You’d Be Cripplingly Incapacitated, Too…

Even before John posted about Americans over 50 who may never be allowed paid employment again, I had tagged a couple of articles about one all-American non-solution. From the Washington Post, “Jobless are straining Social Security’s disability benefits program“:

The number of former workers seeking Social Security disability benefits has spiked with the nation’s economic problems, heightening concern that the jobless are expanding the program beyond its intended purpose of aiding the disabled.
__
Applications to the program soared by 21 percent, to 2.8 million, from 2008 to 2009, as the economy was seriously faltering. The growth is the sharpest in the 54-year history of the program. It threatens the program’s fiscal stability and adds to an administrative backlog that is slowing the flow of benefits to those who need them most. Moreover, about 8 million workers were receiving disability benefits in June, an increase of 12.6 percent since the recession began in 2007, according to Social Security Administration statistics.
__
Though policymakers anticipated the program’s rolls growing with the aging of the baby-boom population, they suspect the current surge has less to do with any worsening in the health of the workforce than with the poor health of the economy. About half of all applicants eventually make it onto the disability rolls – a percentage that has not changed appreciably with the recent spike in applications, Social Security officials say. The average age of new recipients is 49 – and less than 1 percent of them return to work, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
[…]
__
In bad times, the disability rolls are swollen by “a lot of older workers who are very much on the margins. Often, they are the first people laid off,” Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said. “They can’t find any new work and they are desperate. So they have every incentive to try and get in the program.”
__
“A lot of people come to me when their unemployment benefits run out and they have no where else to turn,” said Paul W. Nolan, a Baltimore lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability cases. “Many of them are on the border. Maybe in their last job, people were willing to work around their disability. But the economy is less forgiving of disabilities during a recession than when times are good.”

James Ledbetter at Slate is appalled by the aging slackers abusing “America’s Hidden Welfare Program“:

Throughout the year, economists and both houses of Congress have debated whether to extend unemployment insurance for another 13 weeks, or 26 weeks, worried that the payments would bloat the deficit or, worse, actually cause people to stay jobless. All along, however, millions of Americans without work have quietly continued to cash a federal check every month. They don’t show up in the unemployment statistics—not even as “discouraged” workers—and their benefits won’t stop after 99 weeks.
__
They are the recipients of Social Security’s Disability Insurance, a somewhat obscure federal program that nonetheless eats up nearly $200 billion a year… more than 8 million ex-workers, plus another million disabled adult offspring and disabled widows and widowers.
[…]
__
With the annual commitments now at about $180 billion, SSDI represents, as the authors of a 2006 economics journal paper put it, a “fiscal crisis.” Equally distressing, it also represents public policy run amok. Over the last few decades, a program that was designed to help a relatively small group of people who were fatally sick or permanently unable to work has evolved into a backdoor welfare program in which a huge number of people are paid not to get jobs. How huge? Nationwide, we’re talking about well over 4 percent of the adult population. In some states—Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia—the rate exceeds 6 percent. These millions of workers extricated from payrolls represent untold lost billions in tax revenues and all manner of desperately needed economic activity (consumption, home purchases, etc.)…

The NYTimes, on the other hand, blandly reported that “Retiring Later Is Hard Road for Laborers“:

“… A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 does a physically demanding job… — including hammering nails, bending under sinks, lifting baggage — that can be radically different at age 69 than at age 62. Still others work under difficult conditions, like exposure to heat or cold, exposure to contaminants or weather, cramped workplaces or standing for long stretches. In all, the researchers found that 45 percent of older workers, or 8.5 million, held such difficult jobs. For janitors, nurses’ aides, plumbers, cashiers, waiters, cooks, carpenters, maintenance workers and others, raising the retirement age may mean squeezing more out of a declining body…. “

So, let’s drop the mealy-mouthed charades for a minute and get blunt: “We” — the tiny percentage of people at the top of the American income pyramid and the millions of its enablers — are breaking people at an increased and ever-expanding rate. The backdoor programs cobbled together to keep these broken people out of public perception are being strained past the point where Very Serious Economists are comfortable. And therefore “we” need to… further cut back Social Security eligibility, “force” people to stay in the jobs they don’t have, presumably until everyone below boardroom level drops dead 20 minutes before shift-end, so they can be recycled expeditiously with the rest of the day’s garbage.

Since providing even the most minimal raggedy social safety net is un-American socialism, I guess it may come down to a choice between a good murderous pandemic influenza, like the 1918 version that tended to kill previously healthy young adults, or soylent green.






71 replies
  1. 1
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    Soylent Green is inevitable.

    I hope there’s a spicy version.

  2. 2
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    @MoeLarryAndJesus:

    You baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaastard…

    Ya scooped me by 30 sec…

  3. 3
    Zifnab says:

    I, for one, embrace our cannibalistic overlords.

    Although, once again, I’m a bit struck by the short-sighted of our corporate masters. The ruling merchant class only exists because of the sub-class of middle class consumers. If your relevance in the social hierarchy is based on how many widgets you can sell in a year, what do you think is going to happen when another 5-6% of your client base can no longer afford your widgets?

    Who are these moguls at Koch and Bechtel and PriceWaterHouseCooper going to sell their shit to when all their clients and their clients’ clients are living in destitute hovels, incapable of affording overpriced manufactured products?

  4. 4
    4tehlulz says:

    >“a lot of older workers who are very much on the margins. Often, they are the first people laid off,”

    This just screams for a class-action lawsuit.

  5. 5
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    @ The Republic of Stupidity:

    Do you want one scoop of Soylent Green or two?

  6. 6
    Bill Section 147 says:

    Except in this version of the story Soylent Green is made from worthless sacks of skin and not people. I can still hear the cackle of the Enron guy enjoying grandma’s suffering.

  7. 7
    Larkspur says:

    They really really want to thin the herd, don’t they? I tend to disbelieve big giant conspiracy theories, because big giant anythings tend to leak like sieves, but it’s not hard for me to imagine some of the have-mores dreaming of how to cause or promote a targeted die-off. I mean, in a proactive way, not simply by watching people get broken.

  8. 8
    jibeaux says:

    1, I still think my AmeriCorps + Medicare benefits for older workers who have skills to share but can’t find work is a better alternative. What alternative do these folks have when, year after year, they can’t find work? We don’t have a safety net for them other than SSDI, and SSDI, with its high bar to meet for employability, may not be appropriate. These are folks who would be employable in a decent economy, and don’t necessarily consider themselves disabled or necessarily want to go on SSDI, but don’t have any other options. Why not try to come up with options for them? Do we not have ideas in this country any more? There are 26 children in my daughter’s kindergarten class, my son had 20 in his four years ago. I would love to have an older unemployed worker be paid to go tutor in that classroom or even just tie shoes, for pity’s sakes, than go on SSDI if they aren’t significantly disabled. Please don’t think I am blaming those people a la Slate, though, I am not. I don’t blame people for choosing the only hope they have.

    2, SSDI isn’t an “obscure” federal program, for heaven’s sakes. Every year I’ve worked I’ve gotten an annual notice informing me what my estimated benefits would be if I were incapacitated. That’s obscure?

  9. 9
    Citizen_X says:

    Is this guy Ledbetter seriously stupid enough to believe that 8 million people dumped on today’s labor market would produce “billions in tax revenues and all manner of desperately needed economic activity?” Or is he just another cheap-labor Republican or DLC member (AKA “cheap-labor Democrat”)?

  10. 10
    RSA says:

    __

    And since the American workplace is demonstrably not more dangerous to life and limb than it was 30 or 40 years ago, it’s not immediately obvious why a large group of somewhat- or once-impaired people has more trouble getting and keeping jobs than their counterparts did in the recent past.

    This may be the single stupidest thing I’ve ever read on Slate. And that’s a relatively high bar.

  11. 11

    […] Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » You'd Be Cripplingly Incapacitated … […]

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I’m thinking more along the lines of tumbrel rides for asshats like James Ledbetter.

  13. 13
    Ash Can says:

    @Citizen_X: Maybe he’s just an idiot.

  14. 14
    Zifnab says:

    @Larkspur: Yes, because nothing is more economically productive than a “die-off”. /facedesk.

    Is this some kind of attempt at Going Galt without ever leaving your home? Maybe if everyone just dies, Galt’s Gulch will make itself?

  15. 15
    Punchy says:

    In some states—Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia—the rate exceeds 6 percent.

    Hmmm…..what does every one of those states save one have in common? So teabagging just means sucking off the gov’t teat, eh?

  16. 16
    Face says:

    We are moving at light speed towards an unmitigated oligarchy.

  17. 17
    Chyron HR says:

    @MoeLarryAndJesus:

    Soylent Green is inevitable.
    __
    I hope there’s a spicy version.

    Of course, look how many Mexican immigrants we’ve got.

  18. 18
    Martin says:

    @Citizen_X: Well, if there were jobs for them, he’s right. But the supply-side thinking runs deep in this one, like everyone else on the right.

    They’re absolutely convinced that the only reason 10% of the US population is unemployed is that they’re too fucking lazy to work. Zombie Reagan has forever poisoned their mind.

  19. 19
    aimai says:

    @Punchy:

    Just what I was thinking. Plus, also, too, these are the states with the worst health care–people are legitimately disabled because their perfectly ordinary health care needs are not met in a timely manner.

    aimai

  20. 20
    Bulworth says:

    Social Security Disability Insurance is really pretty hard to get, actually. You pretty much have to be almost dead or have some pretty seriously disabling condition. Also, too, there’s about a gazillion DI applicants appealing previous rejections of DI status by SSA.

  21. 21
    MikeEss says:

    “Soylent Green is inevitable.
    I hope there’s a spicy version.”

    Try new Flamin’ Hot™, Chili-Limon™, Bacon ‘N Chedder™ and new Cool Ranch™ Soylent Green!…

  22. 22
    Joyful says:

    Why does James Ledbetter have a job when so many millions of better analysts and writers are unemployed?

  23. 23
  24. 24
    jibeaux says:

    @Bulworth:

    The legal standard is high, but the determination as to whether you’ve met it, in the end, is made by people of varying levels of sympathy. Some ALJ’s (administrative law judges) are more liberal than others in awarding benefits. And, yes, almost everyone is rejected the first time. I remember my grandfather, an accountant in his fifties at the time, having a serious stroke. He couldn’t remember what year it was and remembered WWII better than what someone had said five minutes ago. Naturally, he was rejected the first time.

  25. 25
    wasabi gasp says:

    Soylent Green is nice in theory, but I doubt most Americans will go for it as it’s something of a hippie-dippie conservation tree-hugger solution. A facebook page with the names and addresses of the offenders may be a reasonable compromise for passing the house and senate.

  26. 26
    Primigenius says:

    Preach it, sister! I don’t know if the ruling class has given it much thought, but they’re relegating 20-30% of the population to the most marginal of existences with no vested interest in maintaining the polity which has fabulously enriched the top 1%. The bottom third may reach the day in our well-armed Republic when they choose to take what they can no longer work for. And the gated communities with security guards who couldn’t pass a civil service test to become a real cop will only be a minor distraction for the scant minutes needed to climb the walls and neutralize them.
    I’m so tired of people who believe that life on public assistance is some sort of nirvana of wealth. I remember Vidal’s quote during the Reagan administration that only the greedy and truly greedy would attempt to draw a distinction between the needy and the truly needy.

  27. 27

    That’s why this is the perfect time for President Obama to try and cut Social Security benefits.

  28. 28
    CA Doc says:

    This is anecdotal evidence, but I have seen several workers in their 50’s with long loyal histories with their employers, coming in with severe anxiety and depression brought on by being hounded and harassed by management suddenly. Obviously they are being targeted and the plan is to drive them to quit. The workers know only too well that there are no other options for them, so they are scared to even consider challenging the legality of such treatment. You can’t believe how sad it is to watch proud guys in their 50’s who have always supported themselves break down and cry in front of you.

  29. 29
    Brachiator says:

    And therefore “we” need to… further cut back Social Security eligibility, “force” people to stay in the jobs they don’t have, presumably until everyone below boardroom level drops dead 20 minutes before shift-end, so they can be recycled expeditiously with the rest of the day’s garbage.
    __
    Since providing even the most minimal raggedy social safety net is un-American socialism, I guess it may come down to a choice between a good murderous pandemic influenza, like the 1918 version that tended to kill previously healthy young adults, or soylent green.

    Sorry, that’s not what these articles are saying at all. They are even somewhat confused about the nature of the problem (it’s not clear that there is a significant increase in the number of people on disability).

    And exactly how do you “force” people to stay in jobs they don’t have?

    But as with John’s post, people need to stop screaming “safety net” when the larger issue is a contracting economy. Most people want jobs. They want to do productive work. The “safety net” can’t substitute for this.

    And the reference to the 1918 flu pandemic, and its killing “previously healthy young adults” is McMegan level stupid.

  30. 30
    cat48 says:

    James Ledbetter doesn’t know what he’s talking abt. SSDI IS NOT WELFARE. It’s taken from the Social Security Trust Fund. I took these claims for 20 yrs and you have to been UNABLE to do any type of work for at least 1yr or your disability has to be expected to end in death. It’s pretty stringent I think. You have to have worked at least 5 out of the last 10 yrs & paid into Social Security before you became disabled. NOT WELFARE!

  31. 31
    PeakVT says:

    According to this groovy graphic, the DI program will costs $131B next year.

  32. 32
    Nazgul35 says:

    I’m holding out for Logan’s Run, anything less is unacceptable!

  33. 33
    PurpleGirl says:

    As my time of unemployment has lengthened, a neighbor who usually decries people going on disability asked me if I had thought of that. (He knows of people who have cheated to get disability, really he does;he’s told me so but won’t give a name when asked.) I told him honestly that I was not eligible. Yes, I have back problems but they do not prevent me from working. (Believe me, I don’t ever want to experience the amount or degree of pain that would be necessary to make me immobile.) I could try to add in some neurological quirks but, again, it would be a stretch to prove.

    What we need is a dole — permanent welfare, a base income to support people who can’t find work. If companies won’t employ people, they need to be taxed to support the general population. Or maybe people like those who had the money to pay $30,000 to have dinner with Obama could all “hire” one person each and pay them, say $24,000 a year, to do anything (or nothing). At least the income support has to cover housing, food, medicine, the essential living costs.

  34. 34
    Rock says:

    I find it ironic that junk like this gets written in a “Christian” nation, while the atheistic countries of Western Europe actually provide for the least among us.

    How does this:

    “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.”

    “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.”

    Get turned into:
    “Fuck you, I got mine”

    I hope something good happens soon, cause watching my country decline into abject plutocracy is starting to depress me.

  35. 35

    I’m so sick of people suggesting I’m on welfare because I’m taking out what I put into a system that was designed to pay me in the result that, as a result of 20 years of hard labor, I can’t work any more.

    It’s my SSDI account. I paid into it. Same with my disability pension.

    And it’s not like it’s some ride on the gravy train, either. I’m making a lot less on SSDI and my pension than I would have if I could have continued working in the profession I spent years moving up the ladder of.

    Because the money was so much better if you stayed at work, a lot of guys kept working when they had physical problems, and that’s a safety issue. I wouldn’t risk the lives of my fellow workers by hanging on and having them work around my disability.

    Apparently a lot of people with desk jobs have no idea how hard most of America actually works.

  36. 36
    Bmf says:

    I am a fifty year old educated an elite eastern college with 25+years experience in the restaurant industry. Ten+ owning and operating my own business(at 35 I finally realized that I couldn’t work assholes anymore). Most recently I owned and operated a monument shop(5 years). I thought that it would a recession free business, apparently not a great recession.
    Anyway, this spring I needed a job and after sending scores resumes out across the country for rest. management positions I got no response. I mean no response. You don’t even get a confirmation of receipt these days. Bottom-line
    my wife and I had to relocate and we have spent our half of our small retirement account plus the fortunate equity we had in our house, that we can not sell in this market, to open a risky start-up restaurant. I feel for those who don’t have
    the same opportunity that we did. Jump you fuckers!

  37. 37
    homerhk says:

    I believe that everything needs to be in balance and needs to have the proper perspective. Government benefits are absolutely necessary as a safety net for those who can’t find work or those who cannot work due to disability. However, I think that you have to accept that if government benefits are there, there will inevitably be abuses of the benefits (just like there is insurance fraud, and just generally crime). Sometimes it would cost more for the government to identify and prosecute those cheats than just letting them get away with it and my point of view says that it is worth a minority cheating any particular program in order to give the vast majority much needed aid. But I think it’s silly to pretend that everyone who collects disability benefits is genuinely unable to work (Note: not “find work” but “work”) and those people should not be treated any better than any other unemployed person – i.e. he/she should definitely get unemployment benefits but why should they be entitled to disability benefits if they are, in fact, able to work.

  38. 38
    Karmakin says:

    @PurpleGirl: That’s one idea.

    Personally, I like the idea of creating a maximum work week, tying the minimum wage to a living wage at that number of hours, and then tying all that to current employment (NOT unemployment) levels.

    To be honest, that’s the only way to make productivity gains sustainable.

  39. 39
    Stillwater says:

    These millions of workers extricated from payrolls…

    I’m confused. Did a sentient, malevolent government program use it’s coercive SociaIist Powers to free workers from the burdens of being a productive member of society? Or are these ‘extricated’ workers really disabled and unable to work? I mean, clearly these folks really are disabled – they’ve lost their fucking bootstraps. Can’t the invisible hand just give these guys some fucking bootstraps!!??

  40. 40
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Scott Supak: Apparently a lot of people with desk jobs have no idea how hard most of America actually works.

    This is so true. This is part of the forever whinging of the Masters of the Universe that people don’t deserve their wages; one example I know because my father was an electrician. Of course, mention the dirty conditions under which many work (dirt, dust, asbestos covered pipes), the fact that they handle live electric wires, often work on ladders while doing their work, or any numbers of conditions and MOUs tut-tut you.

  41. 41
    evinfuilt says:

    Soylent Green is inevitable.
    I hope there’s a spicy version.

    @MoeLarryAndJesus:

    Down in Texas we’re going to deep fry it. Preferably from those who’ve already partaken of our Deep Fried Butter.

  42. 42
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Karmakin: I’m open to any idea that provides long-term support if it is needed. People need to be secure that basic living expenses will be covered. The worry about how one will live is hard to cope with and causes much misery.

  43. 43
    Stefan says:

    They are the recipients of Social Security’s Disability Insurance, a somewhat obscure federal program that nonetheless eats up nearly $200 billion a year… more than 8 million ex-workers, plus another million disabled adult offspring and disabled widows and widowers.

    Notice the deliberate use of freighted scare words with “eats up” $200 billion a year. Yeah, it just eats it up, it drinks our milkshake, it’s pure cost, because there’s absolutely no benefit to America to keeping the sick, disabled, mentally ill and bereaved fed, housed and clothed. Just think of the cool vacation America could take it if didn’t have to support those deadbeats! Why can’t they just crawl in a hole and die and leave us alone!

    Of course, when you divide $200 billion (cost of benefits) by nine million (the number of recipients) you get $22,222 a person, or less than $2,000 a month. They’re rich! (Not to be confused with individuals who make $250,000 plus a year, who are not rich and thus cannot be burdened with a small increase in their marginal tax rate).

  44. 44

    It’s part and parcel of the insistence those below the poverty line must pay some taxes while screaming that an increase of 4% on everything that’s roughly five times that poverty line is crippling.

    The third estate revolted when they realized the first and second were going to make the third alone pay for the deficit. With that in mind, I’ll note I recently listened to a young man ask why the elderly who might lose social security couldn’t just live on their 401k returns. “Let them eat cake,” indeed.

  45. 45
    jl says:

    What is happening now to SSDI is small taters compared to what will happen if the bigshots try to impose mandatory across the board increases in retirement age.

    Sure, the eligibility requirements have been loosened several times since the 1970s, but the spurts of growth correspond to bad job markets. Take a look at the graph in the WaPo article.

    The fact that deciding the file for disability insurance is an economic decision for some people is very old news, and has been studied by health researchers for years. And some recent macroeconomic research indicates that disability insurance (and workman’s comp) function as important automatic fiscal stabilizers that have been ignored in most mainstream macro research. Some researchers find that you can improve forecasting business cycles by including changes in disability enrollment as a leading indicator of labor market conditions.

    So, it is not clear that the swelling rolls during downturns is a pure waste, since the disability payments support aggregate demand.

    I didn’t see the articles mention that being on disability helps with medical expenses, both for therapy and drugs. For those people with mental disabilities, this is important since in the US health insurance is very stingy on coverage for mental health problems, even for therapies and drugs that are very cost effective for the economy as a whole (if not for the insurance company). So, there is connection with the health care insurance mess in the US.

  46. 46
    jl says:

    I’m looking forward to Jeffrey’s pics of yummy soylent green recipes. Mmmmm….

  47. 47
    evinfuilt says:

    @Stefan:
    22k per year, compare that to the cost of putting them in Jail. Then try and get those fiscal conservatives to think. I know, it’s hopeless to make them understand how prevention saves me. How taking care of our poor, our infirmed is actually good for the economy.

  48. 48
    Stefan says:

    And since the American workplace is demonstrably not more dangerous to life and limb than it was 30 or 40 years ago, it’s not immediately obvious why a large group of somewhat- or once-impaired people has more trouble getting and keeping jobs than their counterparts did in the recent past.

    The stupid, it burns! The goggles, they do nothing!

    It may not be immediately obvious if you’re a fucking moron, but if you think about it for even a few seconds (I know, I know, this is beyond a Slate journalist’s reach) you might come up with several reasons why impaired or disabled people have more trouble getting and keeping jobs than their counterparts did in the recent past, among them:

    (i) jobs of today are different than jobs of 30 to 40 years ago, often requiring mastery of technology and being more service rather than manufacturing oriented,
    (ii) the fact that it’s easier to ship jobs overseas,
    (iii) relentless market pressure to cut labor costs by shedding jobs,
    (iv) increased use of drug testing, and
    (v) reluctance of empoyers to keep sick employees on the job due to ever-expanding health care costs, etc.

  49. 49
    Stefan says:

    22k per year, compare that to the cost of putting them in Jail. Then try and get those fiscal conservatives to think. I know, it’s hopeless to make them understand how prevention saves me. How taking care of our poor, our infirmed is actually good for the economy.

    No, no, it’s always better to pay $500,000 to treat a stroke than to subsidize some deadbeat $10 a month for the cost of anti-stroke medication. Anything else is Hippie Math.

  50. 50
    gypsy howell says:

    With that in mind, I’ll note I recently listened to a young man ask why the elderly who might lose social security couldn’t just live on their 401k returns.

    What the young’uns don’t realize is that THEY will bear the burden of this catastrophe, when their 60 year old unemployed parents have to move in with them, and be supported by them, just when they are raising their own children. It’s a lot easier to be sanguine about putting several million middle-aged and elderly strangers out on the street than your own parents.

    There’s an often overlooked reason why families prospered in the 50s, 60s and 70s — THEIR parents were self-sufficient, because of SS, Medicare and company/ union pension plans.

    As for the rich, they just don’t fucking care. Whatever happens to our economy, they’re set for life either way.

  51. 51
    Stefan says:

    With that in mind, I’ll note I recently listened to a young man ask why the elderly who might lose social security couldn’t just live on their 401k returns.

    Dear god. If anyone ever said something that blindingly stupid and callous to me I’d have to strangle them. There’d be no resisting the impulse.

  52. 52
    Stefan says:

    There’s an often overlooked reason why families prospered in the 50s, 60s and 70s—THEIR parents were self-sufficient, because of SS, Medicare and company/ union pension plans.

    An important point, and one that needs to be reiterated. At this point (I’m in my early 40s) I’m not saving for my own retirement as much as I’m saving for the anticipated health care costs that I expect my elderly parents to incur in the next ten years.

  53. 53
    jake the snake says:

    @ Brachiator

    Inability to detect sarcasm exceeds McMegan levels of stupidity.

  54. 54
    daveNYC says:

    Dear god. If anyone ever said something that blindingly stupid and callous to me I’d have to strangle them. There’d be no resisting the impulse.

    Naw, the impulse would be to pop them in the nose. The strangulation would be a cold calculating decision, and probably a correct one. Hell, I have a 401(k) and I’m not sure I could afford to retire without social security. Just who are these jagoffs who think that everyone is going to be getting 10% returns on their portfolio?

  55. 55
    Brachiator says:

    @jake the snake:

    Inability to detect sarcasm exceeds McMegan levels of stupidity.

    My sarcasm detector is working fine, as is my weak-ass-rhetoric detector.

  56. 56
    Cliff says:

    @gypsy howell:

    Yup, tax rate on the highest brackets in those time periods had Nothing to do with it, Really. :rolleyes:

    Ooo! ooo! A local link on the subject, with handy graph.

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2.....t-nirvana/

  57. 57
    Cliff says:

    so posting a link to another BJ post gets me sent to moderation.

    FYWP.

    how about a link to the link, will that work or is more FUWP required?

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress......over_time/

  58. 58
    Cliff says:

    apparently I don’t have permission to edit my comment that worked to add:

    @gypsy howell:

    so once more, everyone Yell FUWP!!!

  59. 59
    El Cid says:

    These useless parasites just need to sack up and die so that the producers can keep laying those golden eggs.

  60. 60
    liberty60 says:

    @Stefan: To pile on, where does every fucking penny of that $200 Billion go?

    Into the pockets of the landlords, electric companies, and grocery stores that the recipients pay each month.

    Its funny how giving tax breaks to gazillionaires “stimulates” the economy, since of course they use that money to buy stuff, thereby trickling down to trickles down to hard wurkin’ Murkins…but giving that same money to the wurkin’ Murkins is a waste of money because they will just…buy stuff.

  61. 61
    LanceThruster says:

    At some point the powers that be will determine that surplus people are nothing but an economic drain and will enact nationwide death panels. Just as PSAs promoting fuel conservation would ask, “Is this trip necessary?”, billboards depicting the dead weight of society in all its forms (the elderly, the unemployed, those pesky foreign types, the godless, the handicapped, the unloved, the criminal – white collar crimes by VIPs excluded, the stupid, the too smart for their own good, DFHs…) will spring up across the nation asking, “Is this life necessary?”

    So unless you’ve got a damn good reason to keep sucking up the free air of society that your socialist delusions make you think you’re entitled to, the death panels will turn you into animal feed or fertilizer (Soylent Green is but a futuristic sci-fi myth as we are civilized people – not ruthless barbarians).

    Though this scenario may seem dire to some, an explosive growth industry will be taking this surplus and assorted wretched refuse and incorporating them into game shows and computer game controllers. Imagine granny being fitted with bio-machinery to allow you to actually use her as a Mortal Kombat-style fighter controlled by your Wii. The pummeling she will experience will usher in a new age of hyper-realism. Extreme sports will rule prime time, the more brutal and deadly the better. Strange hybrids will emerge; Robot Wars meets Rest Home Pedestrian Crossing.
    Just as the ancient Roman games resulted in the destruction of countless exotic animals, these modern day Roman circuses might result in the destruction of so many people that instead of being a surplus commodity, they’ll be rare and highly prized.

    Clearly the invisible hand of the free market is self correcting and will ultimately result in a win-win situation for all.

  62. 62
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    The NYTimes, on the other hand, blandly reported that “Retiring Later Is Hard Road for Laborers“:

    As I mentioned elseblog, the NYT treats the lives of the affluent as sociology, and the lives of the non-affluent as anthropology.

  63. 63

    […] Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, commenting on all the “concern” about unemployed workers applying for Social Security disability: So, let’s drop the mealy-mouthed charades for a minute and get blunt: “We”—the tiny percentage of people at the top of the American income pyramid and the millions of its enablers—are breaking people at an increased and ever-expanding rate. The backdoor programs cobbled together to keep these broken people out of public perception are being strained past the point where Very Serious Economists are comfortable. And therefore “we” need to… further cut back Social Security eligibility, “force” people to stay in the jobs they don’t have, presumably until everyone below boardroom level drops dead 20 minutes before shift-end, so they can be recycled expeditiously with the rest of the day’s garbage. […]

  64. 64
    RalfW says:

    I expect Republicans to start campaigning on debtors prisons for all the shiftless adults, and bootblack shops for troubled youth. We may as well take the scrubbers off the smokestacks of our coal-fired power plants and just all start acting like Dick Van Dyke with a jaunty, cheerful smear of coal dust on our faces as we trudge off to backbreaking labor for about 18 cents per hour.

    What a vision for America these Republican overlords have for us!

  65. 65
    Cam says:

    @Stefan:
    It’s even worse than you think. Benefits actually average just over $1000/month (have to deduct costs of administration and all). Try living the high life on that!

    Some stats from http://www.ssa.gov (a pretty decent website) for 2009:

    •Disability benefits were paid to over 8.9 million people.
    •Awards to disabled workers (970,696) accounted for over 89 percent of awards to all disabled beneficiaries (1,081,983).
    •In December, payments to disabled beneficiaries totaled about $9.1 billion.
    •Benefits were terminated for 630,074 disabled workers.
    •Supplemental Security Income payments were another source of income for about 1 out of 6 disabled beneficiaries.
    •Workers accounted for the largest share of disabled beneficiaries (87 percent).
    •Average age was about 53.
    •Men represented nearly 53 percent.
    •Mental disorders was the diagnosis for about a third.
    •Average monthly benefit received was $1,064.30.

  66. 66
    timb says:

    Just what I was thinking. Plus, also, too, these are the states with the worst health care—people are legitimately disabled because their perfectly ordinary health care needs are not met in a timely manner.

    Word of caution….I represent people seeking SSDI and SSI benefits.

    Now, aimai couldn’t be more right if you had a note from God confirming her “rightness.” My clients rarely have any good health insurance and their chronic conditions worsen until their body falls apart.

    I think the thing that most pisses me off about this argument is the citing of 200 billion dollar figure. How much did the war to save Iraqis from terrorism by killing and displacing them cost? How about the war in Afghanistan? You want to maim a Afghan villager, there’s always someone there writing the check. You want to give a millionaire a $128,000/yr tax break, well, someone feels his/her pain. But, if you want 6% of the work-force determined by a legal procedure to unable to perform ANY job, well, “hold on, mister.”

    It’s more of the Right’s continuing class warfare. For years they complain Dems pit the rich versus the middle class, while they pit the middle class against the poor. Need a new football stadium, Mitch Daniels is there to raise taxes (and then claim he did not) to make it happen for the millionaire. Need a job or can’t work one? Mitch and friends are there to tell you to suck it up and leave nice people alone.

  67. 67
    Barbara says:

    Seconding what jl said. More than 20 years ago, I worked on SSDI cases and it was clear that most SSDI applicants were 50+ year old workers who had either worn themselves out with physical labor, or could not find any more work as a result of age discrimination, and applied for disability on the basis of chronic conditions (sometimes multiple chronic conditions). The harder the labor, the more likely they were to be granted benefits — many had extremely poor education levels. These people were on average 3-7 years shy of early regular SS retirement age and simply couldn’t find work. If SS retirement age is raised, this phenomenon will explode.

    And you should repeat over and over again: most of the reason for rampant discrimination against 50 year olds isn’t really due to any of that mumbo jumbo about skill currency — it’s about the cost of health insurance, pure and simple. People really don’t understand how distorted their opportunities are because of the insane way we pay for and deliver health care. Never pass up an opportunity to remind someone of that.

  68. 68
    timb says:

    @Barbara: Just a genius comment.

    I will put it this way: of the 1200 – 1800 cases we have working their way through the process, less than 25% of them are under the age of 45. You want to help these people. Teach them a skill before they drop out of high school and can’t find work 30 years later. We grind these people up like hamburger and then James Ledbetter gets angry when they can’t work.

  69. 69
    Jhombi says:

    As a 49 yr old man with a wrecked back, suffering chronic, constant pain, I for one have no idea how I am going to make it to 62, let alone 69. I am in a relatively easy job now, but that doesn’t negate the serious mileage accrued in “real” work jobs through 30 yrs of corporate recessioning.

    I am going to agree that some of this influx of applicants are those in the middle-age employment dead zone, but I speculate that in countries with less vindictive, actively hostile opposition to health/disability concerns, many of these people would have already made a dignified exit from the workforce that doubtlessly robbed them of their functionality.

    From what I have heard from relatives who really needed disability, it, like so many other programs re-engineered in the conservative era, is an exercise in self-debasement and soul-crushing humiliation, with no guarantee of help at the end of the process. It was for these reasons my uncle worked until his body just quit on him rather than lose whatever dignity he still possessed.

    I believe that unless we marginalize (if not defeat) this culture of hatred toward our fellow Americans, we shall be doomed to our fate as mangy dogs fighting over the scraps that have fallen from the master’s table. I used to not comprehend why these Teabaggers so fervently fight for the security of serfdom. It is truly a testament to how fearful and bereft we have become as a people.

  70. 70
    Stefan says:

    These millions of workers extricated from payrolls

    Yes, because it was getting those sweet sweet disability payments after several years of appeals that “extricated” them from payrolls, not the fact that they were laid off or lost their jobs or were never hired in the first place because they were too old/ sick / disabled / depressed/ handicapped /etc. to work…

    represent untold lost billions in tax revenues and all manner of desperately needed economic activity (consumption, home purchases, etc.)…

    Yes, just think of the money that, say, a blind man in his 50s with clinical depression could otherwise be contributing to the economy if we hadn’t extricated him by luring that fat disability check in front of his sightless eyes. And of course let’s ignore that the disability benefits paid him do of course contribute to consumption anyway because he uses them to pay rent and buy food, thus putting the cash directly back into the economy.

  71. 71
    Draylon Hogg says:

    Can’t get by selling matches in the street? Then die in it.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, commenting on all the “concern” about unemployed workers applying for Social Security disability: So, let’s drop the mealy-mouthed charades for a minute and get blunt: “We”—the tiny percentage of people at the top of the American income pyramid and the millions of its enablers—are breaking people at an increased and ever-expanding rate. The backdoor programs cobbled together to keep these broken people out of public perception are being strained past the point where Very Serious Economists are comfortable. And therefore “we” need to… further cut back Social Security eligibility, “force” people to stay in the jobs they don’t have, presumably until everyone below boardroom level drops dead 20 minutes before shift-end, so they can be recycled expeditiously with the rest of the day’s garbage. […]

  2. […] Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » You'd Be Cripplingly Incapacitated … […]

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