|The Glum and The Feckless: Labor, HHS and Treasury|
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, (a supposedly left-leaning publication named after an anarchist founder of the labor movement), thinks old people can share the sacrifice by having their monthly checks "modestly" curtailed to make sure their great-great-great grandchildren can also retire someday. Apparently Mr. Drum thinks cutting back from two meals to eating once daily is a reasonable sacrifice, given that the average check barely keeps recipients alive, and given that grocery and gas prices are spiking sharply. Drum is a bona fide member of the Centrist Fetish Club and a fan of the debunked Cat Food Commission, whose mantra was that impoverished old people should share the sacrifice with Goldman Sachs. Grandma forgoes home heating and Lloyd Blankfein gives up the tax deduction on his corporate jet, and everybody is sacrificially ovine and equally happy. Blecch.
But do you know what really has the knickers of the markets and their government representatives in a twist? The fact that hordes of sick and damaged people are going on Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Those funds will start dwindling in only a few short years, because the ill and maimed are becoming unreasonable by taking the easy way out and not finding another nonexistent job. To hear at least one so-called expert tell it, The Long Depression is causing a mass outbreak of malingering.
A business editorial writer at the New York Times named Eduardo Porter has written a rather odiously indignant piece for today's paper. He suggests that once a person is deemed disabled or too sick to work, it instills a sense of laziness and apathy. His solution is to get those malingerers off their aching duffs and make them go back to work. He does not say where the jobs are, because that is not his job. His job is to tell the suffering masses to just get a job:
Every year, a vitally important issue gets lost in the din: disability insurance payments, which account for almost $1 out of every $5 spent by Social Security, are growing out of control.
Disability insurance takes too many workers out of the job market prematurely. It reduces their lifetime income and, to top it off, slows economic growth. Yet in contrast to the heated arguments about Social Security and Medicare, fixing the disability problem inspires hardly any discussion.Notice it is not disability or disease that takes too many workers out of the job market. It is the insurance program itself! The social safety net is a hammock, allowing sick people to laze around when they should be working and slaving through the pain, and growing the economy and making the Plutocrats of the .01 percent even richer.
According to Porter, it is just way too easy to fake pain and get on the disability dole for life. He utterly fails to mention that recipients are periodically reviewed as a matter of course: depending on the length and severity of the condition, reviews are conducted as soon as six months after approval for temporary disability, or as infrequently as every seven years should the problem be deemed severe or permanent.
And Mr. Concern Troll says since the benefits are so awful, why do we force these poor people to live on such a pittance? They would be so much better off working through the agony. Not once does he suggest a correlation between the increased numbers of disability cases and the health insurance crisis. It never occurs to him that people are putting off going to the doctor because they lack funds and that treatable diseases are needlessly turning into catastrophes and bloating the disability rolls. He does not mention the fact that 50 million and counting are uninsured. He fails to take into account that more and more employers are not even providing health insurance and that people who don't receive necessary care when they get sick are not productive workers. And it naturally does not occur to him that we can always raise the monthly stipend for our most vulnerable citizens by cutting the crap and scrapping the cap. (wouldn't that make a nifty campaign slogan?)
As a business writer, Porter turns to the economic, rather than the medical, profession to back up his specious claim that we Americans are just getting magically healthier all the time:
“The health of nonelderly Americans is improving consistently, and we have more technology to help people at work,” observed Mark Duggan, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who has advised Social Security on the assumptions underpinning the trustees’ forecasts. “Yet every year the fraction of people on this program is growing.”So, where is all this fantastic technology that helps disabled people work? Since most employers are cutting back wages and benefits, where are the examples of miracle bosses humanely helping slightly damaged workers keep their jobs? Porter doesn't offer any.
Porter thinks we should rein in the unhealthy and jobless and cut off their lifelines. He is really ticked off that these disabled people even have the nerve to qualify for Medicare benefits after a two year waiting period. It does not seem to bother him that individuals too sick or injured to work are denied government medical coverage for 24 long months after they have been certified unemployable. (The only exemptions to the two year wait are kidney dialysis patients and those with terminal Lou Gehrig's Disease.) This cruel irony of the government certifying people disabled while knowing some of them will get worse or die for lack of medical care is totally lost on him. The truth is that when some people finally do start getting their paltry monthly checks, they suddenly become too rich to qualify for Medicaid. And that their pre-existing condition makes purchasing private coverage too expensive. Oh well.
I'd never heard of Eduardo Porter before reading his opinion piece today. He must simply be the newest member of the Centrissimo Club, where David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Kevin Drum schmooze, enthuse and peruse over the 99% plight. The Four Horseshit Men of the Apocalypse.