When a shutdown's impact is "significantly lessened" simply because the workforce in one single department is now back on the job, it suddenly dawns on you just what the United States government is all about. (As if you really needed any more sudden realizations. But they keep slapping you in the face anyway.)
It certainly isn't about helping its own citizens apply for Social Security, or ensuring that teams of scientists are working at the CDC to track this year's flu outbreaks and other epidemics, or staffing WIC offices, so that poor women and children can get the proper nutrition and education. Those workers are all still at home. You see, they are not "essential" personnel tasked with maintaining American military bases or building predator drones and bombs for the lucrative defense industry.
Oh, eventually the non-essential workers will get paid. But only retroactively. Let them eat on credit.
And naturally and also unsurprisingly, the shutdown has certainly not stopped the hemorrhaging of $10 million an hour for the war in Afghanistan, now entering its 13th year.
Nor will it prevent Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) from holding a hearing today to demonize disabled Americans. Ronald Reagan had his welfare queens in their Cadillacs before Bill Clinton and the Newtster destroyed "welfare as we know it." Then the right wing pivoted to food stamp recipients dining on lobster tails. Not to be outdone, Coburn has his hordes of trailer trash malingerers buying electronics and meth with their $1100-a-month disability checks.
The ever right-leaning 60 Minutes, rather than showcasing the suffering of ordinary people sinking in the quagmire of gratuitous government austerity, devoted its very first segment last night to unquestioningly letting Coburn deliver his propaganda. The program highlighted a disability fraud ring operating out of Appalachia -- where, we are led to believe, an entire community has conspired to bilk the government out of its dwindling Social Security disability funds. (Even though Coburn says he has evidence, none of the culprits has been prosecuted thus far.)
Not once does 60 Minutes interview real people with real disabilities, struggling to get by on their paltry benefits. Reporter Steve Kroft never challenges Coburn on his specious claim that at least a quarter of all SSA cases are fraudulent, or on his even more ridiculous claim that the average disabled person stands to suck up $300,000 in lifetime benefits. It doesn't tell you the inconvenient truth that the vast majority of disability applications in this country are denied by the government.
CBS, of course, is not alone in demonizing people too sick or impaired to work. When NPR came out with its own hit piece on disability beneficiaries last spring, a group of former Social Security commissioners were incensed enough wrote an open letter refuting the claims:
Approximately 1 in 5 of our fellow Americans live with disabilities, but only those with the most significant disabilities qualify for disability benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
Title II Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits provide critical support to millions of Americans with the most severe disabilities, as well as their dependents and survivors. Disabled beneficiaries often report multiple impairments, and many have such poor health that they are terminally ill: about 1 in 5 male DI beneficiaries and 1 in 7 female DI beneficiaries die within 5 years of receiving benefits. Despite their impairments, many beneficiaries attempt work using the work incentives under the Social Security Act, and some do work part-time. For example, research by Mathematica and SSA finds that about 17 percent of beneficiaries worked in 2007. However, their earnings are generally very low (two-thirds of those who worked in 2007 earned less than $5,000 for the whole year), and only a small share are able to earn enough to be self-sufficient and leave the DI and SSI programs each year. Without Social Security or SSI, the alternatives for many beneficiaries are simply unthinkable.
Militarism and hegemony are essential. People, not so much. Especially those malingerers. The corporate media-political complex sends you this message:
Do you see how the messages of the media and politicians always seem to mesh so very nicely? It's almost as though it was planned, or something.