Re: Receiving disability

1

Sounds like things are worse than I thought and I thought they were pretty bad.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 5:47 AM
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Wait. Now I think I inadvertently posted a conservative screed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:08 AM
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I think it's great. You have 14 million people, a high percentage whose lives are ruined through no fault of their own and they're supported to at least subsistence level. Can you imagine proposing such a law in Congress, like a guaranteed minimum income? You wouldn't just be laughed at, you'd probably be shot (or at least not invited on talk shows or to the good parties.). Too bad about all the bureaucratic waste and hoops and some amount of fraud, that's the price we pay for having politicians who find it electorally advantageous to act like assholes to those less fortunate than they are instead of addressing the consequences of their economic policies.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:22 AM
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2: Yeah, you kind of did.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:23 AM
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I haven't actually read the linked thing, even though it's been everywhere, but like SP I guess I figure it's just the backstop you end up with when you don't have welfare or universal health insurance. Thank goodness there's something.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:24 AM
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I didn't find the linked piece so terrible. It certainly doesn't go so far as SP or Tweety, but it's not unsympathetic to the people in these situations.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:28 AM
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I guess it's not conservative exactly. Just full of unexamined statements and beliefs of the sort that conservatives love, and oddly* lacking in context or nuance or analysis.

*For NPR, based on not very much so actually maybe this is what NPR articles are like now. What do I know.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:49 AM
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I've done a certain amount of work on employment litigation over disability issues, and what the article says about a disability diagnosis depending on your level of education/skills seems accurate to me. I'm thinking about one ADA case where the plaintiff had been terminated because the employer considered her unable to continue to perform her job even with accommodation, and she was suing in part to get her job back (I'm not going to get into the facts enough to talk about who was in the right.) And during the pendency of the case she applied for and received Social Security disability, which requires that you claim to be disabled enough that you can't work at all.

And asking for her job back while simultaneously representing herself as completely unable to work did not seem hypocritical to me (and the law of my state agrees). The facts were such that she could arguably, depending on lots of factors, have done her old job, where she had thirty years of seniority and all sorts of job-specific skills and experience. With her qualifications and at her age and level of disability, though, it seemed completely implausible that she'd ever get another job that she could do -- her disability had clearly taken her out of the job market, even though it was not nearly as clear that it made her unable to do her old job with accommodations.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:54 AM
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I heard a version of this one on This American Life. There are some issues with it, if you are inclined to believe Media Matters: http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/03/22/this-american-life-features-error-riddled-story/193215


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:57 AM
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I don't see it as a conservative screed. There are some serious problems with the way our social insurance programs work and liberals need to engage with them. It's hard to fix them when there are powerful interests trying to destroy them, though. I think it's worth the price of a certain amount of questionable conduct in order to get coverage to those who really need it, but it would be preferable to fix the system so that people who really just need appropriate jobs at a decent wage can find them.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:58 AM
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When I saw this article, the first thing I thought was "oh great, the conservatives are going to try to take away disability now". I found it a very interesting article - and it's undoubtedly correct that disability is a way to maintain some kind of social stability since we can't actually have, like, a real social safety net - but it seems like the opening shot in "look at all these wastrels who could totally work desk jobs and who therefore should be "retrained" instead of given money".

I mean, look at the UK! All those benefit cuts and attacks on "scroungers" and so on.

No sooner does the right become aware that some poor person somewhere is neither starving nor slaving, they rush right in to take away whatever is at issue.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:59 AM
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Or people who just need income support. The woman I'm thinking of, it probably didn't make sense for anyone to make her keep working -- she wanted her job back for financial reasons, but she was in a lot of pain that really wasn't compatible with getting all that much done.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:00 AM
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Nicholas Kristof did an op-ed on the children-in-SSI issue a little while ago and got rebutted by a lot of people, and the linked piece looks almost as anecdotal (although it doesn't repeat the canard that parents take their children out of classes).

The NPR piece focuses on numbers rather than percentage of population, a reliable way to inflate problems. The CBPP has a graph of SSI recipients of the total population by age over 1974-2009 (figure 4): there was a bump for children in the early 90's, before welfare reform (better reflection of learning disabilities?), and since then there has been some growth in the percentage, but it's not outrageous. And it's far less than the 8-9% of children who have some kind of disability.

(The piece does link to a graph of caseloads by population and FPL showing more usage among the low-income. Uh, duh? For about a dozen reasons?)

It does seem at least possible that the system gets used to some extent as a backstop for all the terrible need that welfare reform started ignoring - though that doesn't necessarily mean its spending is out of control; it might be that such people are getting benefits at the expense of the more needy. But I need more than anecdote.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:01 AM
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12 to 10.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:01 AM
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*For NPR, based on not very much so actually maybe this is what NPR articles are like now. What do I know.

My guess is that this is a modified transcript of the Planet Money and/or This American Life, which explains some glib assertions, but certainly not all the ones in Mentioner's link in 9.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:02 AM
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Oh, and Media Matters reminds me that SSI has an income requirement, so the recession and stagnant incomes make more people eligible in the first place - especially in places like West Virginia.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:05 AM
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Finally before I go to work: a more fact-based analysis linked by Media Matters. Some other interesting points: there's now a Medicaid subprogram for early screening and diagnosis of diseases in children, which will identify more disabilities; and the percentage of children on SSI for mental health reasons has not changed since 1994.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:13 AM
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The opening anecdote is really stupid: People tend to go shopping when they have money!

The complaint that some people get disability even without being in wehelchairs is also stupid. There are lots of disabilities that prevent people from working that aren't imediately visible.

Conspicuously abeent are the many benefits of social security disability to society as a whole:"
--for the poor, you don't starve when you can't work. Alternatively, you don't have to keep minng coal until the day you die.
--for the middle class, you are paying much, much less for disability insurance than it would cost in the private sector, because insurance company's aren't taking their 20-30%.
--for employers, you don't have to decide whether to throw out on the street the unproductive secretary who spends the entire day coughing and calls in form the hospital a few itmes a year, but has been with you 30 years and has no other means of support, someone you actually care about. They're taken care of. Yes, this is a real issue; we have dealt with it in my office.

Overall, the social security disability insurance is a major success story of the United States government in the twentieth century. Unlike medicaid and medicare, the costs are not spiralling out of control. The program pays for itself from payroll taxes. It is insurance, you don't get benefits unless you paid in, and the amount of your benefits depends on how much you paid in.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:22 AM
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The NPR piece focuses on numbers rather than percentage of population, a reliable way to inflate problems.
Yeah, this rang alarm bells for me, too. I don't know how intentional it is, but failure to correct for size of the population is an error so basic that I am unwilling to trust anything in the article.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:47 AM
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Not a fan of the story.

You have to be a special kind of clueless to misunderstand that lots and lots of people don't qualify for desk jobs. Or that people in their 50s who've worked at physical jobs are in pain.

I didn't know that states were paying contractors to move people from their welfare rolls onto federal disability. Or that the appeals didn't have an advocate for the government. There's probably no net gain to be had in changing either of those things -- costs of looking into every case will outweigh losses from marginal cases that should have tipped the other way.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:49 AM
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Overall, the social security disability insurance is a major success story of the United States government in the twentieth century.

One major problem with the article is the use of "on disability" to cover (as far as I can tell) both SSDI and SSI, which are programs with very different beneficiaries as well as different funding. I'm guessing the people in the article are mostly on SSI, not SSDI.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:52 AM
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You have to be a special kind of clueless to misunderstand that lots and lots of people don't qualify for desk jobs. Or that people in their 50s who've worked at physical jobs are in pain.

This seems like a willful misreading of the story.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:52 AM
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19: Reporters have a strong bias towards telling an interesting story and generally exaggerating problems or threats. Disability rising only modestly or not at all when adjusted for population isn't a story with punch.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:53 AM
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This seems like a willful misreading of the story.

Agreed. I don't want to defend the story too much, but come on. It mentions the lack of suitable jobs a bunch of times.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:56 AM
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Or that people in their 50s who've worked at physical jobs are in pain.

Well, I don't know how it is in America, but over here the overwhelming majority of all three major political parties are exactly that kind of clueless, to judge from their enthusiasm for raising the age of eligibility for the state pension to 70.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:57 AM
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I don't want to defend the story too much,

Me neither, for that matter. I definitely think the story has lots of problems. But that the underlying situation is complicated and interesting.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:59 AM
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Reporters have a strong bias towards telling an interesting story and generally exaggerating problems or threats. Disability rising only modestly or not at all when adjusted for population isn't a story with punch.

Well, yes, but let's not pretend this bias is apolitical in effect. Reporters could have gone sensational over how hugely inadequate TANF has become compared to poverty, but they haven't.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:06 AM
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The framing of the article is bad. e.g., the piece discusses in rather breathless tones how the employees who take in the claims will prompt people about their disabilities and arrange to get medical records for them. Nefarious socialists helping people game the system? Or people tasked with helping a bunch of people through a difficult bureaucracy?

(I'd hate to see what they make of my assisting first generation college students who can't find the tutoring center!)

What I didn't get from the article is a sense of the scope of the problem. Yes, it seems backwards that there is money for someone to stay home on disability rather than a safety net that would allow someone to retrain/move for a desk job. It is perverse that a kid who gets help for a disability risks losing the assistance if she shows too much improvement. But two questions: a) are these outliers? b) what's the alternative?

No one I know who has had to go on disability has described the process as easy free money, so that's coloring my thinking, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:07 AM
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It's not that the story is mistating it, but that it's breathlessly telling us. A great revelation to the reporter, who learned it in a day of talking to people. Instead of getting right to the interesting and complicated stuff.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:08 AM
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(I'd hate to see what they make of my assisting first generation college students who can't find the tutoring center!)

Why, I'll bet a born-and-bred American college student who can't read or write English fluently wouldn't get such advantages!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:10 AM
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I don't think mentioning the lack of jobs is a sufficient counter to the implicit attack on the disability insurance. It's not as if the unemployment rate is a secret, and there are any number of potential fixes offered up by the various political groups. "Ok, we can cut disability, but only if we cut our corporate tax rate."


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:11 AM
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'You're not going to believe this, but a whole lot of those people really are disabled! Who would have known?' I guess I'm annoyed that NPR feels the need to lead with this -- and so maybe more annoyed at the culture than at the editors . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:12 AM
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27: True, but given where the Overton window is right now looking at it from the standpoint of the inadequacy of social insurance is verboten. The right has done a very effective job of making conventional wisdom hostile to the programs that help the poor and downtrodden.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:16 AM
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30: Ha. Humorlessly, "first generation college student" does not mean "first generation immigrant." Plenty of first-in-the-family-to-go-to-college types have ancestors who moved here with Brigham Young.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:16 AM
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I listened to this program on NPR yesterday and I'm really puzzeled at people's reactions here. I don't know if it's a difference between reading and listening to the story?

For instance, the person complaining about disabled people not even being in wheelchairs is a ~70ish well off man, not the NPR reporter.

And the coverage of the companies seemed to be more of the latter "...people tasked with helping a bunch of people through a difficult bureaucracy?" but with an added - switching from state to federal funding so that states get to feel good about getting people off welfare (for a low low price of $2000/person).

Also the reason no one was being retrained for a desk job was because there were no desk jobs to be had in the town, besides working for SSI.

I got a lot out of the story, especially the source of income for all of these small towns in the middle of nowhere with no obvious source for jobs which the South seemed to be filled with.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:23 AM
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21 makes a very important point, as does 27.

What I didn't get from the article is a sense of the scope of the problem. Yes, it seems backwards that there is money for someone to stay home on disability rather than a safety net that would allow someone to retrain/move for a desk job. It is perverse that a kid who gets help for a disability risks losing the assistance if she shows too much improvement. But two questions: a) are these outliers? b) what's the alternative?

Exactly. Ten years ago, SSA was pushing its Ticket to Work program, which would have removed some of the disincentives to finding work. This was a small and much-delayed pilot; I don't know what happened with it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:32 AM
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21 makes a very important point, as does 27.

What I didn't get from the article is a sense of the scope of the problem. Yes, it seems backwards that there is money for someone to stay home on disability rather than a safety net that would allow someone to retrain/move for a desk job. It is perverse that a kid who gets help for a disability risks losing the assistance if she shows too much improvement. But two questions: a) are these outliers? b) what's the alternative?

Exactly. Ten years ago, SSA was pushing its Ticket to Work program, which would have removed some of the disincentives to finding work. This was a small and much-delayed pilot; I don't know what happened with it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:32 AM
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Whoops. I don't know why that happened.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:32 AM
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Disincentives to single-posting are rife in the system.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:33 AM
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37. AFAIK, Ticket to Work is still active and is beyond a pilot. Link.

(This is getting very close to my day job, so I should be cautious.)

DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy has current disability stats on its main page. They also have good links to inf & orgs such as JAN.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:47 AM
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It's depressingly possible to cripple yourself with a desk job, too, especially if you have back trouble going in.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:56 AM
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but given where the Overton window is right now

Gnaah!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:59 AM
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I don't actually think the article is hostile or insulting to people on disability. There are valid criticisms to the article, but I'm largely with hydrobatidae in 35.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:01 AM
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I don't think it's hostile either, but it is harmful.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:06 AM
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It's harmful if rightwing people take it as fuel to cut funding for disability, but frankly they will take the existence of bluebirds as an argument to cut funding for everything. It seems like people are saying that we can't talk about complicated topics because right-wingers will overhear us and try to cut funding to everything.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:10 AM
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I'm saying I don't think it addressed most of the complicating factors, and the ones it did, it did in a simplistic and sometimes inaccurate way.

I agree that the tone was more "oh man I never thought of that!" than anything else, but I'm not very impressed by the extent of the research she turned up or the way she presented it.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:14 AM
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It seems like people are saying that we can't talk about complicated topics because right-wingers will overhear us and try to cut funding to everything.

We need to learn to talk in code.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:14 AM
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The problem is less that right-wingers will overhear us and try to cut funding, as that "reasonable" beltway types and center-right democrats will hear about it and try to cut the funding (in alliance with the republicans who want to destroy everything).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:14 AM
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I actually find the "oh man I never thought of that!" tone to be relatively insulting in itself, because I encounter it so frequently and the people expressing it don't seem to have much (any) chagrin about having never thought of whatever. You should have thought of it!


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:16 AM
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I'm with heebie and hydro. FFS this is a perfectly good basis for liberals to argue for pushing basic things like jobs programs and support for kids and education programs that don't have perverse incentives.

There used to be a lot of jobs that you could do with just a high school degree, and that paid enough to be considered middle class. I knew, of course, that those have been disappearing for decades. What surprised me was what has been happening to many of the people who lost those jobs: They've been going on disability.
and
Let's imagine that happens. Jahleel starts doing better in school, overcomes some of his disabilities. He doesn't need the disability program anymore. That would seem to be great for everyone, except for one thing: It would threaten his family's livelihood. Jahleel's family primarily survives off the monthly $700 check they get for his disability.

Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:19 AM
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Of course you're right that the reporters should have thought of that before, but I could imagine the "oh man I never thought of that" tone to be something that readers/listeners like because it makes them feel ok not having thought of it either.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:19 AM
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Right. That's why I don't like it. The readers/listeners should have thought of that before too.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:20 AM
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I remember picking up When Good Things Happen to Bad People and reading the intro, where he talks about how his son died of progeria, and it was the first time it had occurred to him that bad things happened to good people. I am sorry that he lost his son, but I also thought "You were a full-fledged adult before you realized that? What an asshole."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:20 AM
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48 is what I was thinking. Planet Money tends neoliberal, and it's a disturbing sign that they're turning their attention to another part of the safety net.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:21 AM
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41: tell me about it.


Posted by: limpy wafer | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:22 AM
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That's why I don't like it. The readers/listeners should have thought of that before too.

But this is circular, right? Everybody should already be well-informed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:22 AM
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FFS this is a perfectly good basis for liberals to argue for pushing basic things like jobs programs and support for kids and education programs that don't have perverse incentives.
If the best liberals can offer in exchange for cuts to the safety net is job training (and this has been their preferred exchange since the '90s) we are fucked.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:25 AM
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Well, that would be best, yes.

But what I'm complaining about specifically is the attitude that this is some totally surprising thing that no one should have been expected to think about or read about or know about on their own. It's fine (to some extent) that you didn't think of that before. You should be at least a little embarrassed about that fact, though.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:25 AM
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53 made me laugh.

An escape fantasy I occasionally have is going on disability and living in public housing. I realize everything that is politically and practically wrong with this. Escape fantasies are not subject to reason or conscience.

Messily has reminded me that I've been aware of the fact that SSI and SSDI are different for over ten years because it comes up in my work but I've never actually figured out the diff.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:26 AM
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58 to 56


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:28 AM
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I'm just confused because the only thing I remember having heard of is SSD, and now I'm confused about whether that's SSI or SSDI. (I assume it's the latter)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:28 AM
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58.2: I wonder to some degree if that's not just the house attitude at Planet Money. Like, if they did a story about how sometimes you can get toppings on pizza, it would still have that "notionally clever people get surprised by facts about the world" flavor.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:28 AM
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SSDI is different from SDI, yeah?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:29 AM
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58: While I sympathize with this feeling, I think it's a bad one to indulge if it actually matters to you that anyone ends up well-informed. I worry about making people feel like every time they admit they learned anything, it proves they're a moron/asshole for not knowing it already, so they're going to avoid learning anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:31 AM
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Huh. It had never occured to me that you would worry about that, LB.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:32 AM
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59.last: Same here -- I learn the difference every year or so when it comes up, and then instantly forget it until the next time I need it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:32 AM
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I have an acquaintance who had public housing in NYC that he'd inherited which was amazingly cheap for NYC and in a good location, but he had to keep his income below some line to keep it. So he worked part-time and kept his hours not too high. In the end it's not actually so different from all the other NYC apartment shenanigans that people do to keep their rent low.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:32 AM
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SSDI (sometimes called SSD) is what you get if you have a job and then can't do it any more because of a disabling condition. The amount of money you get depends on your salary and how long you paid into the system.

SSI is for poor people who can't work, and you are not allowed to have any assets or earn any money* or you lose the benefits.

*you can earn a tiny amount of money. but you can't save it or you'll go above the assets limit.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:34 AM
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that "notionally clever people get surprised by facts about the world" flavor

This is reason #2 or possibly 3 that I can generally not stand NPR for more than about 30 seconds. It feels so contrived and manipulative (and frankly patronizing) that I get hives.

Even though I know that as a technique it is extremely effective, and even though I pitch many of my same presentations at approximately the same level (although hopefully never patronizingly).

Messily is right that we ought to have higher expectations for people.

I think this story would not irritate me half as much if it had been making charitable assumptions rather than malicious ones. (The FIRST thing she thinks of when she hears the same doctor's name coming up repeatedly is that he's running kind of scam? Does she not know she's in a small town?)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:35 AM
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64: This comment made me irrationally angry, so maybe I'll try to respond to it later when what I have to say involves fewer iterations of "fuck".


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:36 AM
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It is standard journalistic style for the reporter to pose as a naïve learner and let the person being interviewed be the wise teacher, even if the reporter chose that expert because they knew in advance exactly what the expert would say.

This kind of faux naïveté gets even worse when the reporter feels the need to pose as an exceptionally stupid person, because they believe their audience consists primarily of exceptionally stupid people.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:36 AM
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I think we should all be able to agree that the faux-naive style:

1) Can be effective if done well
2) Is still annoying to most of us even if done well
3) Was not done well in at least the written version of this pice.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:39 AM
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I have sent the link to my friend, the disability lawyer for her input.

In the meantime, I would say that:
1. There should be a guaranteed income
2. Rich people should be taxed a lot more
3. There's all kinds of important work going undone.

For instance, why not fun my pet program of hiring on half a million new government call center reps? Even the most miserly rich person would have to admit that they would pay some extra taxes in order to not have to wait a million years every time they call the government about something.

Also, I bet you could see some huge social and financial benefits if you opened up free clinics all over the country in poor rural areas. Might keep people from getting so sick they qualify for disability for one thing.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:39 AM
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The late, great Huell Howser threaded the faux-naïveté needle by maximizing his actual naïveté.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:41 AM
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Now, how about that. You are saying that Huell Howser was naive? That's amazing!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:42 AM
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64: OK, more on this. I spend a lot a lot a lot of time trying to figure out how to bring people up to speed quickly on complicated topics, without making them feel stupid or get defensive.

There is always a tension in advocacy work, because the very nature of the thing you are advocating for is generally to make it NOT a special "add on" but rather a routine part of the landscape.

In other words, a win in advocacy is when you don't have to start from scratch every single time.

So there is a shared understanding, say, that it's not just that John gets drunk every once in a while and punches Mary, but that this is part of a larger phenomenon called domestic violence, which has a pattern and potential solutions and resources to address it.

I've slowly (over the last two decades) been developing a bias that part of the way that people in power maintain that power is by forcing the discussion to start from scratch *way* more often than they really should.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:43 AM
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I worry about making people feel like every time they admit they learned anything, it proves they're a moron/asshole for not knowing it already, so they're going to avoid learning anything.

And yet for some people this technique, known as the "Crooked Timber commenter maneuver", is the highest goal of their discourse.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:45 AM
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Actually, all of Planet Money done by Huell Howser would be great.

"So you're saying that you could take these loans, and then sell parts of them to people in other parts of the world? Like even in China? Even in Mexico? You're saying even in Peru? That's amazing! Now, Luis, get a shot of these marble steps going up to the bank building. Have you ever seen such a rich, luxurious, marble? That craftsmanship is amazing. And the steps were put in all the way back in 1948. 1948!"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:46 AM
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Actually, all of Planet Money done by Huell Howser would be great.

True.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:47 AM
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part of the way that people in power maintain that power is by forcing the discussion to start from scratch *way* more often than they really should.

I think this is very right and is done both deliberately and unconsciously.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:51 AM
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79: I know I linked this a few months ago, but for non-Californians who have no idea who Huell Howser was, these video clips are pretty great.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:55 AM
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Huell Howser smashed the record for "most RIPs/obituaries on Twitter about someone I had never heard of". Probably by more than tenfold.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:57 AM
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80
It's the one's that do both at the same time that you hafta watch out for.

Also, the Original Premise just kind of blew my mind.


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:57 AM
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70, 76, 80: Isn't it possible to present something as part of basic, baseline information about a situation, without getting negative at people for not having known it (for people like a radio audience where knowing it isn't specifically their job)?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 9:58 AM
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If the best liberals can offer in exchange for cuts to the safety net is job training (and this has been their preferred exchange since the '90s) we are fucked.

I'm not advocating we offer jack in cuts. I think we should using this data to push like crazy for an actual jobs program. Not lame ass re-training, but actually doing huge infrastructure type projects that would be able to give work options to guys who've lost jobs from factories and other construction areas. I agree we're likely fucked though, because AFAICT the Dems couldn't sell something if their life depended on it.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:01 AM
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I agree we're likely fucked
Comity. I didn't mean to suggest that you were advocating cuts in exchange, merely that, given our politics, this article pushes in that direction.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:05 AM
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I think what I found most frustrating about the article was the way it conflated the following two issues:

1) The exact definition of who is "disabled" and who isn't well-defined.
2) The effects of disability in employability are strongly context dependent.

Even if you take a population who everyone can agree is "legitimately disabled", you'd still expect macroeconomic shocks to increase the number of people who can't find work due to their disability.

I guess it also had the problem of sometimes conflating 1 and fraud, but that seemed more purposeful (ie the reporter was gradually learning that those issues are different as the article goes on) while this distinction just seems to be missed by the reporter.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:07 AM
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I think politics might push that direction but I don't think the article does.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:08 AM
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I wonder if there's something specific to back pain that has changed. Like maybe it used to be easier for blue collar workers to move into less physical supervisor roles as they aged but now those jobs don't exist or are going to younger college graduates.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:12 AM
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64,76,80. Agreed that people do this. Maybe a consequence of bureaucracy, of kissing up and kicking down? The only people whose opinions matter are the ones above, who wouldn't ask a basic question. Asking a question about fundamentals is a way to get the subject changed, also a way to get the other person to say something dumb.

84. Possible, but I think that this takes accurate subject knowledge. NPR's reporting on Mali and Syria were pretty interestng counterpoints-- the Mali reporters knew background, explained very concisely. The Syria reporters did a great job describing what they saw, but no background. I think that most reporters are young.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:12 AM
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84: It depends?

That's a serious answer.

In my experience there absolutely are times when either the issue is esoteric enough or the audience is under-informed enough that you've just got to be absolutely straight up in presenting information in a very factual and nonthreatening way. There is nothing to be gained, and a lot to be lost, by making your audience feel ignorant and thus likely alienating them.

But there are also many, many times when people may not have known, but should have known, about some facet of the world.

Consistently granting them a bye on their ignorance amounts to conceding that the issue is not important enough to have warranted their attention -- that is, that their ignorance is understandable.

Pushing back on this is hard to do, socially and psychologically. But if you don't, then you end up having a decade's worth of conversions with school officials, over and over again, in which every time they are shocked, shocked! that violence and bigotry expressed by their adult staff members is affecting the children in their care. Who could have known?!


Posted by: Wit | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:17 AM
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89 -- I don't think there's any mystery about what's changed. Back pain when you already have a job is something that may get toughed out with Advill during the day and Jack Daniels at night. At least up to some pretty serious levels. Back pain at those same levels when you're 55 and looking for a job -- in our stupid employer-based health insurance system -- is an absolute killer.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:19 AM
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I actually find the "oh man I never thought of that!" tone to be relatively insulting in itself, because I encounter it so frequently and the people expressing it don't seem to have much (any) chagrin about having never thought of whatever.

I'm finally reading Far from the Tree and this exact thing keeps surprising me. I mean, presumably at some point he stops beginning every chapter by talking about how he had no clue about these people's lives before he was assigned a story on them, right? And then I go back to having to remind myself not to read too much into all the anecdotes and that if I'm failing at transracial parenting presumably everyone else is doing at least as badly. (Pause-play-ish.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:20 AM
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Forgive me if I am mis-remembering but don't you, E. Messily and Witt, do something relevant to this topic for a living? Also Smearcase and Bostoniangirl?

I have never taken a social science class in university (except first year psychology) and never taken any feminism classes or even literature classes (except again, first year university). My family is all healthy (knockonwood) and has had resources to survive job loss. Where on earth would I have learned about Social Security and disability? Are these issues being covered in the media other than by right wing outlets (which I hate and avoid as much as possible). I'm being serious here. I can soak up a lot of information about a range of really weird topics (ask me about helmets in football!) but I really had no idea how SSI, SSDI, etc. work and what the trends were across the country.

I guess I identify with the reporter and I'm kind of annoyed that people are acting like she's some sort of monster for not being exposed to this information already. Or are you thinking that because she's a reporter she should know this already?


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:22 AM
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I wonder if there's something specific to back pain that has changed.

Well, my back pain as been getting worse, and I've decided it comes from bending over all the time to pick up legos from the dining room floor. You think of "bend from the knees, not the waist" as advice for picking up big heavy things. I'm realizing now that it applies also to picking up little tiny things over and over.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:23 AM
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Like maybe it used to be easier for blue collar workers to move into less physical supervisor roles as they aged but now those jobs don't exist or are going to younger college graduates.

I'd be interested in the data about what kinds of injuries are increasing among what populations, but I don't think this is much of a factor. While more supervisors used to come from the shop floor and now more of them are snot-nosed MBA students who wouldn't know a nut from a bolt, the vast majority of blue collar workers retired as blue collar workers.

But it was also true that more people in physically demanding jobs could retire after 30 years; if you start after high school, even after spending a few years in other jobs, you're out by the time you're 55.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:23 AM
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Somewhat Carp-pwned, but added value for gratuitous insults. (Gratuitous, but firmly grounded in fact.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:26 AM
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94 reminds me of a similar incident of people being annoyed at being considered ignorant, in a thread where someone was expressing their shock that someone was unfamiliar with the Hustler magazine meat-grinder thing from 1983 or whenever it was.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:29 AM
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I've decided it comes from bending over all the time to pick up legos from the dining room floor. You think of "bend from the knees, not the waist" as advice for picking up big heavy things. I'm realizing now that it applies also to picking up little tiny things over and over.

Yes. Especially if you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:29 AM
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98: Oh, I'm totally fine being called ignorant about this issue. I'm happy to have heard the program because at least now I know something.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:32 AM
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All that stuff about office ergonomics and taking breaks from sitting and doing stretches and whatnot? You all should do those things.

I'll be over here with my improper posture and stiff joints.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:33 AM
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96: I think maybe there used to be more of a culture of adjusting assignments to the physical capacities of aging workers? I'm thinking of my FIL -- the family story is that the factory he worked in systematically forced out the senior generation of workers by assigning them heavy lifting tasks, but that this happened as a particular event when he was in his fifties. Before that, he'd had an expectation that the young men were going to be lifting garbage cans full of wax on the end of long poles, and that someone his age would be doing something else, still blue-collar but less strenuous.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:35 AM
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You think of "bend from the knees, not the waist" as advice for picking up big heavy things. I'm realizing now that it applies also to picking up little tiny things over and over.

Or bend from the hips, not the waist. (Assumes flexible hamstrings.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:37 AM
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96.2: Oh right, it's the end of company-provided pensions. I should have realized that. Well, and the article should have said that.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:38 AM
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Yeah, Blume is right, you don't really want to just bend "from the knees" exactly either. The problem is really just improving flexibility.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:39 AM
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My family is all healthy (knockonwood) and has had resources to survive job loss. Where on earth would I have learned about Social Security and disability?

My family is all white. Where on earth would I have learned about affirmative action and racism?


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:39 AM
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62: I wonder to some degree if that's not just the house attitude at Planet Money.

I suspect it is. The reporter for this piece, Chana Joffe-Walt, specializes in breathlessness, it's seemed to me. (This is likely unfair, but I cannot stand her speaking style, which always sounds like she's about to break into a series of, yes, breathless, marveling 22-year old remarks like "I know, right!?")


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:41 AM
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From the media, as in this story?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:41 AM
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94: Yes, but I don't think I'm who you're addressing, as I've expressed no outrage at people not knowing this. I'm the first to admit that I have some large areas of ignorance, and before I became a social worker, I knew exactly nothing about social welfare systems. Did not know Medicaid from Medicare. Etc. I was a big blank.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:42 AM
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The media is one option, your local Klan meeting another.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:42 AM
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E.Messily, consider for a moment that SSI isn't taught in school the way the civil rights movement is.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:42 AM
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I have had the difference between SSI and SSDI explained to me at length by a professional who has written reports on them, and didn't retain a bit of it. Except I thought SSDI was social insurance (you have to pay in) and SSI was something anyone could get, and I may have been disabused of that notion.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:43 AM
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104 -- Yes it should have. And should have gone a step further on the retraining-as-scam point. This isn't a scam that was dreamed up by the workers as a way to get some money for a transition, or a scam dreamed up by liberal politicians in the state to conceal unemployment numbers. It's the employer off-loading costs to the state while it moves production overseas. (Or moves its capital to some other activity: moving money around rather than making things).

The most important points, for older folks, are, it seems to me, the employer based health insurance system, lack of retirement options, and ability of employers to drop employees and fund -- through taxes alone -- retraining programs for jobs that don't exist. I'd be willing to put up with some breathless 'who could have guessed' reporting about that, but it should name names, not just namby pamby around the passive invisible hand, and be happily shocked that these disabled older workers aren't just part of a big scam.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:46 AM
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To be clear, I really don't care whether or not anyone knows the difference between SSI and SSDI. That's absolutely not part of what I object to, either in the article or in any other person's response.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:48 AM
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Shorter 113 -- Capitalism is fucking people over, and while the state is complicit, it's the 1% that's driving it. Who could have guessed? Might be less annoying.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:48 AM
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I mean I guess I did object to the author of the article not specifying which she was talking about, but that's unrelated to the issue of tone and preconceptions and not having ever thought about any of the issues before because why would you?


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:49 AM
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I guess I think that most people don't think of anything ever if it doesn't affect them personally. Someone saying "Wow, this is literally the first time I ever thought about [important issue X]," is way ahead of 90% of the population, because they've thought about the issue once, rather than never.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:51 AM
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95: The key is remembering that you are a heavy thing. When you pick up a Lego, you are not just picking up your 0-pound lego, but your 20-pound head and your arms and upper torso.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:51 AM
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I guess I think that most people don't think of anything ever if it doesn't affect them personally.

Well, I think this is shitty and I will continue to hold it against them.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:53 AM
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and not having ever thought about any of the issues before because why would you?

I can see a bit where you're coming from, but agree with LB on this one. Can you provide me with a list of the things I definitely should have thought about already, so I can make sure I'm up to date? (Disability doesn't have to be on it; one cousin's family has had quite enough experiences with it that I'm pretty familiar already.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:54 AM
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To be safe, you should just think about everything. Really you should have done this last week, but if you can get it done in the next day or two you'll probably be all right.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:56 AM
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Crap, I was afraid you'd say that. I'll put it on the to-do list.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:57 AM
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I had the impression that Advil-and-drinking was just enough to get most workers to the union retirement age, and then the pension liabilities were manageable because Advil-and-drinking killed a lot of retired workers pretty quick. Poor sleep and nutrition is bad for a banged up body. I get this from living in fishing/logging territory, and working in a nursing home there, it hadn't occurred to me that a factory could reorganize jobs.

Lego, etc.; doubtless we should all be dropping gracefully to the floor in that no-hands-no-knee way, gathering the lego in our ambit, rising as gracefully, and repeating for the next mess. Eh.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:57 AM
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(As I said repeatedly above, what I find offensive isn't just that people haven't thought about things, it's the attitude of "why on earth would I ever have thought about that".)


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:57 AM
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I think part of it is:

1) Yes everyone's selfish and doesn't pay much attention to things that don't affect them or people they know.

2) We should all show a little proper embarrassment when this (inevitably) happens.

That is, the response shouldn't be "huh, interesting, how could I ever have known?" But "huh, interesting, I guess I should have thought about that."


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:57 AM
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Messily can you run down some of the ins and outs of the Obamacare breastpump program?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 10:57 AM
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Ouch, so pwned.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:00 AM
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Sorry, I used up all my memory knowing things about SSDI.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:02 AM
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Actually, I'm also wondering if corporate tax reform -- which is a political longshot, admittedly -- will affect people living in tax-credit funded low income housing. I know waiting lists are super, super long, so should they be trying to get into public housing now, or looking for individual vouchers? Is there any sense of how much commute time is going to change if the older projects go to market rate?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:02 AM
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126: I just heard from a friend that their NICU gives out free Moby wraps when babies are discharged, but you probably don't want to go have a sick baby in Urpleville just to get one.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:03 AM
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Also, what's the deal with pretrial diversion programs? I know some of them are terrible; is it even worth it to get involved in that, or should a guy just do his time and hopefully get cleaned up and try to get the conviction expunged later in life?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:04 AM
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Quit it, Sifu.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:05 AM
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free Moby wraps

Before doing a Google search I thought this must have meant that Moby Hick ate at Arby's so often they named a new menu item for him.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:05 AM
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doubtless we should all be dropping gracefully to the floor in that no-hands-no-knee way, gathering the lego in our ambit

This thread is letting me know I need spend time working on my lego-lifting form. I had no idea this issue was so complicated! I have literally never thought about this before!

The key is remembering that you are a heavy thing.

I haev the bathroom scale to remind me of that.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:05 AM
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If I'm going to ask questions that are directly relevant to me right now they're all going to be about why some kernels project into a well-formed inner product space and how I get intuition for that, but I am pretty sure that question does not have larger social or policy implications.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:07 AM
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I bet EM has never thought about the effectiveness of differently shaped slices of flapjack as projectile weapons. Shame on her.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:07 AM
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What I object to isn't that people haven't thought of it before. It's the default presumption that they have, and have come to a particular conclusion. The reporter starts with the implicit assumption that a bunch of those people with disability claims are malingering, and the doctor is a scamster. It's not fair to say 'oh well, hasn't had any occasion to think about disability.' This is not a blank slate. It's a slate filled with misinformation that was given, and accepted, in service of a particular ideology.

And acting like it takes special study, and deep disinterested thought, to learn that poor people aren't scum, well, that's offensive.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:07 AM
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135: Six threads down.

"huh, interesting, how could I ever have known?" But "huh, interesting, I guess I should have thought about that."

The first is defensive, the second accomodating.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:09 AM
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Jesus, what is with the British and their bizarrely weird looking purported "flapjacks" and love for "ice lollys."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:10 AM
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135: While we're on the topic of kernels, why is it so impossible to eat popcorn without some of it falling in your cleavage? Or maybe not your cleavage, but hasn't someone studied this?

133: I'm trying to figure out what would go in that sort of Moby wrap. Swedish fish, of course, but rusty nails don't really lend themselves to sandwich treatment unless there's some of that new-fangled molecular gastronomy going on.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:10 AM
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acting like it takes special study, and deep disinterested thought, to learn that poor people aren't scum

Again, I just didn't get that from the article.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:11 AM
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Oh my sweet Lord a "flapjack" is a "granola bar."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:12 AM
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131 -- Expungement sounds like a crapshoot -- who knows what the dominant paradigm is going to be when you later need it -- and obviously doesn't apply to federal crimes. (Although I suppose diversion programs don't either.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:13 AM
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There was a bit of that -- like, when the reporter was talking to a doctor who approved a lot of disability applications and was surprised that he wasn't a crook? That was coming in with an "of course he's a crook, the default is that disability is a scam" attitude, even if the upshot was the reporter deciding it wasn't true.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:13 AM
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I definitely got the feel from the article that the default assumption is that if the number of people with disability benefits increases then it's probably fraud. So scum is probably overstating it, but I think "Wow, once you look into it, poor people aren't all committing fraud" is kind of a fair summary.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:13 AM
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Oh my sweet Lord a "flapjack" is a "granola bar."

I can't believe you didn't know that already.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:13 AM
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I give up on this thread, too much pwnage.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:14 AM
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142: One just as evil as the other, of course.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:15 AM
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The reporter starts with the implicit assumption that a bunch of those people with disability claims are malingering

But they are! And not because they're leeches but because the only options are disability or starving because the system's fucked. The article specifically talks about that, how we should just help kids do better and not structure it in a way that a kid doing too well in school means his family might not make their rent.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:17 AM
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149 -- Maybe I'm just being too uncharitable today, but I didn't get the feeling that the reporter thought that the payments to the particular kid's family were necessarily justified.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:21 AM
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Right though the point about perverse incentives may have been.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:22 AM
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142: Oh my god. I have been wondering how a pancake could poke someone in the eye.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:23 AM
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Further to 143, you also have the cumulative effect of convictions on sentencing, so avoiding one now might well be worth a lot later on.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:24 AM
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149: And you need to draw the distinction between disabled adults who are unlikely to ever get another job, and developmentally disabled kids. The bit about the disabled kids seemed really facile and low on facts, but the bit about adults went from "Of course it's mostly scammers" to "Huh, looks like not". (To forestall quibbling, clearly, there are at least some scammers receiving disability benefits, just because everything possible happens sometimes.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:25 AM
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That is extremely weird about flapjacks. Which way did the word travel? Were pancakes once granola bars?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:26 AM
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Pan cake seems too transparent to be anything but something cakey cooked in a pan. Flapjack could mean anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:28 AM
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I'D LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:29 AM
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And it's possible I'm going too easy on the article. But the author also mentions things like this.

People who leave the workforce and go on disability qualify for Medicare, the government health care program that also covers the elderly. They also get disability payments from the government of about $13,000 a year. This isn't great. But if your alternative is a minimum wage job that will pay you at most $15,000 a year, and probably does not include health insurance, disability may be a better option.

And the cases with guys in their 50's and the kids aren't really that different. You're putting people in the position to choose between disability and survival.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:31 AM
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The thing about the guys in their 50s, though, is that an intermediate level of disability is much likelier to really bar you from doing a minimum wage job. Some guy with back pain that an editor could work through isn't a scammer for getting disability payments if the jobs he could have gotten were schlepping boxes in a warehouse. A hotel housekeeper is genuinely no-scamming disabled at a different level of physical symptoms than a lawyer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:34 AM
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Wikipedia suggests that the American usage is the original, and that it went (presumably after 1776) through a stage of meaning some kind of apple tart before settling down as a granola bar in the early 20th century. I would think of granola bars as commercially mass produced and flapjack as home made, but I don't know if that's just me.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:35 AM
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I obviously cannot allow this pre-Passover discussion of granola to continue without referring to today's mildly interesting NPR story about Matzolah.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:35 AM
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Oh my sweet Lord a "flapjack" is a "granola bar."

No it isn't. It's moister and less crunchy than a granola bar.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:36 AM
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161: Does matzoh have to be wheat? I'd think to make granola out of it, you'd want a really-coarse-ground oatcake made by kosher-for-passover rules (not that I know what they are other than start-to-finish-in-eighteen-minutes), if that's allowed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:38 AM
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I have never taken a social science class in university (except first year psychology) and never taken any feminism classes or even literature classes (except again, first year university). My family is all healthy (knockonwood) and has had resources to survive job loss. Where on earth would I have learned about Social Security and disability? Are these issues being covered in the media other than by right wing outlets (which I hate and avoid as much as possible). I'm being serious here. I can soak up a lot of information about a range of really weird topics (ask me about helmets in football!) but I really had no idea how SSI, SSDI, etc. work and what the trends were across the country.

I'm curious about this, and having heard the story on TAL, I was struck by a similar thought to 11. I mean, in the UK, disability benefits is probably one of the top 10 perennial stories in the British press, right or left. The long term trend of the government pushing people off unemployment and into disability*, and periodically clamping down on disability benefits and thereby causing serious hardship, is extremely familiar to most people, on whichever side of the aisle. I was a bit bemused throughout the TAL story by the implication this was an unfamiliar tale in the US, though obviously there are idiosyncracies such as the state/federal responsibility issue.

*Technically this has ended with the abolition of the incapacity benefit, but it's basically a terminology change.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:41 AM
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So everybody has seen the local news INVESTIGATIVE BLOCKBUSTER!@#@ specials where they find cops or city employees or whatever who are on disability but can still manage to open a car door or play golf occasionally, yeah? I think some of the "aren't all these people on disability scammers?" framing might have come from that sort of thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:44 AM
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I'd never heard of that particular detail before: that it benefits states to move people from welfare to disability.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:44 AM
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The thing about the guys in their 50s, though, is that an intermediate level of disability is much likelier to really bar you from doing a minimum wage job.

Sure, but in the context of the article...

Scott's dad had a heart attack and went back to work in the mill. If there'd been a mill for Scott to go back to work in, he says, he'd have done that too. But there wasn't a mill, so he went on disability. It wasn't just Scott. I talked to a bunch of mill guys who took this path -- one who shattered the bones in his ankle and leg, one with diabetes, another with a heart attack. When the mill shut down, they all went on disability.

And yes, the article should have done a better job of pointing out that national health care, beefed of SS with the option for earlier retirement for people in blue collar jobs, etc. could totally fix this.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:45 AM
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164: This is purely speculation, but is it about the less-punitive nature of the UK welfare state? My sense of US disability payments is that it's a matter of grinding poverty -- if you're on disability, you're really, really poor. And that's exactly the sort of issue that doesn't get covered except from the "Are we spending too much on these wastrels?" perspective.

If in the UK disability is something that's directly relevant to a broader slice of the socioeconomic spectrum, that might make the difference in coverage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:47 AM
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though obviously there are idiosyncracies such as the state/federal responsibility issue

This may be a key to the relative silence in the U.S. about this: states don't really want people to know that they're off-loading their expenses onto the federal government's tab.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:48 AM
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Interestingly, I think VA disability benefits are based solely on "percentage disability" (which is some weird technical definition, for example you can get over 100%) and so getting a job doesn't decrease your benefit level.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:53 AM
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170 is correct. One of my buddies at ebay got his back all fucked up in Iraq along with some PTSD. He's enough from the feds to not starve (like 1100/month) but it doesn't get yanked because he works full time at a desk job.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:57 AM
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168: Another thing is that the federal/state thing doesn't just move responsibility around, it makes an awful lot of social welfare programs mindnumbingly complicated -- there's a justifiable MEGO effect when you start talking about the details of any program, because they really are horrifically complicated in a way that I think happens less in other countries.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:01 PM
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Well, the UK thing started in the 1980s like so:

Jobcentre staffer: So, Mr So-and-so. Found a job yet?
Mr So-and-so: *hollow laugh*
Jobcentre staffer: Hmm. You have applied for one?
Mr So-and-so: yes, as a dolphin trainer, but I don't think I'll get it as a 52-year old recently redundant winding-gear fitter.
Jobcentre staffer: Are you aware of incapacity benefit?
Mr So-and-so: Eh?
Jobcentre staffer: Well, if you've got any kind of medical problem that might keep you from working, you could go on IB.
Mr So-and-so: Well, I've got a bit of a bad back..
Jobcentre staffer [whose day has just improved]: OF COURSE!
Mr So-and-so: But it's nothing much.
Jobcentre staffer: Yes! Of course it is!
Mr So-and-so: [bafflement]
Jobcentre staffer: If you go on IB because of your back, you get MORE MONEY and I stop bothering you.
Mr So-and-so: Where do I sign?

as a result, the IB roll progressively took over more and more people from the unemployment roll.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:03 PM
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I just bought Rauchway's novel from 2010 at the dollar store. For a dollar!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:11 PM
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The tone of the article probably would have been fine, spun out slowly as a radio story (what will the reporter find when he travels to the doctor's office? cue the trafficy background noises!), but in print, it doesn't work. It could be rewritten without the initial assumptions, and it would be a stronger piece.

My sense of this issue is largely from having relatives who were coal miners and were able to retrain successfully in the 80s so as not to be coal miners, and married to a guy who is getting out of his physical job largely on the grounds that he doesn't want to be broken at fifty.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:13 PM
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164: Oh, I've heard plenty of stories about people cheating the disability system. And I've heard plenty of stories about people being retrained for mysterious new jobs (I lived in Newfoundland after the cod crash and my father was a middle-aged man who told me people just didn't want to hire him because he was too expensive). I just never thought that people would be getting disability instead of unemployment; that it was a benefit for pretty much everyone to make this switch.

Obviously if I think about it, another issue is in Canada, health care is covered so a job with $15,000/year without benefits is better than EI at $13,000/year with benefits (I think there might be some additional benefit? Dental?).


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:24 PM
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I generally bow out when conversation goes meta, but I feel like we've been concentrating rather excessively on whether the article is right-thinking or not.

But to continue that trend, the article is better regarding adults, but the section on kids (with Jahleel Duroc) is pretty clearly insinuative in a completely conventional centrist way:

1. Jahleel is supposed to have a learning disability. But he loves school and talks a lot! What's with that, amiright?
2. [How does he do in classes? What's his reading level? Skip that, swiftly moving on.]
3. I won't quote anything his mother said, but we can presume through Logic that she wouldn't like him to do better in school because she would lose her check. Here's a quote from a mother of a late-teenager who must be in exactly the same situation, even though the issue in that quote is whether he gets a job, not how he does in school.
4. Ergo, SSI keeps children from learning.

175: Finally, a usage of "broken", as describing a person, that I can support!


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:25 PM
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172: It's interesting to consider that as state responsibility is shifted to the feds, the federal government's budget increases, and we're faced with belligerent claims that the federal budget is just too damn big.

States that particularly indulge in this cost-shifting are presumably able to balance their budgets more easily -- something the governors of red-leaning states especially brag about -- even as their reported unemployment rates become lower. It looks like their states are doing relatively well, economically, when actually what's happened is that they've carefully opted out of their responsibilities.

Gotta say that Joffe-Walt has done a service in bringing this aspect of the matter to national attention. The spin-out from it could be tremendous, actually. What happens to Republican proposals to change to a system of block grants to states to pay for various social welfare programs? Would the states still be able to shift costs back to the feds in this way?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:26 PM
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I also wondered if there was a systematic difference in regions with unionized or nonunionized factory labor.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:29 PM
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I'd think the difference would mostly be between states that have gentrified -- more desk jobs -- and those that haven't. On the unionization question, see Carp's 113.1, I think.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:48 PM
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Does 'gentrified' really apply to whole states? There are richer and poorer states, but gentrification applied to anything bigger than a neighborhood or so sounds off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:51 PM
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I have no idea how "gentrification" might apply on a state level.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:52 PM
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Oh hey pwned.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 12:52 PM
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I just mean the proportion of white- and pink-collar jobs to blue-collar ones. The proportion of jobs requiring a B.A. or B.S., versus those available to someone with a high school degree.

It's true that that will differ depending on the area of the state, but don't you think generalizations about a state's overall economic engine, so to speak, can be made? Massachusetts is way different from West Virginia, say.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:02 PM
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Richer/poorer sure -- it's not the point you were making but the word you used. 'Gentrification' to me implies that snooty people moved in from elsewhere, and I don't think there are enough snooty people in the world to drive migration patterns into a whole state.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:10 PM
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Well, there are enough snooty people in the world, of course, but they don't all move to the same place.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:11 PM
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I guess maybe Rhode Island could gentrify en masse.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:12 PM
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My friend the disability lawyer just wrote a 10 point response to the article. Do people want to read it?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:12 PM
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Or one of the empty square states, if giant ranches got cool.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:13 PM
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I wrote a comment saying Rhode Island is the only state that could gentrify, but then rethought it because Hawaii.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:14 PM
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118: You have to ask? Of course we do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:14 PM
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189: parts of Montana and parts of Idaho have certainly had that happens but... yeah, states are big, I dunno.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:15 PM
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I don't have a huge stake in the 'gentrification' term. I just thought it was an understandable shorthand; I don't really associate it with snootiness, but just with money.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:16 PM
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Okay, here goes:

This is right-wing alarmism.

1) it's not that easy to get disability. You have to have a doctor's opinion, and typically you have to have a treating provider who has seen you for some time support your application.

2) most people in the working class work heavy labor jobs, and have never had a job available that wasn't physical.

3) non-physical jobs that are available to working class folks are call center jobs.

4) Attorneys all advertise, and we all see ourselves as helping our clients. That's what attorneys do: we advocate for our clients, whether they are fabulously wealthy and destroying the environment or homeless and looking for their next meal.

5) Most people applying for disability are not terribly sophisticated, and often have an inability to keep appointments as a feature of their disability - reminding people to show up for appointments is hardly an offensive or problematic behavior. Most attorneys' offices do not make appointments for social security clients, but where someone has a disability and does not have access to healthcare, what else can you do? Perhaps we should fix the healthcare system, and make sure everyone has access to it.

6) There is no opposing counsel because the person applying for disability has to prove their case entirely. It's an administrative hearing, where you go in and argue against the status quo. What's an attorney for the other side going to do, besides eat up even more money? Point out that sometimes they don't make their appointments, or go on about how they have diabetes and it's not that bad? The person applying has to show by positive evidence that they cannot work. It is not an insignificant burden, and evidence to the contrary in the file will be in front of the judge and they can ask questions about it.

7) The alarmism about how programs for the impoverished or disabled are bankrupting America is nauseating. Perhaps if we provided healthcare for everyone, fewer people would be disabled. Perhaps if fewer corporate heads were moving jobs overseas, there would be more work here. I am sure I do not need to go on.

8) The standards for disability are different for different age groups. The author fails to mention that if you have worked all your life doing heavy labor and are now 56 and would only be able to do a sitting down job, it's taken into account that no one will retrain you for that and it would be an impractical adjustment.

9) with the issues around children's cases, perhaps we should be fighting poverty and putting better programs for kids with disabilities in the schools instead of stigmatizing people who are poor and have a child with a disability. Oh wait, that would also involve spending money on people who aren't rich. To prove children's cases, you have to have records from the doctor and also from the school, like special ed records, teacher's evaluations, etc. It's not an easy process. I think it's a real problem that families are dependent on a kid's benefits, but that's not a problem with the disability system.

10) a surprising number of people who are applying for disability as adults have learning disabilities around reading or basic math. They were able to get by when jobs were more plentiful by doing labor, but it's different now that times are tight. This kind of disability limits what people can do - if you have trouble reading, you can't work in a call center, because you have to use a computer. If you have trouble with basic math, you can't run a cash register.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:16 PM
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[Some of this already covered above, obviously]

Also, I don't think the piece mentioned that disability legal fees are capped -- unless you are operating at huge volumes, this practice is not a very good way to get rich.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:19 PM
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193: I wasn't so much quibbling with the snootiness, as with the implication of moving in. Massachusetts isn't richer than Alabama because there was a wave of wealthy immigrants.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:20 PM
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States can't gentrify because Beckett Preston isn't scrubbing his own Viking range or making his own bed or acting as his own receptionist or building the annex himself.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:21 PM
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I think it's quite common to say "Brooklyn is gentrifying" if what you mean is "some neighborhoods are gentrifying and the former residents of those neighborhoods are having to move to less desirable neighborhoods in Brooklyn." That is, the people being displaced don't have to literally move out of the location being described as "gentrifying." I think it's totally sensible to say "Hawaii has gentrified" even if the people building the new vacation homes have just moved into shittier locations and housing still in the state.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:24 PM
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You could, but that wouldn't end up being a reason that one state was richer than another, if you see what I mean. But this is vastly unimportant, it's a purely verbal quibble and everyone understands what was meant.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:28 PM
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2) most people in the working class work heavy labor jobs, and have never had a job available that wasn't physical.

This point was definitely made in the article.

Then I would ask: What about a job where you don't have to lift things, or a job where you don't have to use your shoulder, or a job where you can sit down? They would look at me as if I were asking, "How come you didn't consider becoming an astronaut?"

Was it a strongly argued, overall progressive article? No. But I'm still frustrated at what seems to me to be selective memory about what gets mentioned and what doesn't in the article.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:30 PM
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184 I just mean the proportion of white- and pink-collar jobs to blue-collar ones. The proportion of jobs requiring a B.A. or B.S., versus those available to someone with a high school degree.

Is the scope of "pink-collar" more restricted than I thought it was? I thought a large fraction of pink-collar jobs were maid/domestic-type things, not requiring much education and often requiring a decent amount of physical exertion.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:31 PM
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Well, I did ask her to read it and respond within about 30 minutes, and she was only able to because of being home sick from work. So, it isn't probably the greatest analysis ever, but fairly solid, I thought. Also, she says that hypertension is not in and of itself, ever enough to get you on disability.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:32 PM
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I thought that was one point in the article where the faux-naive style was effective. In part because the phrasing "How come you didn't consider becoming an astronaut?" shows a little embarrassment.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:32 PM
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201: I always thought "pink collar" mostly meant secretaries and receptionists and that kind of thing. I would call being a hotel maid a blue-collar job.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:33 PM
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Surely if "pink collar" includes child care (which in turn involves lifting).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:34 PM
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201, 204: Yeah, pink-collar means to me "office or other non-physical jobs that are mostly female". It's less meaningful than it used to be, because things are less segregated, but secretary/schoolteacher/that kind of thing. Once you're doing physical labor, you're blue collar regardless of sex.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:37 PM
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Yeah, most of 194 reads as if the author read an article shitting all over people on disability. The article distinctly does not do that.

Also, "gentrifying" definitely means "displacing the people with less means who used to live there". Not a developing area where a rising tide is lifting all boats.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:37 PM
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205: I wouldn't call childcare 'pink collar' at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:38 PM
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Are there other collar colors?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:39 PM
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I think 'collar' doesn't name the whole space of possible jobs. "White collar" -- office jobs/professions. "Pink collar" -- the kind of office jobs women are allowed to hold, doesn't mean that much anymore now that we're allowed in the white collar jobs, but you still hear it said of a job that would have been women-only in 1970. "Blue collar" -- factory/construction/skilled trades/grabbag of other jobs that would be unsurprising for someone who's father/brother was in the previously named fields. Farm work isn't blue collar, other than as a stretch, it's farm work, no collars about it. Cleaning/childcare is domestic work, again no collars about it. Anything I haven't named maybe fits into one of these categories or maybe is its own category.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:47 PM
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4) Attorneys all advertise, and we all see ourselves as helping our clients. That's what attorneys do: we advocate for our clients, whether they are fabulously wealthy and destroying the environment or homeless and looking for their next meal.

That was one of the other things that struck me most (as surprising) about the story. Lawyer ads are basically unknown on TV over here, so, like US medical advertising, I found those really weird. I'd kind of assumed that the Better Call Saul ads from Breaking Bad were a grotesque exaggeration, but it seems they're only slightly over the top.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:47 PM
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207: Eh, I think it's more insidious than that. There's this creeping peril tone to the whole thing, very Anthony Burgess* in a way. If my friend was reacting more to the tone than the text, I think that's the discrepancy.

*Especially his 1985.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:49 PM
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211: Yeah, the really creepy ones are the asbestos/mesothelioma ones. "YOU'RE GOING TO COUGH UP CHUNKS OF BLOODY LUNG! JOIN THE CLASS NOW AND GET MONEY TO GO TO THE BAHAMAS WHILE YOU CAN STILL BREATHE!"


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:51 PM
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181,182: funny thing is, when people ask me about this state and its politics, I tend to describe it in terms of gentrification (money and liberals from California and other places come in, displace the locals, demand beer and amenities, etc.), but I do say things like "You know how a neighborhood can gentrify, and how that can create bad feelings while it's in transition? Imagine that, but with a whole state."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:54 PM
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211: I kind of want to be a plaintiff's side motorcycle personal injury lawyer so I can join the "Law Tigers," the "lawyers who ride." They have an awesome gigantic fake CGI tiger that hangs out on a cliff in their TV commercials, watching helpfully over bikers in need of personal injury representation.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:54 PM
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Speaking of things that are likely to cause disabilities.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:55 PM
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this creeping peril tone to the whole thing, very Anthony Burgess

No wonder I couldn't get a job as a lit professor. I clearly have no idea how assess tone in things I'm reading.

(Which is to say (again), I just didn't get that I just didn't get that out of the article.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:56 PM
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209: Ring-around-the collar = software workers.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 1:59 PM
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214: huh. My take on that state and its politics has typically been that it is so overwhelmingly republican (and somewhat insular) that people there aren't entirely clear on what "republican" usually means, so for instance maybe being republican means being super in favor of public transit, who can say.

Your analysis might be more realistic, but I still like mine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 2:05 PM
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214: It is insular, but far less so compared to fifteen years ago. This leads to some tensions - "if you don't like it, leave!" being a typical response to agitation to a lot of things not favored by the majority.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 2:08 PM
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Hasn't SLC itself been pretty Democratic for a long time? I've never been clear whether those are liberal Mormons or whether the Utah Democratic Party is just the non-Mormon party.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 2:21 PM
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211: I kind of want to be a plaintiff's side motorcycle personal injury lawyer so I can join the "Law Tigers," the "lawyers who ride." They have an awesome gigantic fake CGI tiger that hangs out on a cliff in their TV commercials, watching helpfully over bikers in need of personal injury representation.

I'm beginning to think I may have to revisit other parts of Breaking Bad I had assumed were grotesque exaggerations.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 4:13 PM
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76

So there is a shared understanding, ...

You mean a shared understanding among all right thinking liberals. Naturally once you move outside the liberal bubble this will often disintegrate.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:24 PM
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89

I wonder if there's something specific to back pain that has changed. ...

The thing about back pain is that it is easy to fake (or exaggerate).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 6:26 PM
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Belatedly: No, I don't work in the social services field, and don't deal with SSI/SSDI. (I do tend to interact with more poor folks than most people with my background, so I'm not surprised you had that impression, though.)

I also don't hold the reporter, or the general public, responsible for knowing what SSI/SSDI are, except in a general sense.

Where I think the disagreement boils down to, for me, is:

1) On the spectrum of "what background knowledge is reasonable to assume," I hold the reporter to a higher standard than what was demonstrated in the article

2) On the question of what's between the lines, or tone, *in this particular story* I tend more toward the Charley and Messily interpretations than the LB side. Because from the very introductory paragraphs, the stage is set:

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.
In other words, people on disability don't show up in any of the places we usually look to see how the economy is doing. But the story of these programs -- who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that -- is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It's the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net.

It's not possible to ignore the fact that this story was produced in a climate of intense political hysteria about debt, deficits, and spending. Its repeated use of trigger words* and framing of the story as a surprising, EXPENSIVE, scarily fast-growing cost is itself an editorial choice.

*I'm willing to believe that this was unconscious journalistic shorthand -- but the problem exists whether the journalist is conscious of it or not.

To be clear, I still think it's possible for a) the average listener to feel better-informed after having heard this story, and even b) for the some listeners to in fact *be* better-informed after heard this story. I just think group B is a lot smaller (and probably better represented on this thread).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:06 PM
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Okay, just read the article. (I've done an SSI/SSDI appeal, helped with little bits of a few others, and have had a number of clients who get one or the other. But I'm far from an expert.) I think Witt gets it right about the tone of the story, and the context. It's written the way a lot of NPR stories are, in a way that allows different audiences to project different things onto it. So towards the end, you get:

Somewhere around 30 years ago, the economy started changing in some fundamental ways. There are now millions of Americans who do not have the skills or education to make it in this country.
Politicians pay lip service to this problem during election cycles, but American leaders have not sat down and come up with a comprehensive plan.

Now as someone on the left, I agree with those two paragraphs as far as they go. And they could be interpreted as pointing out that, you know, we should agree on a comprehensive plan to deal with the negative effects that the post-1970 economy has had on American workers. But the very next paragraph is:

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

In context, the article is about how disability benefits cost too much, are being abused, and need to be "reformed" i.e. cut or eliminated. It's full of NPR human-interest vignettes and hand-wringing, but it's not a good article for people who want to preserve what's left of a social safety net.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:35 PM
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The faux-naive stance is on full display in this passage:

People don't seem to be faking this pain, but it gets confusing. I have back pain. My editor has a herniated disc, and he works harder than anyone I know. There must be millions of people with asthma and diabetes who go to work every day. Who gets to decide whether, say, back pain makes someone disabled?

I mean, c'mon, but that "but it gets confusing" is disingenuous at best. The author knows full well that she and her editor both work a desk job. And she is not actually confused about the issue, as she goes on to demonstrate.

And since the article does go on to acknowledge the difference between physical and non-physical work, what, then, was the point of the above-quoted passage? I wouldn't call it right-wing hackery, exactly, but its framing of the issue does strike me as less than candid.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 7:40 PM
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18

... Unlike medicaid and medicare, the costs are not spiralling out of control. The program pays for itself from payroll taxes. ...

This is wrong. Costs are exploding and the program is in big trouble financially. See here .

In 2008 receipts were $110B and expenditures were $109B for a small surplus. In 2012 receipts were $109B and expenditures were $140B a large (and rapidly growing) deficit. There is still $123B of accumulated past surplus but that will run out in a few years at current rates.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 8:17 PM
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It is standard journalistic style for the reporter to pose as a naïve learner and let the person being interviewed be the wise teacher, even if the reporter chose that expert because they knew in advance exactly what the expert would say.

Yes. An annoying and very frequent version of this is when the reporter contacts an expert to be the 'wise teacher' and then instead of printing what the expert says quotes you as saying whatever he wanted to be in that slot in the story. Thus, he is pretending to be naive but actually doesn't want to be bothered with what the 'expert' says, and is pretending that the expert is the expert but doesn't want to actually let the expert's view of the nuances of the issue guide the story. If you get contacted late in doing a story (as opposed to early on to help work through what the story really is) then this is basically how you will be used.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:15 PM
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I don't always like The Last Psychiatrist but his piece The Terrible, Awful Truth About Supplemental Security Income is worth reading here. It starts out seemed to be right wing (everybody is fake-disabled!) but ends up left (disability is the cheapest possible way to make sure that surplus people exiled from the system don't riot).

Rise in SSI caseloads are problematic not because people are 'cheating the system' but because it's a gauge of how many people are getting thrown out of the system.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-25-13 11:20 PM
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money and liberals from California and other places Mexicans come in, displace the locals, demand beer and amenities, the right to have parties with brass intruments, etc.

That's the "west of the freeway" version.

Hasn't SLC itself been pretty Democratic for a long time? I've never been clear whether those are liberal Mormons or whether the Utah Democratic Party is just the non-Mormon party.

Yeah, mayors these days are things like an urban planner or his predecessor the ACLU lawyer. The county mayor is Dem as well. The city itself is minority Mormon and of course the hispanic influx is almost entirely non Mormon. The city is over 20 percent hispanic and the county is like 17 percent.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 12:12 AM
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158: People who leave the workforce and go on disability qualify for Medicare, the government health care program that also covers the elderly.

Don't like the framing of the article, but this point is in fact a key one for many folks. For the one disability case I have been tangentially involved in--which has some elements in common with LB's 8.2 and is currently being reviewed--the scary part of potentially not being renewed is all around health insurance.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 6:46 AM
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I always thought "pink collar" mostly meant secretaries and receptionists and that kind of thing.

The only people I see wearing pink collars are (male) bankers. (See also "white-collar-but-coloured-shirt workers".)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 6:59 AM
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ends up left (disability is the cheapest possible way to make sure that surplus people exiled from the system don't riot).

I don't know that I would call this precise framing of the issue left, exactly.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 7:07 AM
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*in this particular story* I tend more toward the Charley and Messily interpretations than the LB side.

In this particular story, I'm with you: while I don't mean to say anything about the writer's actual intent, the story's framed with the assumption that disability being a big scam is everyone's starting assumption. I was arguing generally about being forgiving with people confessing prior ignorance.

And I'm wavering about that, after a conversation with another guest at a seder where she said that she'd been reading "The Middle East For Dummies" and had had no idea that "the problems" there had gone back for thousands of years, and that they'd had terrorists back in the Middle Ages. I wasn't going to give her a hard time at someone else's holiday dinner, so I kept on eating my Hillel sandwich, but I do feel as if I should have.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 7:08 AM
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234: Well, not exactly left, but it's living in the same universe of fact that you'd need to be to get to a left conclusion. If you see what I mean.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 7:12 AM
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Somewhat related: One particular grotesquerie in the doling out of health care benefits in these here United States.

Two nights a year [emphasis added-JPS], Tennessee holds a health care lottery of sorts, giving the medically desperate a chance to get help. State residents who have high medical bills but would not normally qualify for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, can call a state phone line and request an application. But the window is tight -- the line shuts down after 2,500 calls, typically within an hour -- and the demand is so high that it is difficult to get through.
...
"It's like the Oklahoma land rush for an hour," said Russell Overby, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society in Nashville. "We encourage people to use multiple phones and to dial and dial and dial."
Maybe Donald Trump should host a reality show where you bet on who is going to get through--or better yet they present their stories and viewers and/or celebrity judges vote on who should get coverage.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 7:22 AM
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237: And even when it's so obvious how the system is shafting people, the shaftees still say things like "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be." I sometimes think US health coverage politics is our prosperity theology writ large - enough people with insurance think it's because they deserve it and others don't, and enough people without insurance think they'll be okay if they work harder, or become better people, or get divine favor, to keep it from being made a right.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 7:33 AM
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235 - I hear a bunch of terrorists came from foreign countries to rape and murder! They beheaded prisoners of war! These "holy warriors" even captured a city in Israel, where they established a patriarchal system of rule based on their holy book that lasted a hundred years!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-27-13 10:37 AM
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228 - Jeez, Shearer, I can't imagine why payroll taxes revenue wouldn't have gone up any between 2008 and 2012. (Even ignoring the rise in unemployment.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-27-13 10:44 AM
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228 - Jeez, Shearer, I can't imagine why payroll taxes revenue wouldn't have gone up any between 2008 and 2012. (Even ignoring the rise in unemployment.)

I referred to receipts. As explained in the link I provided in 2012 these included $86B in payroll taxes, $17B in general fund reimbursements and $6B in interest.

aIncludes reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury to the DI Trust Fund for: ... (5) the cost in 2009-12 of excluding certain self-employment earnings from SECA taxes under Public Law 110-246; and (6) payroll tax revenue forgone under the provisions of Public Laws 111-147, 111-312, 112-78, and 112-96.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-27-13 4:24 PM
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241 - I missed that they accounted for the payroll tax cut, so point to you. But I think going from parity in 2008 to running a deficit in 2012 is a pretty strong sign that what you're seeing is cyclical; the pattern looks similar (although more so) to that of the jump in unemployment in the mid-70s, from 1973 to 1978.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-27-13 8:09 PM
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... is a pretty strong sign that what you're seeing is cyclical ...

It's not cyclical because once people go on disability they almost never go off again even if the economy improves.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-28-13 4:59 PM
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I heard the Jahleel segment on the radio this afternoon. He has a speech impediment significant enough that absolutely no one would be left with the impression that he does not have a real disability.

I know that doesn't exactly address the (valid) criticisms above of the children-on-disability section, but it's certainly something that does not come across in the print version. There is absolutely no accusation that his family is scamming the system, and he is in fact very enthusiastic about school (and could plausibly catch up to grade level? That's left unsaid.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-28-13 5:06 PM
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Wonkblog has two pieces on the disability piece, an interview with Joffe-Walt and a critique of the piece.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-28-13 5:57 PM
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That's a very interest chart in the second link in 245. Basically: The caseload for children is correlated with poverty levels (not surprising since it is an income-eligibility program); and the rise in SS cases has occurred in conjunction with the fall in TANF (cash welfare) cases.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-28-13 6:23 PM
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interest = interesting

Obviously I can't write this evening.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-28-13 6:24 PM
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