month was/is certainly beneficial
posted by 2manyusernames at 6:28 AM on October 29, 2013


2manyusernames-

If your perceptions are accurate, and not anomalous, then surely there would be some data to support your experience? Where is it, if it isn't there, why?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:14 AM on October 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you are so sure that they are committing fraud why don't you report them?
posted by futz at 7:27 AM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


2manyusernames-

More to the point, I would imagine that generational disability usage is probably exacerbated by the fact that either the condition causing it, or the co-morbid traits that encourage it may be heritable and/or have environmental factors that are a bit more of an influence than shenanigans.

Maybe you should also talk about the types of disabilities you think are being fraudulently represented?
posted by Phalene at 8:00 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if there is abuse, it's a tempest in a teapot. All the SSD fraud in all the world for 100 years doesn't equal one goddam Lehman Brothers, one Enron or one Halliburton. Anyone truly interested in government/taxpayer waste, fraud & abuse would be going after the kingpins first.

Some dude with a sore wrist isn't gonna fix or ruin the economy either way.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:15 AM on October 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


Cost of livin' gets so high,
Rich and poor they start to cry:
Now the weak must get strong;
They say, "Oh, what a tribulation!"
Dem belly full, but we hungry;
A hungry mob is a angry mob.
A rain a-fall, but the dirt too tough;
A pot a cook, but de food no 'nough.
posted by karst at 8:20 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every day the bucket goes to the well, but one day the bottom will drop out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:31 AM on October 29, 2013


What I think this will do is shift the burden to the states, who hopefully will start complaining loudly.

Yes, probably by sending more teabagging morons to exacerbate the problems.


As I was saying...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2013


Less than thirteen cents—a figure budgeted to drop below a dime in the next few years—out of every federal tax dollar goes to pay for all the ways the federal government tries to make sure your neighbors don't starve to death in the streets. SNAP is less than three pennies out of every tax dollar. I invite the kinds of cartooish villains who think this is too much to have a long, cool glass of shut the fuck up.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2013 [13 favorites]




The Judgement of the Nations is nice and all and it seems to clearly indicate that we should be kind and good to all needy people all the time and be perfect Christian Socialists so everyone can be happy and fulfilled. However, that bit has also been interpreted to only/specifically apply to events that happen after the Second Coming vis-à-vis the treatment of fellow Christians during the Tribulation.

So since it's close to Halloween I'll put my Christian Right Wing costume on and say, "HURF DURF those lazy people needing public assistance probably aren't Christians anyway, because otherwise they'd pull up their bootstraps and get a job and then go to their church for help, and besides, it's not the End Times. YET."

* Tongue firmly in cheek.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:55 AM on October 29, 2013


Yes, the vast majority of people on welfare are not cheating the system but even a small percentage adds up to incredibly huge sums.

Here is an example. Poor Penny Pritzker, from Illinois who is the currrent Secretary of Commerce described as an 'entrepreneur' is from a mob connected family that made billions and has engaged in criminal tax evasion (they paid a settlement of just $50 million despite the dodged tax bill being suspected to be multiples of that money however the government wasn't able to penetrate their off-shored financial dealings) and criminal banking fraud (they paid a fine of more than half a billion for the shenanigans).

That's your welfare fraud. One family has stolen billions and gotten away with most of it and then their ancestors have gone on to buy cushy high status powerful government positions with the proceeds.

So let's root out fraud and crime. Start at the top.

What the poor do is less than a mosquito bite.
posted by srboisvert at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Even if there is abuse, it's a tempest in a teapot. All the SSD fraud in all the world for 100 years doesn't equal one goddam Lehman Brothers, one Enron or one Halliburton. Anyone truly interested in government/taxpayer waste, fraud & abuse would be going after the kingpins first.

I'd just like to throw in the $2.3 trillion that Rumsfeld announced, Sept. 10, 2001, the Pentagon couldn't account for. Moaning over some guy faking a bad back, or taking a few thousand in food stamps he's not entitled to is asinine, if you aren't doing anything about the flashing red elephant in the room.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 1:38 PM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


However, that bit has also been interpreted to only/specifically apply to events that happen after the Second Coming vis-à-vis the treatment of fellow Christians during the Tribulation.

How convenient! Jesus was just talking to the immediate family, then? Not speaking truth to the masses?
posted by zardoz at 1:49 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


it isn't true that people receiving unemployment benefits have to prove that they are looking for work.

In order to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be looking for work. If you don't have documentation that you're looking for work, your benefits can be taken away. How is this different from having to prove that you're looking for work?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:45 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


The impression from where I live and work is that as soon as some pulls out a SNAP card and has one food item in the cart that's not 'healthy' they're wasting tax dollars. And dear gord, if that person then sees them get into a car that starts up and isn't rusted to hell. Never mind if they see an iPhone, because as soon as you become poor you're supposed to sell every thing, buy just beans and rice, work at any job for 1 hour a week for less than minimum wage AND then, THEN if you've tried really hard and didn't turn down any offers of employment, then you may have SNAP. BUT NOT for more than a few months, because then you might just get so used to being so poor you'll stay that way for life.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:51 PM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm ready to go with a guaranteed basic income. Something like $1000 a month for every American citizen, period. No means testing, no food stamps, no disability, no unemployment, phase out Social Security, vast swathes of (mostly redundant) government bureaucracy eliminated, vast amounts of government intrusiveness into peoples' lives eliminated. Smaller government AND socialism, feels like a win-win to me, even if it'll never happen in a million years.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:22 PM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


In order to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be looking for work. If you don't have documentation that you're looking for work, your benefits can be taken away. How is this different from having to prove that you're looking for work?

This isn't universally true in the United States. Source: I was on unemployment in PA and never ever ever had to furnish any evidence that I was looking for work.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:21 AM on October 30, 2013


"As mandated by federal law, all 50 states have an active search for work requirement as a condition of eligibility to receive unemployment compensation benefits."

Source: The Official Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Website (yes, that's its name)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:27 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


This isn't universally true in the United States. Source: I was on unemployment in PA and never ever ever had to furnish any evidence that I was looking for work.

I'm betting you were asked to keep a log and provide evidence of a job search if they checked up on you though.
posted by Artw at 5:36 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fraud, like defects in an assembly line, will always be a part of any welfare system. Attempting to remove all fraud may be far more expensive and detrimental than simply living with fraud as a side effect.

For more information, see Edwards Deming's thoughts on "Zero Defect"
posted by Freen at 7:25 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


America’s new hunger crisis
When people don’t have the resources to feed themselves, and government welfare programs aren’t giving them the help they need, food banks are often the safety net of last resort. However, these non-profit charities are also dependent on government subsidies, and many of them are seeing their budgets shrink even as demand for their services reaches unprecedented levels. This holds especially true in low-income areas where food pantries rely on the donations of churchgoers who are themselves struggling, said Food Bank For New York City president and CEO Margarette Purvis.

“For programs that have lower capacity, more of them are closed, and they are closed primarily because they rely on faith-based resources,” Purvis told MSNBC.com. “They rely on the collection plate.”

At the same time, federal grants for food banks and pantries have taken a haircut. Although food stamps were left untouched by the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester, food banks took a modest hit when TEFAP, a USDA program which subsidizes food storage and distribution for food banks, got trimmed by 5%. For the only food bank in the entire state of Alaska, that could not have come at a worse time.

“Even though it’s just a 5% cut, every little bit squeezes us, stretches us more and more,” said Mary Sullivan, director of advocacy and agency relations for the Food Bank of Alaska. “We’re already operating on a very narrow margin budget-wise, and we’re already leveraging so many dollars from the private sector to keep the program operating.”

Alaska covers the largest geographic area of any state in the country, and the Food Bank of Alaska delivers a lot of its food to remote, hard-to-reach areas. TEFAP distribution funds help subsidize the use of air freight and barge shipping to some of the most isolated places in the country. Despite continuing TEFAP assistance, “we continue to run the program at a deficit,” said Sullivan.

For food banks across the country, the government shutdown strained resources even further. As government workers temporarily lost their jobs and preschool-aged children lost the free meals which they would have received at their Head Start programs, pantries raced to make emergency food deliveries. Had the shutdown lasted into November, many food banks would have lost their TEFAP funding and may have had to stop making food deliveries entirely.
And in case you were sure the private sector had the capability to help out, unfortunately a follow-up from the author on Twitter points out that "a lot of [charities] are dependent on dwindling federal TEFAP funds..I've spoken to many charity heads who are nearly panicking over SNAP cuts."
posted by zombieflanders at 11:47 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]




Well, Rep. Valadao voted against the cuts, but yes, it seems to be generally correct:

Is Your Congressman One Of The 13 Who Get Federal Farm Subsidies But Voted To Cut Food Stamps?
Apparently, Speaker Boehner is unaware his House just gutted food stamps one day earlier, and demanded those who need money to eat will have to find jobs in an economy that “is barely eking along,” where “wages aren’t increasing,” and where “new jobs aren’t available.”

The economy looks one way when he’s discussing food stamps — but entirely different when he’s discussing Obamacare.

But that hypocrisy pales in comparison to this.

Back in July, when Congress stripped the food stamps bill from the farm subsidies bill, fourteen Congressmen who voted for that attack on the poor are themselves farmers. Yes, they are recipients of farm subsidies.

And yesterday, thirteen of those fourteen voted to gut the food stamps bill.

And yes, they are all Republicans.
The worst is Rep. Stephen Fincher, who just generally seems to be shitstain of a human being:
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms—including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher—Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.

“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
The fact that Fincher personally received farm subsidies is interesting, but only semi-telling. I personally benefit from the home mortgage interest tax deduction and plan on continuing to do so as long as it stays law, but I still think it should be eliminated or drastically curtailed.

The problem with Fincher isn't that he's scooped up farm subsidies, it's that the appropriations bill he's votes for continues to direct huge subsidies to rich farmers like himself even even while he preaches the evils of government spending to support the poor.
Also of special note are Rep. Marlin "We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is." Stutzman, Rep. Blake "I can't say Obama is legitimately President" Farenthold, and Rep. Randy "Park Rangers should be ashamed of this shutdown I helped cause" Neugebauer.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:42 AM on November 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


One solution would be to discontinue the welfare handed out to farmers. At the very least make it more reasonable. Ted Turner, Charles Schwab, and the other millionaires do not need farming "subsidies".

Lets stop the giving away of tax payer dollars to "farmers" in order for them not to farm. Over $1 billion has been paid to people to refrain from farming in the last 13 years

How much food for the poor and needy would that purchase?
posted by 2manyusernames at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2013


This doesn't speak to 'get[ing] people off the disability register', but why would you want to do that?

Well, in the social model of disability, disabilities are related to society, not the individual. So if someone is on disability because they are blinded, one approach would be to provide them with the necessary technology and training to be able to return to work using their new technologies and skills, like a screenreader.

Because people like to feel valuable and part of society, and living off disability benefits does not help with that.

And again, to repeat, giving poor people money has to be part of poverty reduction. I'm just saying that the way we structure that should be related to positive policy ends, like keeping in mind that people with disabilities can still be wage-earning independent members of society.
posted by alasdair at 3:10 PM on November 6, 2013


I don't know what social model that is. I would love for the world to magically conform to my inability to walk. It sure don't. I live in a place where so many things are not accessible.

Really, what are you on about. So many of the needs of the disabled are unmet, and you're worried about shaking them off the rolls?
posted by angrycat at 5:54 PM on November 6, 2013


The Democrats' Original Food-Stamp Sin
But before Democrats completely rewrite the history of this body blow to the poor, a review of the facts would be in order. The seeds of this current food-stamp cut were sown by multiple deals made when Democrats held both chambers of Congress and the White House. They used money from the food-stamp program to pay for other priorities like education, health care and the school lunch program, all the while assuring that they would eventually restore the cuts. Those promises were broken, the crocodile tears from the left side of the aisle mask the bipartisan nature of slashes to this essential program, which currently provides nutrition assistance for nearly one in six Americans. It’s a disappointing example of how Washington’s fascination with the deficit and inattention to the plight of the most vulnerable didn’t begin with the Tea Party.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:34 AM on November 7, 2013


Cut in Food Stamps Forces Hard Choices on Poor
"I don't need a whole lot to eat," said Leon Simmons, 63, who spends more than half of his monthly $832 Social Security income to rent a room in an East Charleston house. "But this month I know I'm not going to buy any meats."

Mr. Simmons's allotment from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, has dropped $9. He has already spent the $33 he received for November.

The reduction in benefits has affected more than 47 million people like Mr. Simmons. It is the largest wholesale cut in the program since Congress passed the first Food Stamps Act in 1964 and touches about one in every seven Americans.

...

Meanwhile, the price of staples like rice and corn oil have increased. So this month Ms. Mock will make choices. One dozen eggs instead of three, and only $1 worth of plantains. And no coffee or sugar for herself.

"I try to get most of the things my daughter eats because I can hold the hunger - I'm an adult - but she cannot," she said. "They don't understand when there's no food in the fridge."

...

The cuts are also hurting stores in poor neighborhoods. The average food stamps household receives $272 a month, which then passes into the local economy.
...
At a Met Foodmarket in the Bronx, where 80 percent of the 7,000 weekly customers use food stamps, overall food sales have already dropped by as much as 10 percent.

"I wasn't expecting it to be that fast," said Abraham Gomez, the manager. Losing that much revenue could mean cutting back hours for employees, he said.
It's good to see the NYT put this story on page A1 at a time when so much of our media's attention is more concerned with the plight of people whose biggest problem is being forced to shop for a new health insurance plan.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2013


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