Saturday, April 12, 2014

Vaguely Upon Disability Benefits

Just chronicling another minor variation on the higher levels of the scheme. Just whining about something far less important than flying murder robots.

We deliberately keep people poor. Yes, I know--that. But we do it in lots of other ways more variegated and subtle, too.

What happens if you can't work in America? Correct: you starve outside. America does, though, have a rudimentary social welfare system that provides for monthly payments, and occasionally housing or medical assistance, to disabled people. So let's go inside that part of the system, and consider someone who gets hurt on the job--someone who fights through 30 months of pain, surgery, therapy, supervised home visits, bodily cavity inspections, anti-faking checkups, and is finally deemed eligible to receive a government pittance for a long time (maybe life). Let's say this lucky soul then gets, oh, $800 a month.

Now, here's a foreshadowing of the future economic controls waiting for the rest of the populace: you are not allowed to save money. That's right; the High Caucasian Masters of the Fed are disinclined to allow the disabled to save their money. $800 a month, and that's it.

Why and how would these disabled people want to save? Well, let's say that their benefit is $800 a month, they're disabled for life, and they're 20, or 30. Maybe they know that their cost of living will go up when they hit 50, or 60. Maybe they don't trust the paying government agency's promise to offer "cost of living increases" over the next few decades (a wise choice--trusting to that is asking to starve).

No problem, right? This is a free market, and all that good stuff. So they start setting aside a little bit of that $800 a month. Maybe just $10, maybe just $50, or maybe a couple hundred. Whatever. And they have a little savings account, thinking, "When I hit 63, and need some kind of medicine to survive old age, I won't need to bother the government to increase my benefits--I'll just live off my savings."

Nope. Hard no. As soon as their savings account hits a certain amount, whammo, the benefits stop coming. No more $800 a month.

Free Rider

Fine, fine. We don't want to have to take money from the hard working Norms to pay the Crips $800 a month if the Crips are already independently wealthy. If Bill Gates falls off a ladder, we don't want to have to start sending him SSDI checks, considering that he doesn't need the money. It wouldn't be fair.

So, what does the intelligent disabled person do with that $800? Simple--they spend it. Spending every penny ensures that they will remain poor on paper, justifying future income. As a result, when they hit 63 or whatever, and the cost of their care goes up, that burden falls back on the taxpayers (or they just stop paying the heating bill and freeze to death, or stop paying rent and die of "old age" behind some theater downtown after not eating for a week). But the important point is, they didn't "steal" anything from the taxpayers by trying to save any of that money ahead of time. Yet again, the attempt to make things "fair" and prevent "abuse of the system" causes increased costs to everyone, even as it stymies only a handful of actual plots to cheat.

Literal Mechanics of "Can't Save"

What does this one mean when I say, "Can't save"? Okay, example: let's say Sheila got a filing cabinet dropped on her at the office, and hurt her back. After her 30 months of TSA-style groping, she gets approved, and gets her $800 a month. For the first year, she spends $400/month on her rent at a group home, eats meals with the other home residents, but occasionally goes out to a movie or grabs a bite to eat, spending another $100. So, she spends $500 a month, leaving the extra $300 in her checking account. What does that add up to over 12 months, for the first year of her experience as a benefits-recipient? Why, $3,600, of course.

As soon as the government notices that, they send Sheila a letter saying, "You have $3,600 in the bank. Therefore, you are wealthy. No more benefits." Sheila's group home stops approving her residency, she moves into a normal apartment, and frantically tries to re-apply for benefits. After a couple months, she's out of money, and still 3 or 4 months away from getting her $800 payments resumed. She starves a little, camps out at local homeless shelters, and finally gets benefits resumed. $800/month. This time, no fucking around. Every month, once the money comes in, she buys some DVDs on amazon, an iced tea and an extra Snickers from the C-store, and eventually, a few dozen lottery tickets. Zero it out. Zero it out to be safe.

You can't blame the disabled, of course. Who's to say that their benefits will continue under a new presidential administration, a new state administration, a new set of focused CNN ads? Who's to say that medical science will alter, and deem their missing legs no longer an impediment to work as a nature guide? It's not like they're trying to save because they're plying their sustenance checks into penthouse apartments; they're just all too desperately aware of the struggle to survive, and saving a few dollars for when President Jeb slashes food stamps is a wise move.

Encouraging Irresponsibility

Encouraging irresponsibility--what does that sound like? Economics, of course. The whole thing is already too stupenderifously expensive anyway. How many dozens of millions of dollars are wasted fostering full-time benefits specialists to do home visits, file reviews, update meetings, check-in calls, department accountings, et cetera to determine that the $800 a month is getting spent properly? Easy--more than it would cost to just abolish the whole thing and give Bill Gates his $800 welfare check to spend on dandruff shampoo and foot deodorizers. (Yes, that $800 is over and above pumping Microsoft full of DoD and DoE cash, but put that aside for now.) The point here is future plans. We test upon the battlefield police techniques that will come home to the citizenry, and we test upon the disabled the economic techniques that will come home to the abled.

"Saving money" is 50% of the bane of the mangled little goblin goldtraders who run this awful county fair, because accounting for peon savings puts a wrinkle into their playing with fluctuating currency valuations, otherwise known as, "How to give the peasants just enough to eat and watch football, and not a farthing more." The vise that they clamp onto the allowable private net assets of the disabled is a prototype for the future economic regulation of everyone. Living from pittance to pittance, rather than setting aside money like your betters, keeps you thoroughly reliant on that pittance. Every time they find out that the personal savings rate in Japan has gone up, they try to blow the hell out of the yen; just wait until some twisted regulation begins to justify preventing large swathes of the western population from storing nuts for the winter, too.

4 comments:

  1. so, what is this, the end point after capitalism? when all opportunities for profits based on fleecing workers and exploiting outside demand have been exhausted?

    Quite plausible. We will be weakened enough intellectually and spiritually by then.

    I think one mistake Marx made is in assuming that capitalists care about preserving capitalism as such. May be they did in his day of pre-monopoly capitalism, but today I wager they'd be just as content to leverage their economic power back into political and kick back and relax.

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    1. Yah, quite so. Marx had a lot of great and correct stuff to observe, and even a lot of good predictions for the future, but he was analyzing just one chunk of a tumor, if you will. No matter how right he was, he missed the gigantic malignant clots that led as necessarily to capitalism as capitalism did to imperialism. More to excavate, ladies.

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  2. But when you do save, they know who you are, and try to sell you all kinds of bullshit. The old people inevitably cave, since they don't recognize that as well as us cynical internet-hardened types do.

    There is no safe place.

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    1. The forgotten adage about selling your soul is the safe place--without notions of "individualized ownership," no one has a soul to sell, so the Devil always loses. Old people, or just weak people, can't be losers in a society where no one "owns" things, because then there is no longer any motivation to manipulate weak people and acquire what they "own."

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