First on the list: Cut the disabled people
January 13, 2015 7:34 AM   Subscribe

On the first day of the new Congress, a Texas Republican is leading an effort to make deep cuts in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to take effect within about a year. Democrats appear to have little recourse due to the recent election results. Fraud in SSDI is not a major problem despite Republican claims and mythmaking by NPR and 60 Minutes. The inspector general found only about 0.4 percent of cases were approved by fraudulent judges.

More and more people are on disability. This reflects an aging and sick population, not fraudulent activity. Demographics explains most of the increase. See Just The Facts on Disability.

Republicans fought against SSDI throughout the 50s its passage was a dramatic story that few know or remember today. The current "crisis" is a manufactured one, part of the long-view Republican strategy to eliminate SSDI and a broader attack on Social Security. In 1983, a Republican effort moved funds that had been allocated for the disabled into the Social Security Retirement program, artificially creating an imbalance that is coming due today.

The New Republican Attack on Social Security Starts Now.

Why Defending Social Security Needs to Be Next on Obama’s To-Do List
“[People in power] use the word ‘reform’ when they mean ‘privatize,’ and they use ‘strengthen’ when they really mean ‘dismantle.’ They tell us there’s a crisis to get us all riled up so we’ll sit down and listen to their plan to privatize … Democrats are absolutely united in the need to strengthen Social Security and make it solvent for future generations. We know that, and we want that.” (Senator Barack Obama, 2005)
posted by stbalbach (130 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
This makes me sad. My mother was on SSDI. There was no way she could work, she could barely stand up for more then a few minutes at a time.. and even then she couldn't really stand straight. I can't tell you the number of times she fell because she thought she could walk farther then her back would let her. Without her SSDI, we would have been homeless.
posted by royalsong at 7:38 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Despite all the editorializing in this article, it should be noted that the rules change does not actually make any cuts to SSDI. It merely requires SSDI to be funded like the rest of the government, as a yearly budget item subject to Congressional debate and approval.

Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot. SSDI is a good thing, and as a good thing, should be able to stand on it's own as a beneficial program to the country.
posted by saeculorum at 7:39 AM on January 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


On the first day of the new Congress, republican lawmakers review the budget and ask, "are there no workhouses, no prisons?" announce bold new "Reduce the surplus population" plan.
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 AM on January 13, 2015 [76 favorites]


mythmaking by NPR and 60 Minutes.

The linked editorial mentions a specific 60 Minutes piece, but not a specific NPR one. It's likely that the author was referring to the Unfit for Work series. It's been discussed here before.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:41 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Straight Talk on Social Security:

"Here’s what Social Security is not:
• going broke;
• a Ponzi scheme;
• expected to stop paying out benefits in your lifetime;
• bankrupting our nation or future generations."

2014 Social Security Trustee's Report (And prior years)
Reading the Social Security Report: "What is crisis? In context?"
What the 2014 Trustees’ Report Shows About Social Security
Budget Concepts and Budget Process (from the White House budget proposal)

Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011 to 2021 (Congressional Budget Office, Jan 2011)
The Long-Term Budget Outlook (CBO July 2014)
An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024 (CBO Aug 2014)
What Are the Causes of Projected Growth in Spending for Social Security and Major Health Care Programs? (CBO July 2014)
Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2015 to 2024 (CBO November 2014)
Policy Options for the Social Security Disability Insurance Program (CBO 2012)
Proposals Addressing Trust Fund Solvency (SSA Office of the Chief Actuary)

The Right's plan to kill Social Security:
Social Security: Continuing Crisis or Real Reform? (Cato 1983)

And a rebuttal:
Social Security The Phony Crisis (Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot 1993)
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [66 favorites]


Despite all the editorializing in this article, it should be noted that the rules change does not actually make any cuts to SSDI. It merely requires SSDI to be funded like the rest of the government, as a yearly budget item subject to Congressional debate and approval.

I bet it'd be funded even more if we raised the cap on the taxable income for social security.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on January 13, 2015 [74 favorites]


Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot. SSDI is a good thing, and as a good thing, should be able to stand on it's own as a beneficial program to the country.

The new conservative legislature will surely recognize the good of the program and fund it appropriately.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:53 AM on January 13, 2015 [77 favorites]


I would really like to be wrong, but I am not holding out hope that Obama won't help dismantle Social Security
posted by indubitable at 7:53 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


It merely requires SSDI to be funded like the rest of the government, as a yearly budget item subject to Congressional debate and approval. Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot. SSDI is a good thing, and as a good thing, should be able to stand on it's own as a beneficial program to the country.

Which would be fine if we had two sane and functioning political parties who can rationally debate any needed adjustments to things like SSDI. But we don't. We have one party who will hold SSDI funding hostage year after year in order to get concessions on their radical agenda. As such, it really does need to be on auto-pilot until we have human pilots who won't threaten to crash the plane unless the mechanics remove the fire suppression systems.

Okay, that metaphor kind of got away from me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:54 AM on January 13, 2015 [112 favorites]


This doesn't make me sad. It makes me angry. Very very very fucking angry. I know many people on disability. My roommate (formerly, she was my ex) was fortunate to have received her benefits on the first attempt.

My sister. She's dead now. Killed herself in 2013. Sometime around the year 2000 she started to get sick. Many different things wrong with her. Not only physical, but also mental. I would actually argue that the mental problems may have been at least as much a factor in her disability as the physical (in the sense of being able to maintain coherency, keep stable social relationships, amongst other things). She failed to obtain benefits multiple times. She had to appeal and appeal and appeal. My parents, who already were low on money - and limited money for savings, spent nearly all their savings trying to help support her (she was in her 40s) while she fought her appeals. It took such a dramatic hard toll on her, on my parents, on all of us.

She finally received them after many years. After struggling to get on alternative programs to help (Montel's prescription payments thingy, for example)... She finally got it. My parents, now having almost completely depleted their life savings, now are forced to work longer (well my mother, my father has his own health issues, and my poor mother, she's wearing thin)...

My sister was the seriously most unfit I have ever seen anyone in terms of ability to function in society (not just physically, but again, mentally - in terms of maintaining stable relationships). And the hardship she had to endure... It took its toll on her. The weekend before she was to have a room inspection in her low-income housing, she took her life. The stress and indignities of all that she had been through, living in a homeless shelter, low income housing and inspections, struggle to obtain medications, doctors disbelieving her, changing her meds over and over, appeals and more appeals... It took its toll. The system did what *they* wanted it to do: kill my sister.

And I partially put her death at their feet. There are other factors, and other things that hold me culpable (not being as supportive a brother) my father (similar reasons) my other sister's death. Through it all my mother stuck through it... Giving giving and giving.

And yet, to this day, my mother (and father) buys the lies. She lived the pain first hand, she is still paying for that pain with her own labor into old age, and yet, she still continues to vote for these policies of hate, spite and punishment for the marginalized and least among us. A pox on the house of Republicans. A pox on Paul Ryan, a pox on John Boehner, a pox on Louie Gohmert, a pox on Ted Cruz, a pox on Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and every single mother fucking Republican (and any fucking democratic sellout, fucking blue dog traitors to the human race). A pox on all their houses and may the suffering that befell my family befall them a thousand times more.

Fucking pigs.
posted by symbioid at 8:01 AM on January 13, 2015 [185 favorites]


This quote should be mounted above the door of the Capitol building.

''Free Enterprise is much too hard on the old and the sick and the shy and the poor and the stupid, and on people nobody likes.'' - Kurt Vonnegut (Address to a Graduating Class at Bennington College, 1970. )

Capitalism doesn't work for everybody. Taking care of the minority that can't/don't participate is a hell of a lot cheaper than housing them in prisons.
posted by any major dude at 8:03 AM on January 13, 2015 [65 favorites]


There hasn't been any debate in Congress in ten years at least. People yell at an empty chamber and then vote how their bribers tell them to vote.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:05 AM on January 13, 2015 [46 favorites]


I don't see why SSDI should be funded yearly like the rest of the government. The money comes directly out of our pay checks. It should be safeguarded and automatic. People aren't machines and government isn't a business.
posted by bleep at 8:05 AM on January 13, 2015 [59 favorites]


Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot. SSDI is a good thing, and as a good thing, should be able to stand on it's own as a beneficial program to the country.
saeculorum

I really can't tell if you're joking.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:07 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


The mystery of the missing Social Security data - Did Social Security's right wing opponents manage to get crucial data removed from the Trustees report?
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:07 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know, I really want to attribute Republican policies like these to something other than rank cruelty, but it gets harder and harder. I want to do this because it's hard to have a reasonable debate, to even get to the point of process, when the other side is acting like a comic book villain. But it gets harder and harder.
posted by X-Himy at 8:09 AM on January 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot.

While this makes for a good soundbite, it is in fact one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard. The best way to get a project done efficiently and on time is to have clear goals and stable funding. Submitting a project to political wrangling every year - which in terms of funding a massive organization is a very short funding horizon - wastes tons of time in effort in planning for contingencies and starting projects and not finishing them because funding and priorities change mercurially.

Either choose to do something or don't. Don't waste time and effort hemming and hawing over whether you really want to or not.

Anyone who is conservative in an actual, literal sense, and interested in efficient governance, would not be messing with a system which has been running fine for somewhere around half a century.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:17 AM on January 13, 2015 [113 favorites]


I've represented a few clients trying to get SSI (which differs from SSDI in that it's available to low-income disabled individuals without the necessary work credits to be eligible for SSDI), and anyone who thinks that there lots of people on the rolls fraudulently hasn't engaged with the system. It's complicated, it's hostile, and it rejects the vast majority of applicants. Without an attorney none of my clients would have had any chance of getting benefits, despite having very reasonable cases for being disabled. The idea that fraud is a major problem is pure fantasy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:18 AM on January 13, 2015 [73 favorites]


Despite all the editorializing in this article, it should be noted that the rules change does not actually make any cuts to SSDI. It merely requires SSDI to be funded like the rest of the government, as a yearly budget item subject to Congressional debate and approval....Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot.

Consider that reducing benefits is explicitly listed as one of the ways to prevent a cut in funding: the rules change prohibits a transfer of funds unless "unless it is accompanied by benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds." The transfer is only needed in the first place because to prevent reduction in benefits; this is trying to set up SSDI cuts as the default outcome, so it hardly forces a debate -- those in favor of cuts can sit back and let the cuts happen, or have a debate and demand cuts, knowing that if the debate fails they'll still get them. That's just as much of an 'auto-pilot' situation as previously, but one that's much worse for anyone on SSDI.
posted by cjelli at 8:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


I would lead the pitchforks and torches uprising to Congress, but can't hold a torch and use crutches at the same time.
posted by Dreidl at 8:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [24 favorites]


You know, I really want to attribute Republican policies like these to something other than rank cruelty, but it gets harder and harder.

The cruelty is a byproduct. This is all part of a many-decades-long drive by the GOP to eliminate any and all vestige of the New Deal. With other programs that anger them thrown-in along the way (i.e. Civil Rights Act, Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Edu, etc.) It's ideology all the way down, and no one plays ideology politics better, or with more rigor, than the GOP.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


anyone who thinks that there lots of people on the rolls fraudulently hasn't engaged with the system. It's complicated, it's hostile, and it rejects the vast majority of applicants.

Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits 2003-2012
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:24 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Keeping stuff like SS and SSDI out of the hands of legislators and into a more or less autopilot mode is a feature not a problem for the most part. It's by having it as a more or less self-administered program with an independent funding source that you avoid having it be used to meet people's political goals.

You don't have grandstanding legislators saying that this type of disability is legit and this isn't based upon how it might play with their constituents and allow the boots on the ground administrators to make determinations about the validity of individual claims on an individual basis.

Is it a perfect system? Of course not but it seems like it can be improved by reducing the bureaucratic maze of getting benefits rather than exposing it's funding to the vagaries of yearly budget cycles.

Do we really need yet another omnibus spending bill that congress critters use to hide all sorts of nasty gotchas in because it's a convenient way of attaching shit that would never pass on it's own into must pass legislation?
posted by vuron at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's an ideology that is inherently cruel though, based on crushing all but a tiny percentage of the population into the dust. Whatever moral fairytales Republican policymakers promote under the banners of "freedom" and "self-sufficiency" there is far too much data out there on the deleterious effects of not having these programs (and funding them) to provide any room for pleading ignorance.

So yeah, we are into cartoon-villain territory. Humans are capable of such things. They are also capable of fooling themselves into believing doing evil is doing good. The cynical parlor game one can play these days is, does Congressperson/Pundit X really believe this horseshit, do they just not care, or do they actually delight in crushing the rest of us under their heel? It's remarkably hard to tell, since the outcomes are the same regardless.
posted by emjaybee at 8:30 AM on January 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


I've represented a few clients trying to get SSI (which differs from SSDI in that it's available to low-income disabled individuals without the necessary work credits to be eligible for SSDI), and anyone who thinks that there lots of people on the rolls fraudulently hasn't engaged with the system.

And really, so what if there are ? These millionaire welfare cheats* got away with $167,000 over 7 years. Not nothing, sure - ~20k per year - but compared to the bank bailout, it's barely worth mentioning.

The only possibly explanation is that Republicans feel there are not enough grandmothers eating cat food.

* we found Reagan's welfare King and Queen - seriously, they called themselves Lord and Lady Chisolm- and it turns out they are rich white people.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


Nothing in the government should run on auto-pilot.

Wrong. The daily routine business of government and high-priority public safety and crisis assistance programs absolutely should run on auto-pilot and be as difficult to tamper with for political purposes as possible because people's practical ability to plan their lives in the mid to long-term depend on the stability and predictability of these programs, and people in need shouldn't be used as political bargaining chips.

When it comes to public services, we always seem to be fine with making everything a monstrously arbitrary guessing game, with consumers constantly having to jump through new hoops and deal with uncertainty and lack of clarity built into the process. But when it comes to the rules for the private sector, what's important in governance (we're told) is always clarity and predictability, even at the expense of enforcement authority. One law for thee another for me.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:39 AM on January 13, 2015 [73 favorites]


Republicans have made a massive investment in the rhetoric that appeals to white voters that somehow someone other than them is getting something that they don't deserve. Thus all sorts of things that white working class voters would otherwise support can be attacked because it's unfair that someone else is getting something for "free" that you aren't.

Never mind that we all benefit from everyone having a certain standard of living because people in extreme poverty tend to result in really poor health outcomes which can result in high emergency healthcare costs plus you know all the negative impacts of having an unhealthy and desperate workforce on worker productivity.

But even though base income security would be a net benefit for our society from an macro-economic perspective we still have people attacking it because apparently the poor and the disabled are somehow not praying hard enough or living good christian lives because the Gospel of prosperity would indicate that if you are somehow needing assistance you probably aren't pleasing god in some way.

I would say that this is a consequence of the dominance of Calvinist thought in our country's formation but it's really become pathological as Republican voters (ie white middle class males) feel their underlying privilege and opportunities for success evaporating. Until they realize that the very policies that they are voting for tend to help reinforce that decline of economic opportunity they are going to gleefully support initiatives that are designed to shrink that small part of the economic pie that they still have access to.
posted by vuron at 8:44 AM on January 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


Well they certainly are shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to cut SSI disability. There are millions of people who could not find employment during the recent economic shitfest and decided to get on disability. Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.
posted by Willie0248 at 8:46 AM on January 13, 2015


...and as a good thing, should be able to stand on it's own as a beneficial program to the country.

This country has such a great track record of doing the right thing {/} I'm sure you are correct.

Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.

And they'll STILL vote for republicans
posted by edgeways at 8:48 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


saulgoodman: "The daily routine business of government and high-priority public safety and crisis assistance programs absolutely should run on auto-pilot and be as difficult to tamper with for political purposes as possible"

It's almost as if the Republicans LIKE Stalinism.
posted by symbioid at 8:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well they certainly are shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to cut SSI disability. There are millions of people who could not find employment during the recent economic shitfest and decided to get on disability. Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.

...which will be blamed on Obama and/or Congressional Democrats. And despite the lack of veracity behind it, it may very well work great for them.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


You know, I really want to attribute Republican policies like these to something other than rank cruelty, but it gets harder and harder.

The wealthy have realized they no longer need the American working class, and the end of their ability to bleed our poor for profit is on the horizon. The solution is murder by calculated neglect, as here, and a powerful police state to maintain order as that happens. I honestly don't think it's possible to be too outraged or too cynical about the motives of America's ruling class.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:55 AM on January 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


Well they certainly are shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to cut SSI disability. There are millions of people who could not find employment during the recent economic shitfest and decided to get on disability. Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.
posted by Willie0248


Millions? Cite?
posted by futz at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]



Well they certainly are shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to cut SSI disability. There are millions of people who could not find employment during the recent economic shitfest and decided to get on disability. Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.


And those people will be driving wages and working conditions down, because they will be desperate for any work that they are physically able to do. That's the core of this - many politicians, both Republican and Democrat, want to create a huge reserve labor army of desperate workers, because it drives wages and working conditions through the floor. It's not rocket science, it's basic economics, and they do it on purpose because it makes them and their rich friends richer.
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


~Well they certainly are shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to cut SSI disability.
~which will be blamed on Obama and/or Congressional Democrats.


I was thinking the very same thing. It certainly has worked for them over and over again. Look how effectively they managed to pin the blame for Bush's recession on Obama in the minds of so many.

It'll go like this...Congress will cut and cut and cut anything they can, and when 2016 rolls around, the airwaves will be thick with private-money "Democrats took this away from you. Don't let them do it to you again." ads. And the electorate will drink it up.

I can't get the thought out of my head that the only way the US is ever going to get better is if we just let it slip into a dark age of conservative rule, so the public can directly experience what they really voted for. Of course, the right will still blame it all on what few "liberals" are left in government.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


And you can't just "decide" to get on disability. It more often than not can take years.
posted by futz at 8:58 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fight every single cut. Trust absolutely nothing that comes out of the mouth of Cruz, Paul, Ryan, Imhofe, etc.. Make no long term deals, nothing that can't be reverted easily should the Republicans loses the House and/or Senate in 2016. Veto, veto, veto.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:02 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anyone who is conservative in an actual, literal sense, and interested in efficient governance, would not be messing with a system which has been running fine for somewhere around half a century.

You're probably right at this point (though I assume you lose a lot of conservatives at "has been running fine"). But--speaking as an American, generally-non-Republican conservative here--conservatives in this country are undergoing a grave crisis on the issue of what it is exactly we are trying to conserve.

Are we trying broadly to conserve "The Republic" and stave off European Social Democracy (thus the attacks on social welfare programs at the federal level)? Are we trying to conserve (resurrect?) pre-Civil War and pre-New Deal constitutional federalism? Are we trying to conserve two-party hegemony over a largely unified economic and military policy? Depends on whom you ask....

The answer to this question underlies all the current and widening observable splits in the conservatives in this country (within and without the Republican party).
posted by resurrexit at 9:03 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well they certainly are shooting themselves in the foot if they decide to cut SSI disability. There are millions of people who could not find employment during the recent economic shitfest and decided to get on disability. Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.
posted by Willie0248 a
>

Do you think they care? They certainly don't care about how it affects anyone except for their donors/buddies and they'll pin any negative effects on the Democrats. It's a win-win for them.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:04 AM on January 13, 2015


They are also capable of fooling themselves into believing doing evil is doing good.

These are people who think any kind of subsidy, no matter how great the need, harms the recipient. There's another person (himself a veteran) I read about this past week who wants to cut VA benefits all in the name of "helping" disabled veterans.


posted by longdaysjourney at 9:10 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed, please take it down a notch.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:12 AM on January 13, 2015


Thank goodness that Obama signed the Able Act, as my disabled daughter will now be able to have a savings account that we can fund now to make up for SSDI which might not be there in the future when she will need it.

I think.
posted by plinth at 9:13 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let them eat cake.
posted by Poldo at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Despite all the editorializing in this article, it should be noted that the rules change does not actually make any cuts to SSDI. It merely requires SSDI to be funded like the rest of the government, as a yearly budget item subject to Congressional debate and approval.

Bullshit.

"Without an injection from the main Social Security retirement fund, the disability program would have to cut benefits by some 20 percent, only paying out what it can collect from payroll taxes.

"Congress approved the last such 'reallocation' transfer in 1994 after several in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan."

Again: bullshit.
posted by blucevalo at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here is the thing though. It'd be one thing if Republicans advocated and pushed for appropriate jobs with living wages for folks who may have a disability. If we actually had an economy that was robust in it's diversity and ability to accommodate people with whatever their skills and make sure they are payed enough to support themselves. Then? Perhaps we could look at reducing things such as SSDI.
But, even with as much as things have changed in many was we really exist in such a hidebound traditionalist mode of thinking, especially when it comes to employment, and that as far as I can tell the Republicans have actually done exceedingly little by way of trying to boost employment for any significant group of people I'd imagine folks who are disabled would be shit near the bottom of the pile. The giver/taker mentality is such a toxic fear festering poison it is without hyperbole I say it lies at the root of so much nationalistic me me ugliness it has to be a component part of fascism.
posted by edgeways at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bullshit.

The rule does not prevent Congress from doing what it should do, which is increase the payroll tax rate to sustain current SSDI expenditures. It also does not prevent Congress from funding SSDI from alternate funding mechanisms (for instance, like general revenue). The only thing the rule prevents is one particular funding mechanism for SSDI - reallocating Social Security payroll taxes for SSDI usage.

Ultimately, funding is going to be on a yearly basis very shortly anyway, because projected Social Security and SSDI expenditures are going to soon exceed revenues (since the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't have any money in it). This makes a lot of sense - if the government isn't going to invest future funds for Social Security (as it never has), the government should handle funding of all expenditures on a yearly basis depending on revenue.

In other words, you have to pay for what you spend. That's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. Ignoring that fact that entitlements have real costs and require real revenues is not the way to run a rational government.
posted by saeculorum at 9:37 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry about that previous remark. My feelings got the better of my judgment.

I do think it's astonishing, that people in power are so brazen about testing the limits of the people by systematically taking resources away from the needy and ultimately giving them to corporations and the well-off. People such as the current Republican-dominated congress say that they're against redistribution, but it's plain to see that they're all for it when it means there's more profit for the wealthy in it.
posted by clockzero at 9:38 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The rule does not prevent Congress from doing what it should do, which is increase the payroll tax rate to sustain current SSDI expenditures.

hahahahaha, that's a good one.
posted by ndfine at 9:46 AM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


In other words, you have to pay for what you send. That's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. Ignoring that entitlements have real costs and require real revenues is not the way to run a rational government.

The rule change is a trial balloon for cutting and then gutting Social Security. Any other pretense is just that, a pretense. The "pay for what you send" notion is a ruse. "Entitlement reform" is general is a ruse. The program will be gutted, come hell or high water, and no matter what palaver is used to justify it.

That you somehow seem to believe that we currently have a functioning "rational government" or that we are remotely able to aspire to one is absurd in and of itself.
posted by blucevalo at 9:47 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


(since the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't have any money in it)

Which is why Wall Street wants to raid it, yes?

For the Last Time, the Social Security Trust Fund Is Real
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wait, everything I've been reading that isn't based upon FUD indicates that SS is more than solvent for the foreseeable future and would basically be secure for all reasonable expectations if they removed the cap on SS deductions.

Medicare is much less secure but that's before most of the cost-cutting aspects of Obamacare probably kick in and the consequential decrease in the anticipated rate of medical costs increasing.

Turning SSDI into a political football to be used for fun and political profit could result in a fuckton less security for a huge number of Americans which is cool for Republicans I guess because poor people are probably unlikely to vote anyway and if they do vote it's more likely to be for Democrats but it's also incredibly cruel because there is a not insignificant percentage of the US population that SSDI is the only thing that keeps them from homelessness or institutionalization which let's be honest has a much higher cost to the economy than giving people some degree of economic stability and security.
posted by vuron at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The rule does not prevent Congress from doing what it should do, which is increase the payroll tax rate to sustain current SSDI expenditures. It also does not prevent Congress from funding SSDI from alternate funding mechanisms (for instance, like general revenue). The only thing the rule prevents is one particular funding mechanism for SSDI - reallocating Social Security payroll taxes for SSDI usage.

The rule is purely to bring SSDI into the political shitfight and use it as a bargaining chip every year at budget time.
posted by Talez at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


(since the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't have any money in it)

This is a lie intended to justify a massive transfer of wealth from low- and medium-income people to high-income people who pay payroll taxes on a relatively small percentage of their income.

Even under the overly-pessimistic assumptions of the CBO, the Social Security Trust Fund won't be depleted until 2031. There's no crisis here; certainly no crisis requiring us to impose benefit cuts now for the purpose of avoiding benefit cuts in the future.
posted by burden at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


saeculorum, the federal government is not revenue constrained, it's resource constrained. I'm not the only one saying this -- so is the newly appointed Chief Economist (minority) of the Senate Budget Committee, Stephanie Kelton:
MMT emphasizes the fact that countries that print their own money can never really "run out of money." They can just print more. The reason we have taxes, then, is not to pay for stuff, but to keep people using the government's preferred currency rather than, say, Bitcoin. In some rare cases, consumer demand gets too high, so sellers raise prices and inflation ensues. Then, you need to raise taxes to cool the economy down. But the theory holds that this eventuality is pretty rare. James Galbraith, another MMT-influenced economist, once told me that the last time it happened was in World War I.

The main takeaway from this is that you really don't need to balance the budget over any time horizon, and attempts to do so will hurt the economy. That's what Kelton argues happened after the Clinton surpluses of the late 1990s / early 2000s. Any dollar of government surplus must show up as private debt, she reasons. And the private sectors just can't run up debt like that indefinitely. "Eventually, something will give," Kelton once wrote to Business Insider. "And when it does, the private sector will retrench, the economy will contract, and the government's budget will move back into deficit."
Link
It's really important for people to understand that the real limit of government spending is resources, because otherwise we get caught up in all these ridiculous debates about taxes and affordability.
posted by wuwei at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but if Mexians and members of Al Qaida hadn't moved into the country, thanks to lax border policy, and sucked up all of our tax dollars then we'd be able to afford SSI disability. But, thanks to Obama, we've turned the country into a sort of Hispanic Caliphate and that's why you don't have jobs.

You know, of course, that a good chunk of the population actually, sincerely believe this sort of thing.

Just the other night, an old friend of mine called me up out of the blue. We were having a nice talk, catching up on our families, work, etc. Then, for whatever reason, she started off into an extended rant about "the Mexicans" and how they're taking over everything (she's in OKC) and how they're streaming over the border, and sucking up all the healthcare and jobs (even though she later claimed they don't work and get all the benefits.)

She then related a story about how, recently, "they" were handing out free turkeys to service people, veterans, and their families. And the illegals bum-rushed the hand-out, tore down the fences and took the turkeys. She related it as one of those "you'll never see this on the news" outrages, and she truly, deeply, sincerely believed that this event had taken place. It was as true as the sun in the sky.

The level of brainwashing the right has managed to accomplish on the part of the electorate is simultaneously fascinating and horrifying. It just keeps flowing from some font-o-crazy and is eagerly swallowed by the masses, which, in turn, vote as intended.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:52 AM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'm on SSDI, it's my sole source of (meager) income, and this makes me nervous.

But I hope that Democrats don't play ball with the GOP on this and that it actually ends up threatening to result in the 20% cut of SSDI benefits to current beneficiaries, or even that this actually happens. I don't think the latter would occur and, when it came down to it, I wouldn't argue for that result on behalf of anyone else but myself, because many of us are living in poverty and such a reduction in benefits would be disastrous.

Even so, I think merely the actual threat of this, if it actually reaches the public consciousness, would be politically disastrous for the GOP. Even if there are a bunch of people on SSDI who oughtn't be, such a cut would affect everyone on SSDI and, wow, there would be so many self-evidently "deserving" and sympathetic recipients who would be hurt, that it would make the GOP look like the hateful bullies they actually are. It's like the shutting down the government thing, which these guys keep thinking would be a political win for them when it has repeatedly proven to be a huge loss. Except this would be much worse, it would make them look much worse.

For this reason, I think that as time goes on and this starts to be reported more widely by the general media, the congressional Republicans will back away from this. The only reason they might not would be ... because the Democrats pre-emptively signal a willingness to bargain.

Because the bottom line here is that the GOP really isn't aiming to reduce SSDI benefits. They do think that there's been a bunch of people who aren't deserving added to SSDI in the last five years, but that's not their chief concern. Their chief concern is reducing Social Security benefits generally -- this rule doesn't require that only SSDI benefts are cut, it just requires that the continued transfer of funds from the general Social Security fund to SSDI be offset by an overall balancing in the fund, either by tax increases or benefit reductions. They clearly are aiming for benefit reductions, but that's for the whole of Social Security. That's their goal. And, the thing is, the amount sufficient to satisfy this demand with regard to only the transfer to SSDI is not very large, and could be done as a phased-in long-term change. I think this sounds like something that the GOP thinks they could very possibly get as a concession from the Democrats and Obama and that's why they're doing it. The transfer to SSDI from the general fund has always been simply a procedural thing and so isn't a matter of law -- that makes it vulnerable as leverage for a GOP controlled Congress. That's their thinking.

But it will fail if they really and truly seem to be about to kill heir hostage. Dems can win on this, it's really theirs to lose by capitulating.

With regard to the discussion about fraud, it really and truly is quite difficult to get SSDI. I and my sister both have a genetic bone disease that's pretty disabling -- as collagenopathies go, it's relatively mild, but many of the others kill fetuses in the womb. Even so, everything we were told and read prior to our application to SSDI was that we'd end up being denied and winning only on appeal. Something like 90% of all applicants are denied and most of those who get the benefits do so only after an appeal. The system is basically set up to first and automatically deny.

That didn't happen for me and my sister -- turns out that our illness falls into the limited categories of illnesses that qualify for automatic acceptance.

But, even so, there's this: my sister has had to twice go through a review process. I haven't. And the difference isn't that I'm more disabled. Well, okay, actually that's probably true, given that she's had both her hips replaced and I haven't. But the disease is worse in her than me. I think the main thing has been that she's married and her family has a weird variety of income -- they are evangelicals and he's a kind of minister and educator and so their income is a combination of his pay and charity. And their total income ends up being around middle-class. Me, I'm single and below the federal poverty line with no other income. I'd like to work the small amount I'm able -- maybe something like whatever would bring a few hundred dollars a month. My monthly income now is about $900, which is very low and so only something like $400 more would be a big help. And you are allowed a limited amount of working and income -- it's in the few hundred dollar range, I don't know precisely what it is. But it's still pretty low and also I'd worry that even working at all would put me under scrutiny -- my sense is that it would and I worry about such things even when I oughtn't.

I mean, my ex-wife and I hyphenated our names when we married and when we divorced twenty years ago, the court order changed it back but I never bothered to inform Social Security of this. At the time, it just didn't seem important. Ten years ago, when I first began to apply for SSDI and I'd start having that name appear in all this stuff that I would be doing (the benefits, the medicare benefits) I wanted to tell them to change it, but I worried that it might cause some weird bureaucratic snafu and so I've never done so. At the time of the the application, it seemed like an unnecessary complication. And after, it's seemed like an unnecessary chance for the system to screw something up. I'm pretty risk averse about this stuff. (Which raises the question of why I don't want the Dems to cave on this, but I feel absolutely certain that this is a losing issue for the GOP.)

The point is that it's actually pretty hard to game this system.

Even so, a problem is that part of the fairness of the system is that it judges disability against the work that you've actually done. It doesn't judge it against all possible work you could do, especially if provided retraining. That does seem to me to be sub-optimal because it really is better for people to work -- believe me, I've learned this lesson in my own life all-too-well because my quality of life has been terrible since I stopped working -- but it only works if there's a bunch of associated programs and active public help to get people this retraining and such. And, really, while often the help is technically there, it's in practice very difficult to get it.

The whole American system of assistance is designed to be difficult. The default posture, even with most charities and not just the government, is a defensive protection against the supposed undeserving. And the reason for this is because there's such limited amount of funding. With SSDI, there actually isn't remotely the amount of funding needed for everyone who is genuinely disabled -- even if there's a bunch of people who aren't deserving who've been added over the last five years, I absolutely guarantee you that there's five times that number of people who are deserving but who didn't apply, or gave up part way through, or gave up after being denied. There just isn't enough funding and so this bureaucratic defensiveness that results in hoops-jumping is designed into the system. And charities are also usually underfunded, so most of them are forced to do much of the same things.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


And really, so what if there are?


The problem-as noted in the mentioned-but-uncited NPR story- is that when people use disability as a way to extend unemployment, they don't get access to the job training available to people on unemployment. On the contrary, they're subject to a lot of rules that prevent them from re-entering the workforce. So it can be a very nasty trap. The story in question interviewed quite a few people of the sort that this post insists don't exist, who had applied for disability as a temporary measure, and found themselves unable to apply for work.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


If the two parties aren't the same, I'd be hopeful that there will be meaningful, actionable resistance from Democrats on these and similar policy changes. Now would definitely be a good time for them to step up.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Every time I see a story about someone trying to decrease benefits (either directly or indirectly) in the name of preventing "waste, fraud, and abuse", I think of "The Era of Big Government Is Over And Marcus Stephens Is Dead."
posted by TedW at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"saeculorum, the federal government is not revenue constrained, it's resource constrained."

Just so you know, Kelton's argument isn't dependent upon modern monetary theory, which I think is right about some things but has weirdly in its own way become sort of cultist like a mirror image of the austrians. Krugman spars (amiably, on his side at least) with the MMT folk quite often but he fully agrees with what you quoted from Kelton.

Her argument is pretty squarely in conventional new keynesian macro because under current conditions what's she arguing is true -- we're in a demand-limited economy and US government debt is denominated in US currency. It's actually pretty insane that the US government isn't "borrowing" when it's historically unbelievably cheap for it to do so, as opposed to some future time when interest rates are higher. And it's even crazier because even if more borrowing would end up being inflationary (which it wouldn't under these conditions, but let's assume for the argument that it would) that would be a good thing, not a bad thing. The whole argument against borrowing now fails in multiple ways, even according to the macroeconomics 101, and the only explanation for why it's almost universally endorsed (not just by the right, but even by the Obama admin and most liberals) is because of essential ignorance of macroeconomics and the resulting simple comparison of a national economy and sovereign debt to household finances.

Which even on its own terms is pretty darn incoherent -- I hear conservatives and others all the time saying that "you can't borrow your way to prosperity", but so that means that educational loans and business loans and, okay, all of commercial finance makes no economic sense? That's just dumb and every one of those people know it. Yes, quite often you can borrow your way to prosperity, and that's when you're capital-constrained.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:11 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yet again I feel like quoting Mencken, and yet again I will not do so.

...because after a certain point it just feels like kicking folks when they're down (or, rather, about to be down). I'm prepared to bet, however, that this will not cost Republicans much in terms of votes -- even from the people who are most affected.
posted by aramaic at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


How about tying politicians' pensions to the same sort of annual yay or nay politickleing. Each year the public could vote on whether to cancel the pensions of all the current and former politicians. Require 80% public support to continue funding their pensions.

This way we can avoid partisan fraud in our political benifit system
posted by srboisvert at 10:16 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]




ut--speaking as an American, generally-non-Republican conservative here--conservatives in this country are undergoing a grave crisis on the issue of what it is exactly we are trying to conserve.

You mean it isn't White Male rule?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is utter bullshit. It's really hard to get on disability, as others have mentioned. Getting on it fraudulently would be more effort than finding a job and hardly worth it given the payout. My brother, who is seriously debilitated from a rare form of leukemia, and already on medicaid, has already been denied once mostly because of incorrectly filed paperwork and the unusual character of his diagnosis, is in the long process of trying again this time with the help of a social worker so he gets all his i's crossed etc. He could very well die before he actually gets on disability. This just makes me so angry I could cry.
posted by dis_integration at 10:24 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


a yearly budget item subject to Congressional debate and approval

In other words, a hostage.
posted by gimonca at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


"I'm prepared to bet, however, that this will not cost Republicans much in terms of votes -- even from the people who are most affected."

I'll take that bet. What do you want to wager? And how do you want to characterize a win? I predict that, as above, that the GOP will back away from this precisely to the degree to which the general public becomes more aware of it and, especially, if the Dems don't deal and it seems as if the cuts will actually happen. And if the cuts are enacted, I predict that it will be a key talking-point for the Dems in 2016 and will measurably hurt GOP in the election.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do you want more deaths? Because this is how you get more deaths.

I've not been shy about my struggles or that I receive SSDI. I failed the review this year and my doctors are shocked; all of them have said there's no way I can work and are helping me with the appeal. When I learned the review results, I damned near gave up for good. I constantly struggle to survive on the SSDI income - it'll mean my death if I don't have it.

I'm just one story. My apartment complex has a lot of residents that rely on SSDI - not because they're lazy bums trying to work the system but because they would literally die without this aid.

The GOP has such a hate-on for the poors that it's causing rifts in my relationship with my conservative & Republican boyfriend.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [23 favorites]


Punching down is a time honored strategy for garnering votes. I mean it's pretty clear that to a certain type of congress critter if you don't give money to their campaign and if you aren't a die-hard primary voter you simply don't matter and they are more than willing to sacrifice you in order to appeal to those that are.
posted by vuron at 10:33 AM on January 13, 2015


Do you want more deaths? Because this is how you get more deaths.

Some people do.
posted by delfin at 10:36 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I predict that, as above, that the GOP will back away from this precisely to the degree to which the general public becomes more aware of it and, especially, if the Dems don't deal and it seems as if the cuts will actually happen. And if the cuts are enacted, I predict that it will be a key talking-point for the Dems in 2016 and will measurably hurt GOP in the election.

I'm a lifelong liberal, and I'll take THAT bet. It's all about the framing.

Ask an average self-identifying conservative if SSDI needs to be cut and the answer is "of course." Ask them if this means that their mom or their grandpa or their uncle or their friend who's on disability needs his or her benefits cut and the answer is "Well, no!" because THEIR anecdote is about someone who _deserves_ assistance. Not one Those Deadbeats but a real person! Cut out all of the Fraud and the Abuse and the Cheating and the Waste and you'll have government back to what it should be -- providing services only to the Right People.

And that is the dog whistle that has been blowing for decades. It's not about the services or the money in and of themselves; it's about how THEY are stealing services and money from the Right People. You will never convince the True Believers that they and THEY are often one and the same.
posted by delfin at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


I really want to attribute Republican policies like these to something other than rank cruelty, but it gets harder and harder.

They are also capable of fooling themselves into believing doing evil is doing good.

Meanwhile the conservatives (and DINOs) I know are passing around some right-wing blog’s story about how “Liberals” wouldn’t let Brad Paisley mention Jesus on the CMAs. You remember Jesus: That guy who worried about the sick, the poor, the outcasts …

Or maybe the rightwing reads a different Bible. “And verily Jesus sayeth unto them, ‘Get a job, you fucking hippies.”

Between Ted Cruz, that other TX idiot who Godwinned himself on twitter and sh*t like this, I’m going to have to put all national news on Ignore for awhile. That is, until the Congress – enjoying some of the best taxpayer benefits ever - also gets rid of the ACA and then my kinda-crappy insurance becomes no insurance.**

** Just in time for my Republican No-Medicare/No Social Security future.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:57 AM on January 13, 2015


You know, I really want to attribute Republican policies like these to something other than rank cruelty, but it gets harder and harder.

I work in social services dealing with a homeless population. I would say about 20% of the individuals I see have SSDI or SSI (though usually the latter). A majority of it, however, is related to mental disability rather than physical, and a majority of that is due to conditions that can be described as "unwillingness to participate in the system anymore." And those are rated as disabling conditions.
The claimant's condition interfered with her ability to complete tasks on time.

The claimant had difficulty getting along with others or responding appropriately to authority.
Which basically means that if at a certain point you decide that it is less important to you to go to work and more important to stand up for your dignity, you can rate as disabled quite easily. If you are deeply sad and anxious - say, because of your homelessness - you can rate as disabled quite easily.

For many, that's a problem. For many, they conceive of SSD as for people who receive actual injuries on the job, not for people who just give up struggling against their legitimately hard life.

When minimum wage work pays $1160 a month, and SSD pays around $900, and food stamps around $200, it is quite possible that you can earn roughly the same amount on disability, where you have to deal with a bureaucracy maybe once or twice a month, that you can in extremely stressful and demanding minimum wage work. So no, people aren't just coasting on rich and beneficient payments - and anyone who says they're rolling in dough is full of it - but for many, it is a choice because they feel too broken down by life, rather than an injury that forces them not to work.
posted by corb at 10:58 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


but for many, it is a choice because they feel too broken down by life,

Yes people choose to be anxious and depressed as hell just so this proverbial person can receive a pittance from the government. You should go to cancer wards and tell them that they chose to get cancer too.
posted by Talez at 11:05 AM on January 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


emjaybee regarding cartoon villainy and cruelty, I'd argue that neither is actually the goal nor particularly what many/most Republicans want. There are, of course, sadists who do truly love the idea of harming others.

But mostly I'd argue that what we're seeing here is just another facet of the core conservative (and therefore Republican) value: aristocracy and a rigidly hierarchical social structure.

By making it possible for people to survive without the magnanimous charity of their betters the hierarchy of society is undermined. The disabled and poor, per conservative ideology, should survive by debasing themselves before their betters and taking what scraps are deigned to be tossed their way. At heart conservatism is about maintaining social control via hierarchical relationships.

They see anything that brings about equality, anything that abolishes hierarchies, as inherently bad and evil. They see existence in a strict hierarchy as both necessary and good. To them, as to Burke, equality is oppressive to those in superior positions. And what better way to ensure social order than by making those who are not wealthy uncertain of their very survival?

The cruelty is, I'd argue, a side effect. One perhaps that some of them revel in, but most view as a somewhat unpleasant necessity.
posted by sotonohito at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


And, of course, pure political gamesmanship. The more programs and funds that are allocated annually, the more hostages they can take when negotiating absolutely anything. The Republicans work the US political system vastly better than the Democrats do, which really sucks. I think it's because the Republicans have actual party discipline, while the Democrats are so obsessed with appeasing DINOs that they can't get the party to even work as an opposition party, much less one to ram through legislation when they have the majority.
posted by sotonohito at 11:09 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


But why should we make a differentiation between people physically unfit to work and people that are mentally incapable of work based upon mental illness? Doesn't that further perpetuate the belief that mental illness is somehow a lesser condition and people can just lift themselves up past it?
posted by vuron at 11:11 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yes people choose to be anxious and depressed as hell just so this proverbial person can receive a pittance from the government.

No one chooses to be anxious and depressed, and I think that is a fundamental misread of my comment. But I think there is an identifiable line between people who are anxious, angry, and depressed, but go to shitty, grinding, terrible work every day regardless of it because working and being self-sufficient are important to them, and people who think, "Why should I bother, when I will not make much more money than avoiding the problem entirely?" And I don't think the line falls along degrees of depression or anxiety - from what I see, they are often equal. I would wager that almost everyone existing on shitty minimum wage work is depressed and anxious, and rightfully so, because shitty minimum wage work is anxiety-inducing and makes people feel badly about themselves.

But at the same time, if you are creating a condition of disability that is accessible to pretty much anyone who has performed minimum wage work for a number of years, that is unsustainable in the long run.
posted by corb at 11:12 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks, corb. I'm glad to see your comment, because I personally know, right now in my life, about 4 people who are on SSDI for exactly those sorts of reasons. They've decided they want to opt out of the system, and they've found a way to do it that provides them with a basis for existing without becoming homeless or starving.

12-13 years ago, when I was living in Phoenix in a 6-unit apartment grouping, one of the guys there actually had people in and out of his house getting lessons from him on exactly how to go about getting onto SSDI. How to talk to the doctors, how to talk to the case workers, what to do if you had to take any sorts of tests in order to come out on the end of the curve that indicated you were unfit and should receive benefits... It was fascinating to talk to him. He had completely learned how to game the system, and over the course of a couple of years I watched him walk about 4 people into and through the system (and that's remarkably fast).

I am not going to make pronouncements about SSDI fraud (and find the link in the FPP about fraudulent judges to be odd, when it's not really the judges who should be examined), but I do know there is a subset of people who have managed to get onto SSDI, for whatever reason, who are doing it because they don't fit into the society we've created and this is the option available for them.

I'm also entirely okay with having them there. As a society we should be willing, perhaps even obliged, to not doom those who for whatever reason can't participate to a life of unsheltered suffering and hunger. Compared to the military budget, the money that goes to them is basically just a rounding error.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on January 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


A majority of it, however, is related to mental disability rather than physical, and a majority of that is due to conditions that can be described as "unwillingness to participate in the system anymore." And those are rated as disabling conditions.

The mentally disabled choose to be disabled rather than flip burgers, nice. And typical.

Even if some mental conditions result in a favorable disability decision, the process is not exactly as simple as you're callously insinuating. It's often after repeated appeals, and over Republican objections of exactly what you're describing, that mental disability is not "real" disability. Because they could just snap out of it, right?
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:14 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


the rules change prohibits a transfer of funds unless "unless it is accompanied by benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds."

Cleverly worded. We all know the Republicans are never going to vote in favour of a tax increase, so this is a pretty canny way of boiling the frog.

Cut them out and you end up with these people back in U3 unemployment counts.

...which the Republicans can then blame on Obama. Win-win for them.

And you can't just "decide" to get on disability. It more often than not can take years.

That is horrific. I'm currently on disability; total time from application to approval = six weeks.

A majority of it, however, is related to mental disability rather than physical, and a majority of that is due to conditions that can be described as "unwillingness to participate in the system anymore." And those are rated as disabling conditions.


Oh for God's sake. I didn't choose to have severely limiting depression. I didn't choose to have a disorder that affects my rational thinking. Nobody does.

Mental disabilities are different from physical disabilities only in that they are less visible.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:19 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


And yes I know about the outliers where people living in communities where they have exactly zero job opportunities decide to use the SSDI system as some sort of safety net for themselves and their families because somehow having some sort of safety net for those people that our modern globalized workforce somehow left behind is some sort of a crime because omg those one or two anecdotes about welfare queens somehow get turned from the perception into the political reality.

When did we get to this point where showing even a modicum of respect to our fellow citizens is so widely hated? Why have we allowed ourselves as a nation to become so callous to the suffering in our midst? Why do we tolerate it even though the research has shown over and over that the cost of providing some degree of a social net is way less than letting people die on the streets?
posted by vuron at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Because we have a de facto caste system in America, and too many people who consider themselves above the servile caste think that helping the servile caste lead better lives means that their own placement is in jeopardy.
posted by delfin at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Because it's not about cost vuron, or about overall productivity. It's about maintaining a particular class order.

Sure, people can come up with studies that show that full employment, or a guaranteed income will lift all boats. But think about the class aspects of this. What happens, when , for example, Wal-mart can't just tell people to take their lousy pay and labor conditions? What happens when there are alternatives? Then Wal-mart loses its power to discipline labor.

Steve Randy Waldman has written about something similar, that there may be alternative economic arrangements that yield an overall increase in wealth. But what about the side effects?
Even if you are sure — and be honest my Keynesian and monetarist friends, we are none of us sure — that your “soft money” policy will yield higher real production in aggregate than a hard money stagnation, you will be putting comfortable incumbents into jeopardy they otherwise need not face. Some of that higher return will be distributed to groups of people who are, under the present stability, hungry and eager to work, and there is no guarantee that the gain to the wealthy from excess aggregate return will be greater than the loss derived from a broader sharing of the pie. “Full employment” means ungrateful job receivers have the capacity to make demands that could blunt equity returns. [emphasis added]And even if that doesn’t happen, even if the rich do get richer in aggregate, there will be winners and losers among them, each wealthy individual will face risks they otherwise need not have faced. Regression to the mean is a bitch. You have managed to put yourself in the 99.9th percentile, once. If you are forced to play again in anything close to a fair contest, the odds are stacked against your repeating the trick. It is always good advice in a casino to walk away with ones winnings rather than double down and play again. “The rich” as a political aggregate is smart enough to understand this.
Link
posted by wuwei at 11:26 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


"The story in question interviewed quite a few people of the sort that this post insists don't exist, who had applied for disability as a temporary measure, and found themselves unable to apply for work."

I think the amount of actual fraud is almost certainly very low. You have to submit so much paperwork -- not from yourself, but from your doctors -- that documents your condition and extent of disability and in relationship to your work history and duties, that doing so fraudulently would be quite amazing. You'd need more than one dishonest/clueless physician -- which is not an insurmountable obstacle, I agree -- and risk a criminal offense in doing so. I think those are the kinds of barriers that repel all but a tiny number of people and most of those people won't be deterred even if those barriers are strengthened. It's like home security -- a moderate amount of protection prevents 90% of attacks and eliminating the remaining 10% becomes increasingly costly and inconvenient and not-worth-the-effort as you approach 100%.

It's true that SSDI has skyrocketed since 2008. This increase is far beyond what the demographics of disability can explain.

The real explanation is that most people with qualifying disabilities both a) think they have to work and don't even know about SSDI and b) they prefer to work. All things equal, they'll work. And in a good economy, they'll much more easily find jobs and those jobs will more likely be much more high-paying than anything they'd get from SSDI. So normally, and especially during a strong economy, there's a large pool of people who genuinely would qualify for SSDI but who are working.

Maybe you would argue that this means that they shouldn't actually qualify. If they are working, they're self-evidently capable of working. Especially if they're doing so by preference. I thinks that's a flawed argument for numerous reasons.

First of all, my grandmother (who had this disease) worked until she retired at 65. When she was using a walker to walk around in great pain. When she could barely hold a pen. Frankly, it's mind-boggling to me that she worked for those last ten or twenty years before she retired. And my dad (who had this disease) worked until he had to stop working at 57 because of a more acute illness (he eventually recovered from it). He was one of the first people to get a hip replacement in the 70s and, at that time when he was only 30, one of the very youngest. Struggling to work while living with severe, chronic pain was his entire adult history. He spent a total of nearly two years in the hospital when he was a child. But he worked, his older brother (who had this disease) worked all his life, my grandmother worked, I worked until I was 37, my sister worked until she was 27. This disease causes progressive joint erosion that begins in childhood but it was unthinkable in my family that anyone would ever not work because of this illness until the 2000s, and even then both me and my sister didn't pursue this option until we absolutely had to.

A whole lot of people work when even by any person's reasonable standards, they aren't physically capable of doing so. I mean, look -- pain and disability are funny things. If it's the reality of your life, you just accept that it's the reality of your life.

And, with that in mind, I come to my second reason why that argument is wrong, because it's really difficult to come up with some generalized framework about who is and isn't physically able to work. Would you really want to force my grandmother to keep working in her condition if she had decided that she couldn't? But she could have made that decision and other people make that decision. That she didn't shouldn't mean that others in the same conditions shouldn't. If people want to work in the face of huge physical difficulties in doing so, well, they should be able to. In fact, we should make a huge amount of effort to help them do so, because I really believe that it's healthier to work than not to. (Mind you, I'm frequently and strongly outspoken against American culture's defining everyone in terms of their jobs and I'm not endorsing work for those and related reasons. I'm endorsing work because being out in the world and doing things is good for people, even when it's boring and unpleasant things, and work is in our culture the main way that this is achieved for people. I think we should have other ways to live available, but that's a different discussion.) So people who want to work, but arguably shouldn't because it's too physically difficult, still should be allowed or even encouraged to do so if that's their preference. Their existence shouldn't in any way be an obstacle or argument against those who choose differently.

So, anyway, back to the main point -- in normal times and especially good times, you're going to have lots of people who are genuinely disabled working. Because they prefer it and because they can.

This changes during a recession, and especially the severe economic conditions we experienced since 2008.

There's every reason to believe that the drop in unemployment is significantly due to people dropping out of the workforce. I'm not saying it's as much as half, but it's significant. You can see this by looking at the working-age workforce participation numbers -- it dropped steadily from 66% in 2008, where it had been for years, down to to 63%, where it is now. Note that it wasn't a sudden drop in 2009 and 2010 followed by a leveling out or recovery. It just smoothly has kept falling this whole period. That's three percent of working age adults who were working before and are not working now.

So, even now, there's greatly fewer jobs available than there were in 2008. It's not that people have dropped out of the workforce and unemployment has fallen and now there's a shortage of applicants -- that's definitely not true because that would necessarily result in a sharp increase in wages, which hasn't happened. There's still a shortage of jobs -- not as bad as before, because some of that 3% stopped looking, but it's still pretty bad.

When people can't find jobs, they are forced to do whatever they have to do to survive. That means all sorts of different things, but for the purposes of our discussion, it means that many of those people who were working even though they are genuinely disabled will now choose to file for SSDI. And they'll qualify because they're genuinely disabled. It also means that many people who were disabled but working who didn't even know about SSDI will discover it, as they investigate their various options. It means that many people who were marginal in the ability to work -- not obviously disabled like my grandmother, but more like how I was around 1999 -- will investigate SSDI and end up applying. This will account for pretty much the entirety of the more-than-expected additions to SSDI since 2008.

And you're right that both those marginal people and those who are just plain disabled but who really prefer to work will be discouraged from working again once they're on SSDI. I described how this works in my own case earlier -- I'm very, very wary of doing something that does seem beneficial to me if it works but which is uncertain as balanced against the risk of losing the (small) amount of economic security I now have. It's the bird in the bush thing. In fact, in my case my initial reasons for applying to SSDI were not because of the SSDI benefit, but because it would result in me getting Medicare -- my medical care was by far the biggest concern. And as much as the ACA is an improvement over how it was in 2006, I'm still extremely wary of the idea of finding myself working and having minimal insurance, even were it the case that my disability hasn't badly worsened since 2006, which it has.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2015 [24 favorites]


A majority of it, however, is related to mental disability rather than physical, and a majority of that is due to conditions that can be described as "unwillingness to participate in the system anymore."

Unless you serve this population by being their doctor, your knowledge of their conditions is limited and describing their mental conditions in terms like that is a shitty shitty thing to do to population you purport to be serving.

You also clearly have no clue what qualifies as a disabling condition due to mental impairment. It's not something that's available to all or even the majority of people who work in minimum wage jobs. It requires medical documentation of specific symptoms and that those symptoms present marked difficulties in either activities of daily living, social functioning, or concentration, persistence or pace (or extended episodes of decompensation). So yes, if you have a mental health condition that manifests in the right ways and makes it impossible for you to get along with coworkers, then you might get lucky and be found disabled. BECAUSE YOU CANNOT WORK IF YOU CANNOT GET ALONG WITH YOUR COWORKERS.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:41 AM on January 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


Unless you serve this population by being their doctor, your knowledge of their conditions is limited and describing their mental conditions in terms like that is a shitty shitty thing to do to population you purport to be serving.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can we PLEASE put this in thirty foot tall neon lights everywhere in the universe?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


All the worry about fraud and abuse of government benefits makes me think that we should just scrap the whole thing and write everyone in america a check. Seriously, why should it be up to someone to prove they can't work to get benefits. If you can't work, just collect your check. If you don't want to work, just collect your check. We have plenty of money to provide these benefits to everyone that wants them, and most people will still want to work.
posted by empath at 11:46 AM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Everyone who applies for SSDI benefits faces a mandatory five-month wait period before receiving their first payment in the sixth month.

If you are age 31 or older, you must have worked 5 of the past 10 years to qualify. (Younger people and others who don't meet that standard can qualify if their disability is expected to be ongoing without expected improvement or will eventually result in death - as in, your disability is a terminal illness or injury that makes long-term life unsustainable.)

65% of initial claims are denied, only 56% are ever paid out and there's a mandatory 65-day waiting period for appeals; lots more info here, since it's hard to find a concise and up-to-date summary anywhere that isn't a skeevy law firm or SEO-driven blog.

Bottom line: If you are an air traffic controller with wet macular degeneration and suddenly go blind, you are no longer able to do your job. You qualify for SSDI. It doesn't matter if your previous career was high-paying and coveted, you can't do it anymore. You will (likely) qualify for the max payout in your state, provided you file the paperwork and supporting evidence statement from a doctor correctly.

If you are a factory worker who's paralyzed in a drunk driving accident and the driver responsible was killed, has no next of kin or assets, etc., then you too qualify for SSDI. You will likely also be granted the max payout in your state, assuming you do everything correct in the filing stage (better have a lawyer!).

Curious how you personally would fare in various disability, retirement and other benefits-related scenarios? Disability.gov has plenty of calculators for you.

Last year, I wrote a TV commercial about SSDI benefits. Researching the topic at length taught me a lot of scary stuff, and I'm glad I have a better understanding of the process behind it now (even if I never need it).

I 100% believe that any reduction of benefits will result in unnecessary deaths.

People who justify the cuts as a tax benefit are targeting an incredibly low number: Under current law, workers and employers each pay 6.2% of taxable wagesconsisting of 0.9% for DI and 5.3% for OASI — to Social Security (DI - Disability Insurance; emphasis mine).

Lots more cool, easy-to-understand tables and charts to look at in my final link above.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:46 AM on January 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


65% of initial claims are denied, only 56% are ever paid out and there's a mandatory 65-day waiting period for appeals

That is just... the mind boggles. In Ontario, you have to file an appeal within thirty days, unless I've misread all my paperwork.

And just checking... 65% denied, 56% paid out; is that 56% of the remaining 35%, or 56% of all claims?

And how many of those claims are denied due to stupid paperwork and not for material reasons?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The mentally disabled choose to be disabled rather than flip burgers, nice. And typical. Even if some mental conditions result in a favorable disability decision, the process is not exactly as simple as you're callously insinuating. It's often after repeated appeals, and over Republican objections of exactly what you're describing, that mental disability is not "real" disability. Because they could just snap out of it, right?"

I think that you and others are reading corb's comment very antagonistically, to the point of misreading her. I agree with the point she was making and I think she was making a caring and generous comment, not the opposite. I understand the history and I also understand how some might think this is an especially subtle form of concern-trolling, but my read is that it's sincere and the main point is compassionate. (Poverty itself can be genuinely disabling for many people.)

That said, I agree with your point about the difficulty of applying in the context of psychological conditions. I tell people somewhat regularly (mostly to uncomprehending ears) that my lifelong chronic major depression has been and still is more disabling to me than my collagenopathy. And I have no small amount of medical history to support it. But when I applied for SSDI, I came very close to not including the depression in my application at all and only did so as the result of urging from family and my own (arguably misguided) sense of honesty. I mean, it really has been and is more disabling. But I was very reluctant because I felt that it would place my application under heightened scrutiny. It didn't, probably, but I think that's only because my collagenopathy automatically qualified.

I'm quite certain that there is heightened scrutiny of SSDI claims regarding mental health.

That doesn't mean that with sufficient documentation -- and, crucially -- the willingness to be initially denied and then to appeal -- won't result in approved claims for many people as corb describes. But I agree with you that it is not at all a simple process and I think the number of people who would do this -- in the sense of the negative reading of corb's comment -- is small enough to be mostly negligible.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


If the two parties aren't the same, I'd be hopeful that there will be meaningful, actionable resistance from Democrats on these and similar policy changes. Now would definitely be a good time for them to step up.

Oy, indeed it would.

Anybody out there who cares?
*listens*

All I can hear is the sound of the rich partying.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:13 PM on January 13, 2015


Good luck and Godspeed. See you all on the other side in 2016.
posted by photoslob at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2015


Feckless, scroll down here to Chart 11:

The final award rate for disabled-worker applicants has varied over time, averaging nearly 45 percent for claims filed from 2001 through 2010. The percentage of applicants awarded benefits at the initial claims level averaged 28 percent over the same period and ranged from a high of 37 percent to a low of 26 percent. The percentage of applicants awarded at the reconsideration and hearing levels are averaging 3 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Denied disability claims have averaged nearly 53 percent.

That 56% paid out is minus the nearly 53% total denied claims, on average, in the US.

The 65% rejected figure is from this, the sentence just above that on the same page (numbers apply for claimants between 2001-2010): The final award rate for disabled-worker applicants has varied over time, averaging nearly 45 percent for claims filed from 2001 through 2010.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suspect most of the right-wingers (apart from rabid libertarians) would object to setting disabled persons adrift upon ice floes, and think that private charities and faith-based organizations would step in and fill the gap, the church being traditionally responsible for the poor.

This isn't the case. Except in states like Utah where the Mormon population tithes, most churches just don't have the money, and neither do secular nonprofits. The drying up of federal funding affects these institutions too like the failure of monsoon rains. There's at least one good reason why red states are poor.
posted by bad grammar at 12:31 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I feel thoroughly depressed about being American, and I expect that in the year 2500 the Chinese, or maybe the Finnish (as in a Vernor Vinge novel, but with a stranger language) will have colonized the galaxy, whereas the United States will become a historical curiosity alluded to with horror, rather like imperial Rome but with food courts, NASCAR, and lethal injections rather than banquets, chariot racing, and crucifixion.
posted by bad grammar at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am on disability. If they get rid of it they need to replace it with basic income instead.
posted by Orion Blastar at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2015


Everybody should just have the good sense to be born rich, obviously. Problem solved.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have somebody to lecture to about bootstraps.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:52 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Arrgh, Unicorn on the cob beat me to it (and T.D. Strange provided the link above, I notice)—here's the equivalent paragraph from the 2013 report:
The final award rate for disabled-worker applicants has varied over time, averaging 38 percent for claims filed from 2003 through 2012. The percentage of applicants awarded benefits at the initial claims level averaged 24 percent over the same period and ranged from a high of 28 percent to a low of 21 percent. The percentage of applicants awarded at the reconsideration and hearing levels are averaging 2 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Denied disability claims have averaged 59 percent.
Relative to corb mentioning that the majority of the SSDI recipients she encounters in her work with the homeless having mental disabilities rather than physical ones, if I'm understanding her correctly, this would appear to differ widely from the proportions of causes of disability listed in 2013:
In 2013, benefits were awarded to 868,965 disabled workers. Among those awardees, the most common impairment was diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (35.9 percent), followed by mental disorders (16.8 percent), diseases of the circulatory system (10.8 percent), neoplasms (10.0 percent), and diseases of the nervous system and sense organs (8.2 percent). The remaining 18.3 percent of awardees had other impairments.
posted by XMLicious at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Relative to corb mentioning that the majority of the SSDI recipients she encounters in her work with the homeless having mental disabilities rather than physical ones, if I'm understanding her correctly, this would appear to differ widely from the proportions of causes of disability listed in 2013"

Yeah, but the homeless population has a disproportionate number of mentally disabled, partly as a result of the "reforms" that moved people out of institutions and onto the street during the Reagan era.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think its important to clarify the difference between SSI and SSDI. As of 2015, folks on SSI receive a flat rate of 733 a month. On top of that they may or may not receive federal or state food assistance. In Washington State folks that receive the bare minimum SSI only receive a little over 100$ in food benefits, depending on bills and rent that they have to pay. This amount is adjusted yearly. In Washington that's only about half the amount one would make working full time with minimum wage. It's not nearly enough to live on. You have two options: supportive and loving family members that have the time and money to assist you or to constantly work with social service providers to meet your needs. Maintaining both of those relationships is work. I don't know what its like in other states but in WA if you are significantly disabled the options are fucking grim.
posted by kittensofthenight at 2:13 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


corb: But at the same time, if you are creating a condition of disability that is accessible to pretty much anyone who has performed minimum wage work for a number of years, that is unsustainable in the long run.

Unsustainable? Not so fast. Why can't everyone who wants go on disability? Literally a third of our workers could go on disability and the rest of us, after paying their benefits, would still have a GDP comparable to the entire USA in 1990, which, if I recall, wasn't all that horrible.
posted by xigxag at 2:15 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


All the worry about fraud and abuse of government benefits makes me think that we should just scrap the whole thing and write everyone in america a check. Seriously, why should it be up to someone to prove they can't work to get benefits. If you can't work, just collect your check. If you don't want to work, just collect your check. We have plenty of money to provide these benefits to everyone that wants them, and most people will still want to work.

A little tipsy, so no link from me, but Mincome has data behind it. Mincome works.

Too bad government isn't data driven.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:32 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Unsustainable? Not so fast. Why can't everyone who wants go on disability? ? Literally a third of our workers could go on disability and the rest of us, after paying their benefits, would still have a GDP comparable to the entire USA in 1990

To clarify, I wasn't so much talking about GDP - honestly, I'm not too familiar with that end of things and wouldn't want to make some ignorant guesses about it. What I was more saying is that, if poverty causes mental health issues by its very nature - which it does - then the question needs to be asked of whether you are trying to solve for 'disability', or solve for poverty. And if the latter, it makes very little sense to utilize the current disability system as a way to make an end run around the obvious goal - especially as it has been shown not to be effective, as well as not solving for poverty.

The Social Security Disability system really only benefits people who were receiving fairly significant income before becoming disabled - those people can earn up to $2,663. It is great for people who were doing very well before suddenly and unexpectedly taking a hit. But those people are generally not the people who are the most disadvantaged and generally not the ones who are struggling with poverty-caused mental health issues - which are expected by most people who come in contact with the issue. Per this, the average amount provided is $1,165.

But as we've said and calculated, $1,165 is not really enough, in many locations, to pay for an apartment and daily living expenses. And yet, once you're receiving disability, you risk losing your disability benefit if you attempt to supplement that income by working. So it provides not enough money to live comfortably on, while also regulating and ensuring that the individual will never be able to live comfortably, without risking what they do currently have.

And even if they do decide to give it up and rejoin the workforce, that time out of work on disability - not to mention the 1-2 years for application, denial, and appeal - often acts against them such that they're still hosed.

TL;DR: if you want to solve poverty, solve poverty, but the disability system is not the way to do it.
posted by corb at 2:46 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Soooo, using XMLicious' posted info from the linked 2013 SSDI report above:

In 2013, benefits were awarded to 868,965 disabled workers

and factoring in the United States population on December 31, 2013: 317,292,487 (using the Census.gov population clock)

we've determined that for 2013, approximately 0.274% of the U.S. population received SSDI benefits, and the people receiving it have already paid into the insurance pool that's funding the benefits themselves (the .9% of payroll tax I linked to above).

I'm sorry, but that's some extreme pettiness over forcing some physically and/or mentally disabled people to essentially die because they're not up to some Puritanical standard of perfection, as defined by Republican Senators.

I'm so bad at math it's comical, and this clearly looks like a sack of utter horseshit to me. Mathletes of MeFi, feel free to check my calculations -- I'd actually love to be wrong about this, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Because I plan to use this information to silence my more vocal and less fact-check-y relatives/friends/acquaintances, and I want to make sure this shit is accurate first.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:51 PM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


It occurs to me though that I should insert a disclaimer that I may just be looking at this from my perspective as an exhausted social worker - it's possible that other populations benefit much more from this than the one I work with does.
posted by corb at 2:51 PM on January 13, 2015


"TL;DR: if you want to solve poverty, solve poverty, but the disability system is not the way to do it."

Yes, let's. In the meantime poverty is causing real disability and if the only way to get money to people is through the disability system please don't actively fight to leave such vulnerable people with EVEN LESS to suit whatever high horse you're on. If you can solve poverty, you do it. In the mean time caring for the broken is still the right thing to do given that the right (and often libertarians) are fighting AGAINST solving poverty favoring bootstraps and austerity measures.Like say, cutting disability funding.

If you think it's hard to convinve conservative asshats to support the disabled, try getting them to support poor non-disabled people financially. If you can do that, be my guest.

But stop fighting against the hard earned attempts to get resources to the needy acting as if furthering your political agenda is worth leaving all the disabled AND the poor left in the lurch. What does that solve at all?
posted by xarnop at 2:59 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


i had a hard time replacing my wheelchair, which was literally being held together with bungee cords. turns out that one of the compromises to the HCA was addressing the notion that Medicare gives out wheelchairs like pamphlets on the street. So now it's hard to get equipment that I need to get to the bathroom, let alone work or social anything.

so yaaaay GOP you bunch of crazy destructive motherfuckers. just burn it all down so the rebellion can begin.
posted by angrycat at 3:18 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I believe when FDR and LBJ tried to "solve poverty", Republicans screamed "WELFARE" until it was a dirty word, and Bill Clinton "ended Welfare as we know it".

So yea, been there, done that. Republicans tore it all down, just like they want to do with disability next.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:18 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where's all this concern over fraud and abuse when it comes to the tax code? I'm going through the process of creating my own S-Corp and it's frankly fucking ridiculous how rife for abuse it is. For example.

I think a comparison of the goals of the parts of the bureaucracy which receive this level of scrutiny compared to those that don't speaks volumes about the real motives of the scrutineers.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Per this, the average amount provided is $1,165."

And that's before your Medicare Part A and Part B premiums are deducted, too (not to mention the Part D premium).

The formula for determining the benefit is weird and convoluted, too. It was my bad luck that I did this when the payroll tax amount was capped at 45,000 in combination with the fact that I voluntarily quit working in 2001 and didn't apply for SSDI until the end of 2005. That gave me four years of no income at all. They use the maximum work income for some recent period in combination with an average for your entire working history. But that maximum work income that plugs into the formula is coupled to the the income relevant to SS payroll tax, which at that time was capped as I say at about 45K. But in each of my last two years working, my income was five times that amount -- that's why I was able to quit working when I did. But that approximately 400K wasn't figured into the calculation of my benefit. I also went a number of years prior to 1996 without working (I returned to college and then also had another year when I didn't work). Thus my relatively low benefit (actually just about exactly the average, before the deductions).

In terms of taxes paid and benefits, all my SSDI benefits (over the last eight years) still aren't quite as much as the single check I wrote to the IRS for just the year 1999 (not all the taxes I paid that year, but just what I had to pay in addition to what was withheld). Not that this really makes sense, as our taxes pay for a whole lot of things, but I'm sure as hell not taking any shit from anyone about how they pay taxes and people like me get these benefits.

"Where's all this concern over fraud and abuse when it comes to the tax code? I'm going through the process of creating my own S-Corp and it's frankly fucking ridiculous how rife for abuse it is."

The GOP has consistently worked to reduce/limit the IRS enforcement budget. Funny how that works, isn't it?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:27 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]




I can't get the thought out of my head that the only way the US is ever going to get better is if we just let it slip into a dark age of conservative rule, so the public can directly experience what they really voted for. Of course, the right will still blame it all on what few "liberals" are left in government.

Yes, they will, as they've been doing successfully in Florida for the last 20 (almost 30) years now.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:26 PM on January 13, 2015


"Over 62% of S-Corp audits resulted in a no-change audit."

The article linked seems to point to that as some sort of crazy success? I'm probably misunderstanding what he's saying, because to me 38% of audits resulting in a correction seems like... a pretty high percentage for groups that presumably have professional bookkeepers.
posted by absalom at 4:29 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where's all this concern over fraud and abuse when it comes to the tax code? I'm going through the process of creating my own S-Corp and it's frankly fucking ridiculous how rife for abuse it is.

This is basically the main reason I'm so "anti-corporate"--the law as it stands today creates all sorts of opportunities for deflection of responsibility/liability and other dirty tricks played within the context of corporate law. And now that we're treating corporations effectively as sovereign entities, with presumed rights independent of what's explicitly established in law, there's really nothing to keep companies from growing more powerful in practice than the state itself. And for some reason, people who are paranoid about big government just don't seem to get that corporations and governments are essentially the same type of thing--legally chartered organizational entities, rule-governed fictions--only in the case of incorporated companies, there's no legal obligation (under current law) to serve the public interest and no accountability to the general public.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:45 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, corb, re: sustainability, if you look at the research done on Argentina's Jefes jobs program, you'll see that people overwhelmingly preferred to work for a wage, versus obtaining an equivalent lump sum monthly payout. Most people want to do something productive with their time, given the chance to do it with dignity.

saulgoodman, having spoken with a lot of people like the ones you describe, it has a lot to do, I think, with needing to feel like they are better than other people, by dint of their participation in the corporate/racial hierarchy. It's not that they think they're going to be the boss one day -- it's that their self image requires other people to suffer to validate their own position. It's really twisted.
posted by wuwei at 4:59 PM on January 13, 2015


Also, corb, re: sustainability, if you look at the research done on Argentina's Jefes jobs program, you'll see that people overwhelmingly preferred to work for a wage, versus obtaining an equivalent lump sum monthly payout. Most people want to do something productive with their time, given the chance to do it with dignity.

I agree! But I don't think the majority of unskilled minimum-wage jobs in the US involve a lot of dignity. Rather the contrary, if anything.
posted by corb at 5:04 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


...we've determined that for 2013, approximately 0.274% of the U.S. population received SSDI benefits...

...

I'd actually love to be wrong about this, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Because I plan to use this information to silence my more vocal and less fact-check-y relatives/friends/acquaintances, and I want to make sure this shit is accurate first.


Well, we should note that that would be 0.274% of the population who were newly counted as disabled in 2013. I think you might've been looking for the numbers from this page, saying
In December 2013, there were 10,228,364 people receiving Social Security disability benefits as disabled workers, disabled widow(er)s, or disabled adult children. The majority (87.4 percent) were disabled workers, 10.1 percent were disabled adult children, and 2.5 percent were disabled widow(er)s.

...

In December 2013, there were 8,940,950 disabled workers; 1,030,166 disabled adult children; and 257,248 disabled widow(er)s receiving disability benefits.
So your same calculation would show a total of about 3.22% of the population as receiving benefits as disabled workers, disabled adult children, or disabled widow(er)s.
posted by XMLicious at 5:22 PM on January 13, 2015


But I notice that right below that they do their own calculation, for people aged 18–64 at least:
Disabled beneficiaries aged 18–64 in current-payment status accounted for 4.8 percent of the population aged 18–64 in the United States. In two states, they represented less than 3 percent of the state population. The states with the highest rates of disabled beneficiaries—7 percent or more—were Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
posted by XMLicious at 5:27 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The GOP has consistently worked to reduce/limit the IRS enforcement budget. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Not really.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:28 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The article linked seems to point to that as some sort of crazy success?

My read of that is that audits are rare and when they do occur, they only result in additional taxes in 38% of cases. It's a desirable state from the perspective of those who are paying themselves the least salary possible while giving themselves the largest possible distributions.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:29 PM on January 13, 2015


Even so, a problem is that part of the fairness of the system is that it judges disability against the work that you've actually done. It doesn't judge it against all possible work you could do, especially if provided retraining

That isn't really the case for people under 50. It's only once you're over 50 that your education and the work you've done in the past really matter. If you're under 50, if you can still bag groceries or sweep floors for a living, it doesn't matter that you used to be a doctor or a bricklayer (or whether anyone would really hire you, either, just whether you could do the job if you had it).
posted by sockasm at 5:59 PM on January 13, 2015


Capitalism doesn't work for everybody. Taking care of the minority that can't/don't participate is a hell of a lot cheaper than housing them in prisons.

Even cheaper to let them die in the gutter. Easier to tell who the Other is then, too.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:59 PM on January 13, 2015


“Paul Ryan's Dubious Leadership: The Margin of Finagle Revisited,” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 13 January 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thank you for correcting me, XMLicious! I appreciate the number breakdown, it's very helpful. This site teaches me so much, best $5 I ever spent.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:17 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


fwiw, to maybe help provide some context, re: MMT, basic income and 'solving poverty': "our obsession with full employment — which is also part of the secular stagnation discussion — is also problematic as a [key performance indicator (KPI)]."
posted by kliuless at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]




Rand Paul: "“What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting your disability check. Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club,” he added. “Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts. Everybody over 40 has a little back pain.”"
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:48 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The default New Yorker cartoon caption fits Rand Paul perfectly.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by sotonohito at 10:33 AM on January 15, 2015




« Older They're here. Oh god! They've found you!   |   The best team won Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments