Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Time to halt the entitlement state

October 28, 2012

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— The election eve mood is tinged with sadness stemming from well-founded fear that America’s new government is subverting America’s old character. Barack Obama’s agenda is a menu of temptations intended to change the nation’s social norms by making Americans comfortable with the degradation of democracy. This degradation consists of piling up public debt that binds unconsenting future generations to finance current consumption.

So argues Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist and demographer at American Enterprise Institute, in “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic.” This booklet could be Mitt Romney’s closing argument.

Beginning two decades after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, who would find today’s government unrecognizable, government became a geyser of entitlements. In 2010, government at all levels transferred more than $2.2 trillion in money, goods and services to recipients — $7,200 per individual, almost $29,000 per family of four. Before 1960, only in the Depression years of 1931 and 1935 did federal transfer payments exceed other federal expenditures. During most of FDR’s 12 presidential years, income transfers were a third or less of federal spending. But between 1960 and 2010, entitlements exploded from 28 percent to 66 percent of federal spending. By 2010, more than 34 percent of households were receiving means-tested benefits. Republicans were more than merely complicit, says Eberstadt:

“The growth of entitlement spending over the past half-century has been distinctly greater under Republican administrations than Democratic ones. Between 1960 and 2010, the growth of entitlement spending was exponential — but in any given year, it was on the whole over 8 percent higher if the president happened to be a Republican rather than a Democrat. ... The Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush administrations presided over especially lavish expansions of the entitlement state.”

Why, then, should we expect Romney to reverse Republican complicity? Because by embracing Paul Ryan, Romney embraced Ryan’s emphasis on the entitlement state’s moral as well as financial costs.

As evidence of the moral costs, Eberstadt cites the fact that means-tested entitlement recipience has not merely been destigmatized, it has been celebrated as a basic civil right. Hence the stunning growth of supposed disabilities. The normalization and then celebration of dependency help explain the “unprecedented exit from gainful work by adult men.”

Since 1948, male labor force participation has plummeted from 89 percent to 73 percent. Today, 27 percent of adult men do not consider themselves part of the workforce: “A large part of the jobs problem for American men today is not wanting one.” Which is why “labor force participation ratios for men in the prime of life are lower in America than in Europe.”

One reason work now is neither a duty nor a necessity is the gaming — defrauding, really — of disability entitlements. In 1960, an average of 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments; in 2011, 8.6 million were — more than four times the number of persons receiving basic welfare benefits under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Nearly half of the 8.6 million were “disabled” because of “mood disorders” or ailments of the “musculoskeletal system and the connective tissue.” It is, says Eberstadt, essentially impossible to disprove a person’s claim to be suffering from sad feelings or back pain.

“In 1960,” Eberstadt says, “roughly 134 Americans were engaged in gainful employment for every officially disabled worker; by December 2010 there were just over 16.” This, in spite of the fact that public health was much better, and automation and the growth of the service/information economy had made work less physically demanding. Eberstadt says collecting disability is an increasingly important American “profession”:

For every 100 industrial workers in December 2010, there were 73 “workers” receiving disability payments. Between January 2010 and December 2011, the U.S. economy created 1.73 million nonfarm jobs — but almost half as many (790,000) workers became disability recipients. This trend is not a Great Recession phenomenon: In the 15 years ending in December 2011, America added 8.8 million nonfarm private sector jobs — and 4.1 million workers on disability rolls.

The radiating corruption of this entitlement involves the collaboration of doctors and health care professionals who certify dubious disability claims. The judicial system, too, is compromised in the process of setting disability standards that enable all this.


America’s ethos once was what Eberstadt calls “optimistic Puritanism,” combining an affinity for personal enterprise with a horror of dependency. Nov. 6 is a late and perhaps last chance to begin stopping the scandal of plundering our descendants’ wealth to finance the demands of today’s entitlement mentality.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

I think George is actually painting a rosey picture. This article assumes that given another 4 years of Barry and his failed leadership / policy ( if he has any ) that there will actually be a country left for takers to sponge off of. The USA of IOU could make Greece look like the industrial hub of the world by the middle of Barrys second term.

Unfortunatley the "Obama phone" crazies see Barry for exactly what he is, a meal ticket and a free ride on the backs of the " suckers / producers" in society. Sadly the" Obama phone" vote counts the same as mine. Vote Nov 7, end the error

appleaday 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, make sure you vote on November 7!

Pastor_Bedtime 2 years, 9 months ago

Have fun trying to vote on Nov. 7. The rest of us will think of you when we're voting on the ACTUAL ELECTION DAY, Tues. Nov. 6. Facts never were your strong point ~ but I think you're just trying to mislead here.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

The best first step would be to simply change the word entitlement back to charity.

Pastor_Bedtime 2 years, 9 months ago

Attacking the disabled ~ which includes veterans and the elderly. Great tactic from the party whose primary focus is making the very rich even richer. If only the same effort were put forth to scrutinize dubious tax deductions, like for fancy dancing horses that Mitt seems to think he's "entitled" to.

John Hamm 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm sorry but "welfare mothers, deadbeat dads, ObamaPhone owners" and millions of other recipients of welfare aren't Veterans and the Elderly......

George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

Big straw man. Nobody is attacking the truly disabled or seniors ()Of course Mr. Obama is doing that). But is 33% of the total federal budget really too little? Is there not some efficiency in there? It is grossly unfair to ask half the people to support a third of the people.

Kathy Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

Truly disabled? Is that anything akin to legitimate rape?

George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

No and you know it. The guy with a full disability out on the golf course comes to mind. Instead of straw men you would think you would be as interested as I in making sure money goes to those who truly (whoops) need it.

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

What if the guy playing golf has terminal cancer? He'd qualify for full disability, but apparently not your definition of "legitimate" disability.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Given that it's actually quite hard to get disability payments, and they're routinely denied the first time they're requested, I think it's unlikely that a lot of folks are getting them fraudulently.

Which would raise the question of why we have so many more disabled folks now than we had before.

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

Because your premise of getting disability is wrong

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Source?

From what I've heard and read, disability claims are routinely denied the first time they're requested, and it's quite difficult to get them - you have to get a lawyer and fight like h***.

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

My daughter had a diagnosis of MS from more than 1 doctor, and was turned down the first time. She then had to hire a lawyer. She has found a job that works around her illness, but still needs the help. My brother was dying from renal cancer and was turned down. He didn't have the energy to try again and was dead a year later. He had contributed to his Social Security for over 20 years and didn't get one thin dime, so I guess my daughter, who contributed to her Social Security for 10 years and still does some is getting his share. Social Security is only called an entitlement by Republicans who want all that money to balance the budget.

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

The only one's making money from the disabled are the lawyers who are needed to file an appeal. I don't think it's a coincidence that everyone is turned down the first time. Despite the medical evidence otherwise. Do I think everyone should get disability? No. Drunks and druggies shouldn't get it. If they really want to be cured from that disease, then there are cures. Should depressed or mentally ill people get disability. Only if they are getting treatment and seem to be trying to get better. And I suppose as long as they have dependent children, for the kid's sake. Depression and many mental illnesses can be treated and cured.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

Depression is a mental illness. I'm not sure why you categorize it separately unless you believe it to be otherwise. Mental illnesses can be treated but not cured. And with the stigma that mental illness has in our society, sometimes finding appropriate treatment is difficult.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Why are there so many more disabled folks now? Reminds me of when I was in California and medical marijuana was passed. Suddenly, everyone had some medical problem that marijuana could cure. Everyone. Of course, you needed a licensed medical doctor to sign off on that, so there wouldn't be any fraudulent claims, right. Well, licensed medical doctors signed off on them left and right.

Reminds me of a Ron White comedy routine when he says he went to a medical doctor to get a medical marijuana script. The doctors asked why he needed one and Ron White said he suffered from depression. The doctor asked what made him depressed and he answered "not having any marijuana". Got his script.

Why are so many more disabled now? Because there is a significantly better reason to be disabled now. And with just a little doctor shopping, you can get one to agree with just about whatever you want. One more quick story. Disabled parking placards. They are like get out of jail free cards in San Francisco. You can park anywhere, no need to put money in meters, no tickets. In a city where a parking ticket can run from $65 on the low end up to $500, they're worth they're weight in gold. Many people go doctor shopping for those things. And they get them. Sometimes by the same doctor who gave them the medical marijuana prescription. Of course, the doctor charges for the examination, but suddenly lots or apparently healthy people entering that doctor's office leave with a whole host of disabilities. If you can pay the doctor, and you want those things bad enough, you too can become disabled.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

From what I've heard and read, it's quite difficult to get disability payments, not easy at all.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

From what I've seen, if you are persistent, you can get those disability payments. Actually being disabled is beside the point.

Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

Nonsense. I used to represent people before the SSA. What have you specifically "seen" which contradicts my experience?

Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

You are right, jafs. Paying a doctor to "diagnose" you as disabled simply doesn't cut the mustard. The Social Security Administration has their own independent doctors that examine recipients. SSA picks up the tab. Simply hiring a "whore" won' get you disability.

Additionally, the system is terribly backlogged and many people wait three years from the date of application to the a final determination. Earning more than $950.00 per month for any month during that waiting period will disqualify you. if you want to scam the system, that's a long period of time to go without any sort of a paycheck in the hope of fooling the government.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks - I thought it was like that.

I wonder why people think it's so easy to scam the system.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

As you recall, I've said in the past I worked in social services previously (many years ago, and in a different state). But I recall weekly meeting with our staff psychiatrist (a state employee) and when discussing certain people, he would simply roll his eyes in disbelief when an obvious alcoholic was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by one of his colleagues. I recall one specific case when he told the assembled staff that to remove a diagnosis such as that, the individual would have to be clean and sober for a significant length of time, 18 months if memory serves. Zero chance of that happening in this case.

The point being that is does happen. Maybe not in theory, just in the real world, which is what I assumed we were talking about.

And yes, those truly in need do get denied routinely. Appeals need to be made. The delays are costly and flat out wrong. It happens both ways.

One more quick story. I was working in a major metropolitan area, a nine county region. As we know, social services are a county function. Well, the mentally ill living on the streets could easily slip through the cranks simply by hopping a bus. Next thing you know, they're in another county. Not those seeking to scam the system. No, they're right there, persistently seeking services. They're getting their documents in order. They're doctor shopping. In time, they get the services that rightfully should be going to that schizophrenic who hopped on the bus to Oakland (one country), or Berkeley (another country). Or was it San Mateo (another county) or San Jose (another county) or Marin (another county). Real world.

If you want local examples, you need look no further than our local shelter. There are some truly deserving individuals there in need of a wide variety of services. There are people there who are doing nothing but scamming the system. My problem with this particular shelter and how it is operated is that it makes no attempt to distinguish the former from the latter. Real world.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

We're talking about the SSI system here, which is a federal program, not local services.

So, virtually all of your examples are besides the point.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I thought we were talking about entitlements. Or the sense of entitlement. And the story of the alcoholic who was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, that individual did receive SSI as a direct result of that suspicious diagnosis.

I'm sorry my experience doesn't fit nicely into your preconceived notions. The fact is, Jafs, that an attorney representing clients who have been denied benefits is going to see the system in a certain light. I'm not saying he's wrong, just that he's seeing "his" part of the problem. A social worker will see things in a different light. A former social worker will see it in still a different way. The truth ... well, that when you take all those stories and try your best to make sense of them. As I said with my shelter issue, I specifically said there were deserving individuals deserving a wide variety of services. I'm trying hard to look at the entire issue, from a variety of perspectives. But there are also individuals scamming the system and anyone denying this, be it the lawyer, the shelter operators or even you, well, you're the ones self limiting your perspective which in turn, causes you to not see the truth.

BTW - Jafs, you do know that virtually all services, city, county, state, federal are interconnected. So a mental health program operated by any given county in any given state are going to be serving individuals who are eligible for federal (SSI) assistance. Given that, I would be shocked if I was told that not a single individual at our local shelter doesn't receive federal assistance. I would be equally shocked if I was told that not a single individual at the shelter was eligible for federal assistance. And I would be shocked if there wasn't at least one person at the local shelter who was receiving assistance that they weren't eligible for.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

We were talking about disability claims, and you claimed it was easy to get disability fraudulently.

It's not, and that's borne out by direct stories from folks with experience with that system.

Are there other opportunities for fraud? Sure. But it's just not true that it's easy to scam the feds and get disability payments.

According to the SSA itself, somewhere around 60-80% of claims are initially denied, and they recommend a lawyer to help appeal. That can take a long time, and most of the appeals are also denied. What makes you think it's easy to scam the system?

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

As with my example of the mentally ill that fall through the cracks simply by hopping on a bus, compared to the individual who does get services merely by being persistent, these are things I've seen with my own eyes. There was a time when I could name names. I've forgotten the names, but not the instances.

I will make a very broad statement, one that is generally not true, but is true sometimes. And that is that those with the skills necessary to access the benefits the system provides are the very people that should be denied because the don't need those benefits. Conversely, those without the skills necessary to access the system are the people most deserving. And (IMHO), those who work in the system that don't try their very best to make that distinction, shame on them, though I understand your plight. I tried, failed and had the good sense to move on.

As I said, the lawyer will see one part of the puzzle, but not the part I saw. As a case manager, it's not only my job to see from my perspective, it's my job to see from many perspectives. You want to believe what you want to believe. That's fine. That's your right. But please do not piss on my leg and tell me it's raining by saying you're open minded. You began with a preconceived notion which was confirmed by one poster and disputed by another. And your preconceived notion won. :-)

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

My "preconceived" notion was formed by discussions with people who had tried to get disability payments, and with family members who work in the social services.

And, it's supported by the SSA itself, with the statistics I mentioned. Any system that routinely denies 80% of applicants, and about the same percentage of those who appeal is not an easy system to scam.

In fact, given those percentages, I'd say it's much more likely that people with legitimate disabilities are being denied than that folks are scamming and getting benefits they don't deserve.

I grant you full "expert" status on the California system you worked in many years ago, but that wasn't a federal disability system, and your comments there may not be relevant to the discussion of the SSA.

Also, I have no particular axe to grind here - nobody I know is being denied disability, it's not a personal issue for me or my family, etc. I also don't know anybody personally who's scamming the system.

Tell me again if you actually have experience with the federal disability system, and know about people who scammed it - otherwise all of your anecdotes just don't apply to this conversation.

Your catch-22 argument isn't at all convincing to me - it's actually a bit scary.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I worked with many individuals who received SSI, VA benefits and a smattering of other benefits. Part of my job was to assist and maintain them in receiving those benefits. I, through the state agency I worked at, was the representative payee for many of these people. Over the course of a few years, the numbers equaled hundreds.

Look at it this way, every single person who receives SSI or VA has to be living somewhere. They're not living in Federal-land. So if they are suffering from some severe mental health issue requiring some sort of ongoing assistance, that is going to happen through some state agency, which in turn will delegate authority to some county agency. That case manager (me) will not be a federal employee. But their check will be issued at the federal level. That's the interconnectedness I spoke of earlier. If there is just one person at the local shelter receiving SSI, that's the interconnectedness. If that one person has a case manager, they will not be a federal employee, but the check still will be federally issued.

That said, yes, I saw individuals who I and my colleagues believed did not deserve that federal check. Those persistent ones. And yes, I saw many who did not receive benefits that anyone could tell deserved. Those homeless mentally ill, that you don't need a college degree to know schizophrenia, sleeping in parks. They're not receiving services because they don't even have the skills necessary to apply. Outreach tries, but isn't successful as much as they need to be. That's the falling between the cracks.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Ok - so now it's people that you "believed" didn't qualify.

Persistence doesn't imply lack of qualification. If you're persistently disabled, that's your condition.

Any actual data that people who weren't disabled were getting disability checks from the feds?

Yes, people fall through the cracks, which is sad. But, also, if our systems that are supposed to help people are so difficult to navigate that the ones who need the help the most can't do that, then that's a failure of our systems to be properly designed, in my view.

And, that may very well be the case with the federal disability system, as far as I can tell.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Jeez, jafs, I really don't understand some of your arguments.

"So now it's people who you "believed" didn't qualify". Ask yourself the question, jafs, who are we? If "our" opinion isn't one to be listened to, then to whom shall we defer? Who's judgement?

OK, I'll answer my own question. We were a group of professionals in the field. We were social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Some had specific expertise in working with cross cultural issues, some with battered women, some had specific knowledge of addictions. We were all members of a team of trained professionals. Now, to whom shall we defer?

We're not talking about an exact science. I'm certainly not arrogant enough to suggest my judgement was correct 100% of the time. But I'm not insecure enough to believe I was incorrect 100% of the time. As I said, it's not an exact science. Mistakes, misdiagnosis, it's going to happen. That's been my point all along. And yes, someone who feels there is sufficient gain to be had, can and will present themselves as a legitimate candidate for disability. Fool the doctor, and you're in. Believing that no one ever fools the doctor is itself a foolish attitude to take.

What is most sad, in my opinion, is not just that people fall through the cracks, it's that they fall through in both directions. People who truly need and deserve services are not getting them. People who do not deserve services are. But as I've said before, there's a certain amount of human nature involved here. If a person is sitting right in front of you, pleading for services, it's hard to say no, especially when you're thinking maybe they really do, but then again, I'm not so sure. (Welcome to the world of making judgements). So you help that person. But what about that guy, actively psychotic, sleeping somewhere in that park, hanging around in some neighborhood during the day. You saw him on the weekend when you took your child to play in the park. You know he's out there somewhere. Should you kick this maybe deserving, maybe not deserving person out of your office so you go go looking for that psychotic individual? Tough call. But people are making that call every day. They're making good calls, most of the time. But not all of the time. Isn't that what I said earlier when I said I would make a "broad statement".

Here's a question for you to ponder, jafs, one that has no real answer, so I ask it just so you can think about it. The next time you walk down Mass. St. and you see some guy who appears to be actively psychotic (you really don't need a degree to tell), is he getting the services he needs and deserves? And while taking that stroll down Mass., peer into any bar during the day, and ask yourself, how many patrons inside are receiving some form of disability? I think you'd be surprised at the answers.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Ok.

So, you believe that people are fraudulently getting disability, but have no actual evidence or data to support your belief.

That's fine, but it hardly constitutes any sort of proof that massive amounts of fraudulent disability claims are happening.

When the doctors that evaluate these folks work for the SSA, they have a clear interest in denying fraudulent claims, so it's unlikely they'd be too lenient on folks.

I'd prefer to have answers, and not just questions. That's why I've been asking about the issue.

The problem with psychotic folks, to my knowledge, is that they're often untrusting, and hard to interact with, and we seem to have decided that they have a right to refuse medical/psychiatric treatment.

So, they're hard to help, if they're not in a good place to ask for it, and trust the folks who offer it.

Your question can indeed be answered, and it should be answered, if we want to know how much actual fraud and abuse is occurring.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Define "massive amounts of fraud". Do you recall a couple of weeks ago, when discussing that infamous 47%, I mentioned that i was listening to NPR and after taking out the elderly, the disabled, the active military, etc. they were left with something like 18% that we would generally consider to be deadbeats. Would you define that as "massive"? Your answer isn't really important. Just that we know it's there. If it's 10% or 25% is beside the point. It's there. Say it's 47% or 99% and you're wrong. But deny that it's there is equally wrong.

We've all seen those 20/20 or Dateline shows that shows the guy with a back injury competing in a triathlon. When he went to his doctor and he was asked to describe his pain, on a 1-10 scale, what do you suppose he said? Do you think you or I would come up with the same number? Remember, he's in a triathlon while on disability.

How much is out there? Somewhere between zero and 100%. Now suppose this. I take an IQ test and score a 92 on a day when I didn't sleep well the night before. I retake the test and score a 108 on a better day. What does that tell you? Not much, other than I'm pretty average. Now suppose someone takes an IQ test and scores a 77. No DD diagnosis for you. You retake the test and score a 67. Yes DD services for you. But all it really tells you is that someone is going to be using some judgement (hopefully with the assistance of other criteria). But it's close.

Here's at least part of the problem, jafs. You keep asking questions that are impossible to answer and then complain that the answers aren't adequate. If that guy hadn't participated in the triathlon, we might never have known whether or not fraud existed. But it did exist, whether or not he participated, whether or not we find out. Your premise that the question can and should be answered is as idealistic as it is wrong.

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm sorry, but better diagnostic tools and multiple research have often changed medical beliefs since "many years ago". As a result, it turns out that your staff psychiatrist was actually quite wrong back then. So please stop using long outdated information about mental illness for making judgements today.

I'd also add that, unfortunately, there have always been people working in the social services field who shouldn't be. Some lack empathy. Some simply hate/resent the people they're supposed to be assisting. And some simply continue to believe misinformation they learned years ago without ever questioning it.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

Not only that, but many alcoholics and drug addicts use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate their mental illnesses.

Kathy Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

So, where are you reading or hearing this crap? Tell me one legitimate reason someone would want to be disabled. Oh, wait I know, free parking places! The narrowness of your thinking astounds me.

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

Gee I don't know, may have something to do with receiving money you DO NOT have to work for.

Kathy Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

Actually, Kathy, there might be some people who would rather live in the poverty lifestyle provided by disability, because if they take a low paying job from companies who could afford to pay them more, but who want to make themselves and their investors even richer than they already are, then they will work long hard hours to still be poor. Now, if these corporations and their rich investors would agree to be not as rich, and pay a living wage, I'll bet you would find some people more motivated to work. It's not that welfare and disability gets people out of poverty; it's that it's actually better than being treated like dirt, paid little, while you have to hear your bosses tell you how wonderful the company is doing and making lots of profit - non of which will ever trickle down to you. Long hard hours to be treated like a second class citizen or welfare, but being able to spend time with your kids? Maybe the corporations should start paying more, since it allows them to continue paying cheap wages. Or better yet, maybe workers should start uniting and demand some trickle down.

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

Please name some of those companies and feel free to back it up

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

*The National Employment Law Project looked at Census data from 2009–11 and found that 66 percent of low-wage workers are employed by large businesses with over 100 employees. Moreover, it found that the fifty largest employers of low-wage workers have all recovered from the recession and are in strong financial positions:

92 percent were profitable last year.

78 percent have been profitable for the last three years.

75 percent have higher revenues now than before the recession, and 73 percent have higher cash holdings.

63 percent have higher operating margins than before the recession.

Also, the study found that at these fifty firms, executive compensation averaged $9.4 million, and they have returned $174.8 billion to shareholders in dividends or share buybacks in the past five years.*

Kathy Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

I do agree tomato. Isn't it sad people have to make these choices? How many employers refuse to comply with the ADA forcing an employee to quit working for lack of accommodation? I also want to point out a person who has never worked can't draw SSD as the neddys among us seem to think.

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

Well, this took awhile because the LJW site is doing strange things, sorry to keep you waiting. Wal Mart is a major company that is my first example. They could pay their workers more, giving them a living wage, and keeping workers long enough for them to know something about the store, and still make big profits. Their warehouse workers make better money, but nothing that couldn't be improved. You know your family makes to much money when your dead beat daughter pays someone to do her college work. I have a hard time admiring the Walton family, a bunch of unpatriotic, greedy leeches.

Then there are the countless companies who have taken their jobs overseas, just so they can avoid paying a living wage, or so they can sell to the almighty WalMart. They would still make a profit, but not a large profit. The business model anymore isn't just making a profit and providing decent paying jobs for your fellow citizens. It's making more profit. If a business is providing you and your employees a living, then why do you need to make even more money or be considered a failure? Part of it is Wall Street, but part of it is just low life greed. The supposed good little Christians who call themselves conservatives buy into this, even though greed is suppose to be a Christian sin. Oh well, a few hail mary's or the right kind of underwear will still get them to heaven anyway. Go greed yourself.

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

Wal-Mart Dist Center workers start at $14 per hour ( depending on shift ). Numerous people make upwards of $22+ per hour.

The numerous other companies taking jobs overseas - are you talking about the former 3rd world countries that now have a middle class ?

You know nothing about business so please stop trying to make it sound like you do. Your spewing out liberal ideology and that's it.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago


"Taxpayers are forced to provide healthcare for Walmart’s Associates. Hundreds of thousands of Associates and their family members qualify for publicly funded health insurance.[6] Indeed, according to data compiled by Good Jobs First, in 21 of 23 states which have disclosed information, Walmart has the largest number of employees on the public rolls of any employer.[7]

Recent Analysis:

Missouri: In early 2011, Walmart led all employers with 10,028 employees and their dependents enrolled in Missouri’s Medicaid program, known as MO HealthNet (MHN). Enrollees included 2,403 employees, 827 employee spouses, and 6,798 children of employees.[8]

Massachusetts: In FY09, Walmart led all employers with 10,171 employees and their dependents using publicly subsidized health care. Enrollees included 5,072 employees and 5,699 dependents.[9]

Connecticut: In 2011, Walmart topped the list of Medicaid employers. As of May 2011, 3,654 Medicaid enrollees in the state were either Walmart associates (1,189 recipients) or the children of associates (2,465 recipients).[10]
http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/healthcare/

Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

Katara, you forgot about food stamps. Most full-time Walmart employees are allowed to work no more than 35 hours per week. At slightly more than minimum wage, the take home is not enough to support one person. Throw in a kid or two and we taxpayers end up footing the bill for food stamps. You're right, in reality we are subsidizing Walmart and their refusal to pay a living wage.

It's funny, but the same people who are against a minimum wage are usually oppposed to food stamps, unless, of course, you are a low wage paying corporation like Walmart. Wal Mart corporate types love the food stamp program, and encourage their employees, where applicable to apply for them. Without food stamps to subsidize their employees, they would have to raise their wages.

Kathy Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's not forget our brave soldiers and their families. Why do our men and women fighting for their country make so little they need food stamps to survive?

Armstrong I must apologize for hurting your wittle feelings. The use of absolutes, the twisted picture painted by the GOP and others regarding public benefits is putting all benefits at risk. If the only motive the armstrongs of today was to work together to make the system work better, that would be great. The continual rhetoric from the right claiming most public benefits are given to those too lazy to work is dangerous ground for our most vulnerable. Most on federal entitlements worked for the benefits they receive. I, for one will not stand by silently and allow the lies to be told. You are threatening my loved ones and my future.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Kathy, I've seen estimates that say 50% of those who file taxes cheat. While it seems high, I think it's a bit of human nature. Given that, why would I believe people aren't cheating in order to get disability?

Let me talk about that seemingly innocent topic of disabled placards in S.F. First, you have to understand that the value of one there is very different than the value of one here. Not double or triple the value, but thousands of times as much. That's some powerful incentive to exaggerate that stubbed toe into a severe limp with constant pain. That monthly adjustment at a chiropractor suddenly becomes a disability. Maybe not here, when a quarter gets you 1/2 hour on Mass, 2 1/2 hours one block away and it's free two blocks away. Compare that to S.F. where free isn't part of the equation at all. A quarter will get you 5 minutes on a meter, and a ticket will be anywhere from $65 for a meter violation to a $475 ticket for parking in a bus stop, fire hydrant, etc.

The broader point is that once the incentive becomes big enough, people will cheat. Now if you're a person of limited skills, one likely to be earning minimum wage or close to that, then a disability payment for zero work starts looking very attractive. Especially if combined with several meals per weak at LINK, subsidized housing, food stamps, and pretty soon, the combined value is worth more that you earn at a job. It becomes human nature, much like the 50% who cheat on their taxes. If you believe we should be vigilant in trying to catch tax cheats, you should be equally vigilant in trying to catch other cheats. Even those cheats that have a doctor sign off in it because as I noted above with the medical marijuana example, doctors are a part of the problem.

Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

You are leaving one important aspect out. Owning a car in San Francisco is very very expensive. Most lower wage folks can't afford one. So if your assertions are correct, its the middle class which are faking injuries to receive a handicap placard, not the poor.

Therefore, your analogy doesn't cut the mustard.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I think you missed the point I was trying to make. Or perhaps I didn't saying it clearly. As the value of a benefit increases, more and more people will be tempted to cheat in order to receive that benefit. And I think that's especially true as the value of the benefit increases in relation to their income or wealth. Someone who has an income of $100,000 probably won't be tempted to get on disability if the value of that disability is $9,000. But a person with an income of $10,000 will. The $100,000 earner might be much more tempted to cheat on their taxes, something the $10,000 earner might not be as tempted to do. And right you are, the middle class won't be tempted by disability or cheating on their taxes. They're going after the placards. (Of course, middle class in S.F. might be defined as $100,000 or even higher. I just used round numbers as an example).

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

Disabled parking is also easier to obtain that SSA disability payments. A lot easier. You just have to have a friendly doctor check the box and sign the form.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

tomatogrower said... It's not that welfare and disability gets people out of poverty; it's that it's actually better than being treated like dirt, paid little...

Do you think folks on welfare are not treated like dirt?

Have you read the comments about people receiving government assistance on this forum?

kathy white 2 years, 9 months ago

I happen to know of several people who wanted to be disabled and were. Several of them were men trying to elude paying child support. You see, you don't have to pay any if you are disabled. Then there is one who just didn't want to work anymore and could find no other way to draw his retirement early. Now he sits home and does whatever he wants while I work 40 hours + per week. Then there are the numerous people who use drug addiction or alcoholism as a reason to draw disability. This leaves them free to indulge in their habits without the constraints of a job. It takes time to get disability but it isn't that difficult. Also, people who haven't worked cannot draw SSD, that is true....however, they can easily draw a check from SSI disability.

kathy white 2 years, 9 months ago

All the ones I know used mental health reasons such as anxiety, ADHD, PTSD and I even know one who pretended he couldn't read so as to be considered low IQ. They got an attorney who specializes in disability as well. The attorney works for a cut of the initial payout which could be sizeable since it takes so long for the process to work. It is very sad. One of them makes more money per month than I do and I make an excellent salary in the MidWest for a woman. Then I still have to pay 35%+ in taxes so they can enjoy themselves while I work. It is disheartening and it is wrong.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

How did they fool the doctors, etc. that the SSA uses to determine eligibility?

Also, if you're sure they're faking, did you notify the authorities so they can investigate? If not, how do you think we can reduce this sort of thing?

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

Shenanigans. You are still liable for child support even if you are collecting disability.

"Under federal law, a state such as Michigan is allowed to garnish a person's SSDI wages from the Social Security Administration. The state can garnish up to 60 percent of the person's wages if he isn't supporting another family and up to 50 percent if he is."

http://www.ehow.com/info_12052029_can-state-michigan-garnish-va-disability-income-ssdi-income-back-child-support.html

In addition any tax refund is taken to help reduce the child support debt.

kathy white 2 years, 9 months ago

I never claimed there was no child support liability. I simply said they did it to avoid paying child support. And, we do not live in Michigan. You are right that any tax refund is taken to help reduce the child support debt. However, none of the people I know are paying any tax or receiving any refund. They are not employed!

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

Uh...apparently you aren't aware that SSDI is disability.

And, yes, their disability check can be garnished for child support in any state.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

They would not be successful at avoiding paying child support as it is Federal law that says states (such as Michigan for an example) can garnish disability payments for child support.

SSDI benefits can be taxable (dependent on AGI) and people taxed on them can receive a refund due to tax credits and deductions. You don't have to be employed to be taxed or to receive a refund.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

Wanting to reform entitlement programs is not the same thing as ending them. Is having a free cell phone with 250 free minutes a month a human right?

progressive_thinker 2 years, 9 months ago

Or try getting to emergency services. Ronald Reagan recognized this when the assistance program was started in 1984.

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

Curse that Reagan for starting the Lifeline program to provide low income people with discount phone access through the FCC, and double curse that Bush for expanding it to include cell phones.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

These threads would be so much better if both sides would end the tiresome straw man arguments. "All republicans want sick and vulnerable people to be left to suffer, so they can be even richer than they already are" and "all democrats are morally bankrupt leeches." Would be so much more productive to engage in a thoughtful discussion that actually brought the issues into clearer focus. How about addressing the editorial's points?

George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

What are you doing on here? Reason is not allowed.

deec 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's start ending the entitlement state by ending payments to agribusiness, ALL energy businesses (particularly the ones who've been subsidized for nearly a century) and corporate farmers for doing their jobs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

"Government will provide for the national defense and protect our borders. "

The War Dept is the biggest entitlement there is.

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 9 months ago

And the department of defense is the most inefficient and wasteful entity our tax dollars support...even more so now that the republicraps have decided to privatize the war machine. Stop the madness! Our corporate citizens are international and trade with china, russia, etc... there are no enemies in the new world order and therefore we should not be spending so much money on 'defense'.

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 9 months ago

Response to the headline:
"Wow! You mean George Will is finally willing to cut off the Kochs, the Waltons and Goldman Sachs?"

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

I am not aware of all of Will's opinions, but think I've seen enough of his pieces to make an educated guess that he does NOT favor corporate welfare.

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 9 months ago

We need to make friends with the world so the defense contractor entitlement program can be cut: Lockheed Martin received 36-billion dollars last year in government contracts; Boeing 31-billion dollars in government contracts; Northrop Grumman 28-billion dollars; General Dynamics 25-billion dollars; Raytheon 23-billion dollars in government contracts; Oshkosh 7-billion dollars; Honeywell 5-billion dollars; General Electric 5-billion dollars... Being the world's police force is an unsustainable proposition.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't think Will et al. really want to end government entitlements. They want to end entitlements just for the poor and infirm, for those who can't do for themselves.

What's the saying? "There, but for the grace of god, go I".

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

Right, because the system is never abused or manipulated just like welfare

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

Sigh. Yet another bit of intellectual dishonesty from Georgy.

With Ryan's Ascent, A Few Thoughts On 'Entitlement' by GEOFF NUNBERG

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/14/158756957/with-ryans-ascent-a-few-thoughts-on-entitlement

Excerpts--

""Entitlement" originally had two separate meanings, which entered the language along very different paths. One sense of the word was an obscure political legalism until the advent of the Great Society programs that some economists called "uncontrollables." Technically, entitlements are just programs that provide benefits that aren't subject to budgetary discretion. But the word also implied that the recipients had a moral right to the benefits. As LBJ said in justifying Medicare: "By God, you can't treat Grandma this way. She's entitled to it."

The negative connotations of the word arose in another, very distant corner of the language, when psychologists began to use a different notion of entitlement as a diagnostic for narcissism. Both of those words entered everyday usage in the late 1970s, with a big boost from Christopher Lasch's 1979 best-seller The Culture of Narcissism, an indictment of the pathological self-absorption of American life. By the early '80s, you no longer had to preface "sense of entitlement" with "unwarranted" or "bloated." That was implicit in the word "entitlement" itself, which had become the epithet of choice whenever you wanted to scold a group like the baby boomers for their superficiality and selfishness.

snip

it's only when critics get to the role of government that the two meanings of "entitlement" start to seep into each other. On the one hand, the psychological sense of the word colors its governmental meaning. When people fulminate about the cost of government entitlements these days, there's often the implicit modifier "unearned" lurking in the background. And that in turn makes it easier to think of those programs as the cause of a wider social malaise — that they create what critics call a "culture of dependency" or a class of "takers," which are basically ways of referring to what the Victorians called the undeserving poor.

That isn't a new argument. The early opponents of Social Security charged that it would discourage individual thrift and reduce Americans to the level of Europeans. But now the language itself helps make the argument, by using the same word for the political cause and the cultural effects. You can deplore "the entitlement society" without actually having to say whether you mean the social or political sense of the word, or even acknowledging that there's any difference. It's a strategic rewriting of linguistic history, as if we call the programs entitlements simply because people feel entitled to them."

continued

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

continued

"But to make that linguistic fusion work, you have to bend the meanings of the words to fit. When people rail about the cost of government entitlements, they're thinking of social benefit programs like Medicare, not the price supports or the tax breaks that some economists call hidden entitlements. And what people call the culture of entitlement is elastic enough to include both the high school senior who's been told he has a right to get into Harvard and the out-of-work plumber who isn't bothering to look for a job because he knows his unemployment check is in the mail. But it rarely stretches to include the hedge-fund manager who makes a life model of Ayn Rand's Howard Roark, who is the most conspicuous monster of entitlement in all of modern American literature.

No question, it would be useful to have an adult conversation about entitlement and entitlements. Not that politicians or pundits are about to abandon the words or the semantic sleight of hand that's built into them. But with more people paying close attention, those moves may be a little harder to get away with."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

Some of us enjoy the youtube fabric you weave here.

George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

I thought the other half of entitlements are call tax expenditures. Most "corporate welfare" fits there although EIC is a tax expenditure. IMHO we certainly should look there.

Both parties have suggested reducing these but neither has been particularly expansive. My tax expenditure is critical to the nation while yours is an abject waste. Anybody think the people (us) would agree to such cuts??

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Boiled down, are you saying that government policy regarding hand outs of taxpayer dollars ought to take into consideration the notion that corporations can be seen as "takers" just like individuals can? I don't think most thoughtful people would argue otherwise. The issues raised by the editorial seem timely and ought to be of interest to taxpayers and those who care about good government policy. I don't think Will's piece says that corporate welfare is good. How about assessing Will's assertions. Does data back up what he says? Then, an interesting contrast can be drawn between waste/fraud in programs like disability vs. waste/fraud in corporate welfare. Maybe would lead to the topic Should there be corporate welfare? And/or, if there are not adequate controls to avoid fraud and abuse, should a program be changed so taxpayers aren't getting shafted?

Wondering if you can elaborate on your comment about Roark the "most conspicuous monster..." Just like to know what you mean.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

No one would be opposed to any politician saying that fraud, abuse and waste should be reduced or even eliminated in any government program.

But that's not what's behind the linguistic fraud in the use of the term "entitlement," as Geoff Nunberg described so well in the article excerpted above.

What's lacking in Will's column is any recognition of the class warfare that underlies the sneering use of the word "entitlement". No recognition that the debate on entitlements is based wholly on the notion that anyone who gets any sort of entitlement is, as Nunberg points out, "what the Victorians called the undeserving poor."

Nowhere is there any discussion of what would happen if the cuts that Ryan has been pushing would actually be implemented. No discussion of the misery of grinding poverty that would be certain to follow. No mention of the abandonment of millions of retirees to a shortened lifespan caused by homelessness, malnutrition and lack of access to healthcare.

And neither Will nor Nicholas Eberstadt are talking about the "greed is good" Wall Street sociopaths and captains of industry such as Roark who have the greatest sense of entitlement of all.

George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

Another bozo straw man. Exactly who are all theses sneering people who denigrate the "poor? Since we spend almost $60,000 on each poor person it would seem that if those sneering people exist we do not listen to them.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

--- Let's talk about entitlements. Republicans cost the USA too much money!

--- Republican ENTITLEMENT EXPANDING FLATFORM SINCE 1980.

--- This ENTITLEMENT - TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist = Grab Your Wallets! http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

--- This ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many $$ trillions (Cost taxpayers $1.4 trillion), Plus millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

--- This ENTITLEMENT Bailing out the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud cost consumers $ trillions, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

--- This ENTITLEMENT - Bush/Cheney implied many financial institutions were at risk instead of only 3? One of the biggest lies perpetrated to American citizens. Where did this money go? Why were some banks forced to take bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

--- RECKLESS Tax cuts = THE ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy which do nothing to make an economy strong or produce jobs. Tax cuts are a tax increase to others in order to make up the loss in revenue = duped again. Bush Tax Cuts aka

--- MEET THE ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class = duped one more time. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Still unsure what you mean about the Roark comment. If a person builds a business lawfully and gets very rich, is there anything wrong with that? The "greed" movie line quote doesn't capture, I don't believe, what rabid free marketers truly think. Greed implies a fixed pie, like a greedy kid at a birthday party eating more than his share of cake. Free marketers believe that one person's success (riches) doesn't necessarily "deprive" anyone else of anything. If done lawfully, business success means that a person is providing a good or service that people want.

You realize it's easy to flip around the class warfare comment, right? Those 1% ers are all a bunch of sociopaths.....

Disagree with you that the debate is based wholly on the notion that those who get entitlements are the undeserving poor. People who think there are too many people dependent on the government and that fraud and abuse of programs ought to be reduced do NOT necessarily think the entire program ought to be cut, or that all "entitlement" programs ought to be ended. Another straw man. Even those on the far right think there ought to be a safety net. What is at issue is How large should it be? To what degree does the net discourage individual initiative and productivity? What would people's finances look like today if certain government policies hadn't been in place for decades. Would they save more for their retirement? Their healthcare? Tuition? If government hadn't pushed the idea that everyone ought to own a home? What harm has been caused by making promises to citizens that can't be met? Greece comes to mind. Wishing the financial mess to go away won't make it go away. It makes it worse. And yes, politicians from both sides share the blame. Now, let's fix it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

The real facts of the last 30 years say you're wrong-- the wealthy have been getting much wealthier while the middle class has been shrinking dramatically.

So for all practical purposes, the pie is fixed. It is a zero sum game. At any given point in time there is a limited amount of goods and services available, and the portion of that pie going to the wealthy has increased at everyone else's expense.

And if you want to know what the world would look like without the entitlements, look at what things were like before they existed-- it was not a pretty picture.

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

From Boz. "And if you want to know what the world would look like without the entitlements, look at what things were like before they existed-- it was not a pretty picture". Yes like those evil Pilgrams - you know the ones who began the country. The Pilgrams had a policy that stated simply If you don't work you don't eat. That policy was a result of able bodied people who refused to do their share.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

The Pilgrims wouldn't have lasted more than a couple of years if they hadn't gotten considerable help from the Indians whose land they eventually stole.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

There are many reasons why the middle class has stagnated, and I doubt mainstream economists would say that the main cause is that wealthy people somehow took their money away. The realities of the global economy and emerging technology come to mind. Should the wealthy pay more taxes? Sure-- but even enormous hikes to their tax rates barely scratch the surface of fixing our financial mess. Demonizing the wealthy doesn't help. Though it makes some people feel good .

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

That's exactly what mainstream economists say, from what I've read.

Wealth has continued to migrate to the top of the chain, and away from the bottom and middle.

CEO/average salary ratios were about 30-50/1 in the '50's - now they're about 300-500/1 - just one example.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I would guess that the percentage of Americans that are labeled as disabled today is significantly larger than say a century ago. If that group continues to grow as the definition of disabled is expanded, having a built in percentage of disabled/poor is going to continue the trend towards a widening wealth gap.

Look at it this way, say there is 1 million disabled/poor and you begin calculating the wealth gap between the poor and the rich. You will come up with some set of numbers. If however, you begin your calculations with 5 million disabled/poor, you're going to come up with very different numbers. Yes, the wealthy are getting wealthier. But the disabled number is growing as we continue to expand the notion of who is disabled.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

That may be true as well.

And/or there also may be more disabled people, and/or we're not just letting them die.

Hard to evaluate from what I know so far.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I wasn't thinking of people that we're not letting die. I was thinking more along the lines of something that's been around for a long time, not considered a disability but then suddenly becomes reclassified as a disability. Suddenly, everyone that had this non disabling issue has one and the numbers of disabled explodes.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

Please provide an example of where people had non-disabling issues that are now considered disability and qualify them for disability payments.

Also, please show examples of people who had what were considered non-disabling issues and who held jobs and then were classified as disabled and received disability payments instead of continuing their employment.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

When I first began in social services, the DSM III was still in use. Long time ago, I know. Compare it to the DSM currently in use and you will find many, many examples of the changing nature of how we view a wide variety of mental health problems. Homosexuality is no longer a mental health problem while things like ADHD have seen the numbers diagnosed with this explode. Same with disease of additions. Of course, there's no reason to believe the next version of the DSM won't offer more changes.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps you think the answer was overly broad. But look back at your question and ask yourself if you think that's the type of question appropriate to some anonymous forum such as this. It's a fine question, perhaps one that if I were taking a class on the hill some instructor might ask. But you and I have not yet elevated out relationship to that of student/teacher. If you really, really want an answer to that question, do a bit of research and find the answer. It's out there. Or you can believe what you believed when this discussion began, at which point no amount of research is going to satisfy you. Either way.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

Wow. That's a really roundabout and long-winded way of saying you don't have any examples or any other kind of evidence to back up your assertions.

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

Not labeling people "disabled" doesn't mean that people don't have disabilities.

100 years ago, there were 92 million Americans. Now there are 308 million. For all we know, the percentage of people actually with disabilties are the same. And, considering that we also didn't have Social Security back then, it just seems like kind of a meaningless comparison.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

As to fixed pie, that just ignores reality. Look at economies around the world. India, china, fixed? The growth in standards of living and many other measures make clear that its not a fixed pie. In the US, indicators change over time, and yes, can indicate stagnation during certain periods of time, but the notion that the pie is fixed --it can't grow! -- is silly.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

You have to get a bit more nuanced about the notion of "zero sum".

Nobody reasonable believes that the GDP will stay exactly the same from year to year - of course it changes, and sometimes gets larger.

What is zero-sum is that in any given year, money going to one place can't simultaneously go to another.

And, over the last 30 years or so, the money in given years has been going to the top, and away from the middle and bottom, as seen by many indicators, including salaries.

If, in fact, the increases in GDP were distributed more equally, then we wouldn't see that stagnation in the middle.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Familiar with the ratios you cite about CEO compensation vs. workers'. Thoughts: - Sure, CEO compensation seems crazy. - Unless there is pressure on members of boards of directors, the status quo will likely continue, i.e. boards will pay CEOs what they think the market will bear, which in recent years seems like enormous sums. Analagous to NBA players or certain Div 1 basketbal program coaches (ah hem) and their salaries ("No way is that guy worth that much!"). He's worth what peope are willing to pay him. - I am willing to bet that an analysis of compensation for CEOs & very top executives over the last 20 years will not indicate that their compensation has any signficant effect whatsoever on the wealth of the middle class in America. Article on middle class stagnation : http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/us/politics/race-for-president-leaves-income-slump-in-shadows.html Excerpt: "The causes of income stagnation are varied and lack the political simplicity of calls to bring down the deficit or avert another Wall Street meltdown. They cannot be quickly remedied through legislation from Washington. The biggest causes, according to interviews with economists over the last several months, are not the issues that dominate the political debate. At the top of the list are the digital revolution, which has allowed machines to replace many forms of human labor, and the modern wave of globalization, which has allowed millions of low-wage workers around the world to begin competing with Americans. Not much further down the list is education, probably the country’s most diffuse, localized area of government policy. As skill levels have become even more important for prosperity, the United States has lost its once-large global lead in educational attainment." The vitriol hurled at the wealthy regarding the plight of the middle class is way out of proportion to the blame they are due. Reform tax policy, make it somewhat more progressive, increase revenues a bit that way. Doesn't begin to fix the problem though. Need an approach like Simpson Bowles (that will make changes to entitlements that will be very unpopular) along with tax reform. "Soak the rich" should not be the rallying cry – it's off-base and won't work.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Outsourcing jobs to third world countries in order to lower labor costs results in larger gains for those at the top, while eliminating jobs in this country.

And, cutting education funding helps those at the top, who can afford to send their kids to private schools, and hurts those in the middle and bottom, who can't afford that.

So 2 out of 3 of your causes help those at the top while harming the rest.

I'm not that interested in "blaming" them, but I am interested in understanding how our policies have helped increase the disparity between those at the top and the rest, and harmed the middle class, so that we can reverse that, if possible.

I agree that small changes to the tax code won't fix the problem, and that we need much more than that.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Companies outsource jobs to stay competitive on price. Which helps keep prices lower, which helps all kinds of people, middle class and others. Would you rather they hire more-expensive US labor and risk going out of business (which wouldn't help much with middle class unemployment)? It's not as though companies are teflon. All other things being equal, the lowest price provider wins (with rare exceptions for luxury goods). Agree that education (funding and other policy matters) is in need of help. But even if taxes were increased on the rich (a lot), that wouldn't make a real dent in the funding of schools. I suspect you'd find that people who define themselves as middle class would have to be tapped for tax increases to make a real difference. I wish people felt as I do -- Happy to pay more in taxes for better schools.

The frustrating thing (which the linked article makes clear) is that some causes are beyond the control of governments to effectively address. Yes, politicians can do certain things to favor the wealthy less. Bigger issue that could REALLY make a positive difference to Americans: tell people the truth about globalization and what it means for them, especially people who do not (or young people who don't plan to) get a college degree. Stress to them how competitive the global economy has become, and what it takes to succeed long-term. Give younger people a big head's up -- programs like SS and Medicare are not going to exist for them as they've existed for their grandparents. Wishing we were back in the 1950s or mid 1990s won't help. It's a different, more competive world. And we're in dept up to our eyeballs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

So destroying the manufacturing sector and the middle class is justified because they now have to buy cheap crap produced by sweatshops in China because their income has tanked so that the plutocrats (i.e., Mitt Romney) can rake in millions for their contribution to the Great Race to the Bottom (for everyone but themselves.)

What you really support is class warfare, even if you're too ideologically crippled to recognize it.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

What entity do you accuse of "destroying the manufacturing sector"? Do you think companies gleefully shut down? Of course they want to succeed and stay afloat, and if the only way to do that is to stay competitive with companies around the globe, they may have to reduce costs, which might include hiring less-expensive labor. What else are they to do? Your comment makes no sense to me.

Your last sentence is completely unsupported. Name one thing I wrote that indicates I support class warfare. If you weren't so embittered about the fact that some wealthy people are smug and greedy, perhaps you could better focus on solutions that might actually help middle and lower class folks (like better preparing them for the realities of our nation's and the world's economy).

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

If you can't get a job, it doesn't really matter what prices are, right?

The first need is for employment, and outsourcing tons of jobs to other countries has removed them from this country.

I'm not sure that's true - in addition to increasing the marginal rate, we could also make a number of changes in the tax structure that would provide a fair amount of revenue that could be used for schools. The real problem is that those on the right want to de-fund them.

What good does it do to tell people about the global economy if they can't get a job?

Politicians could do many things that would help employment in the US, but they'd have to get very strict with business, and that won't happen, because of the corruption and influence that moneyed interests have in our government.

Krugman had a very interesting analysis of the effects of deregulation starting with Reagan, and provided a lot of good useful information, that showed that for most of us, and for the government, deregulation was a negative thing. So, why did it continue for so long? His answer is that those at the top did quite well.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Consumers are not a monolith and there are costs & benefits to the actions we're talking about. For example, let's say 300 people in Ohio lose their jobs because the company they work for can't compete unless it outsources jobs overseas. But in the end, products that those people AND thousands or millions of other consumers buy may be less expensive. Those thousands or millions of other consumers don't celebrate when they see prices lower. It probably barely registers. But they then have income to spend, save or invest that they would not have otherwise had. Of course, those workers that lost their jobs paid a huge price. It's sad. But the consumers who benefit should not be ignored. That's a boon to them. That help raise their standard of living. That aspect of the scenario is a good thing. What I am saying is let's figure out how to help those 300 workers and the many thousands like them who are affected by the change in the world's economy. Your 3rd paragraph misses the point -- they need to be marketable, and while this may be very tough for older workers, it's irresponsible NOT to sound the alarm for younger workers. Those $50 an hour union jobs with benefits that do not require any degree beyond high school (maybe not even high school) are fast disappearing. It's not your fault, my fault, Mitt Rommey's fault or the Koch brothers fault. What are they "many things" politicians can do to help employment? Other than soudning the alarm and shifting resources perhaps to subsidizing trianing for workers, what do they do? enact protecitonist policies that end up hurting consumers? Deregulation is a tangent. I think we're talking more about tax and trade policy here.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd rather have more people employed than have fewer employed but able to buy more toys.

American workers can't possibly compete with foreign labor, because foreign labor costs are just much lower, because costs of living are much lower in those countries.

The point of the comment on deregulation is that politicians routinely enact policies that are good for those at the top, even if they're bad for everybody else, because of the corruption and influence of money in politics.

That's why they will probably never do things they could do to reign in business even more.

And, yes, I would enact more "protectionist" policies, to protect jobs in this country. I might even go so far as to create legislation that requires companies (wherever their headquarters are) to employ the same percentage of Americans as the percentage of business they get from customers here.

If people don't have jobs, it doesn't matter that prices are lower - they can't buy anything without money.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

You use the word "toys" -- what makes you think that the goods that may have lower prices for consumers are frivolous toys? How about clothes? Electronics that make peoples' lives easier and better (or are things like basic cell phones just toys that people don't need, so it's perfectly OK to enact policies that make them too expensive for lower income people to afford?). I can't put myself in the shoes of someone arrogant enough to think he ought to have the power to decide what people "need." Or what is just a toy.

Deregulation is such a huge, diverse topic that it's hard to know what you're referring to. Generally, regulation raises the prices people have to pay for goods, and can also reduce job growth. Of course, no one seriously argues that factories ought to be able to pollute freely, for example. Some regulations are clearly in the public interest (prevent companies from harming others through negative externalities, like pollution) and some are very burdensome without a good rationale for protecting the public, and some are huge power-grabs by the government that without question raise prices, reduce consumer choice and degrade service. Airline deregulation was smart and very successul. And as an aside, there are plenty of examples of large corporations that don't argue much if at all against regulations that pertain to their businesses. Why? Because they know that government regulations always hurt smaller competitiors far more than large companies, even driving them out of business. People who decry lack of regulation ought to consider that regulation can be a boon to big business.

I don't want to live in a world where the cost of living rises signficantly for everyone, including those who can least afford it, because of heavy-handed government rules that "protect" workers. The prudent, long-term solution is to adapt to the way the world is changing. In 1900, about 36% of Americans were engaged in agriculture; today, it's about 2% The economic landscape changes, people can and should adapt as it is in the best interest of all concerned. Change can be difficult and as noted eariler, government policies and the education establishment can help. Short-sighted policies that actually hurt consumers is not a good way to face the challenges. You say "if people don't have jobs..." -- that's the point. Take action to help them be marketable so they can get jobs. Keeping our heads in the sand makes no sense.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Yes, I deliberately used the word "toys", because you used the word "consumers".

Again, without jobs, all the rest is irrelevant, and you can't afford to buy anything at all.

Given the differences in costs of living in third world countries, no attempt to make American workers "marketable" will ever work - you're dooming people to failure, and telling them to try harder.

I continue to advocate for policies that will keep jobs here, rather than policies which will move them to other countries.

If one of us is keeping their head in the sand, I'd have to say it's you, with your insistence that people "adapt", and "market" themselves more, when the jobs just aren't there, and won't magically appear.

And, with your failure to notice that policies over the last 30 years or so, of deregulation, etc. have helped to create a large concentration of wealth at the top of the food chain, and stress for everybody else.

The particular deregulation Krugman referred to was the deregulation of the financial sector, starting with the savings and loan mess. Those on the right still argue against regulation of that, and many have promised to repeal the recent attempt to regulate it.

If you're really interested in his argument, I recommend you read his book, "Stop this depression now!" - I don't agree with all of his solutions, but I think he does an excellent job of describing the problems, and the causes of them.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

It takes little effort to find out what jobs are in demand now and what are predicted to be jobs in demand in the future. It isnt magic. Quick google search. Should also be widely discussed in every high school. They do not all require a college or associates degree. The protectionist approach results in higher prices and huge sectors of our economy that can't compete in what is increasingly a global marketplace. That translates into more companies failing (or at least stagnating) and less buying power for everyone which would be disasterous for middle and low income people. I would think people would recoil from that "solution." The magical thinking is that somehow we can tax the wealthy out of our financial mess and that government by fiat can impose an employment/protectionist scheme that won't be far worse than the current situation. As for regulation of the financial sector, plenty of examples of dumb policies. Ok, let's have better policies.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

What jobs are replacing all of the ones that have been outsourced? And, what's the incentive for American companies to hire, without regulation and government involvement, especially when demand is low?

You know, we did great in the '50's, when we had lots of American companies, employers provided defined benefit pension plans, people could support a family on one income, etc.

I wonder why it worked then, but you say it wouldn't work now?

If CEO salaries and profits weren't so high, that money could be distributed more to employees, and/or more people could be employed.

We would need much more regulation - we can't just do one or two things and expect to fix the situation, as it's complex. But each problem is better fixed with regulation than with laissez-faire thinking, to my mind.

In addition to the need for jobs, I think part of the problem is that people feel they "need" the latest Ipod every year, or new computer, tv, etc. Back in the '50's, people lived a bit differently - they bought a tv and kept it for a long time, fixing it if it broke. So, while I definitely want everybody to be able to live comfortably, I would rather have 2 people working who can buy a tv and keep it for some years than 1 person working who can buy one each year, if that's the kind of choice we face.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Couldn't agree more that Americans are, in essence, spoiled. Clearly, people are less conservative with their finances than they were 40 or 50 years ago. Sure hope the downturn has to some degree changed that.

One example of easily accessed advice on trends regarding employment: http://www.careerplanner.com/Career-Articles/Hot_Jobs.cfm If you read it, you'll see a wide variety of job types are mentioned, some skilled, some requiring a college degree, some requiring no college degree, or maybe requiring apprenticeship or technical school. I mentioned earlier the fact that far, far fewer people make their living through agricutlure today than 100 years ago. Those workers ended up taking other types of jobs to earn a living. Do you really think the government should have said to farmers "You cannot buy this new technology called a tractor and reduce the number of people you employ because those workers will have to find other jobs, and that's just too hard."? The reason the 50's "worked" the way you describe but that way doesn't work now is that globalization has changed the realities of the labor market. Imposing by government fiat what companies pay in wages and benefits and other aspects of running a business along with protectionist policies that drive up the cost of goods will mean that capital will flow out of the US to other parts of the world, our economy will contract drastically, which will lead to lower tax revenues, unemployment and misery, especially for the middle class and low income folks. I believe it would be a recipe for disaster. Even if it were "fair" to take corporate assets (they have too much and they are "sitting on it") and tax the wealthy at much higher rates, that would not solve the problem of underfunded entitlements. The radical, big-government suggestion you make would make the state of our economy and the lives of most Americans far, far worse than they currently are. Everyone feels bad that the loss of manufacturing jobs has hurt so many people. We have to make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

And, the "realities of the labor market", as you put it, are that American workers can't compete with third world labor costs.

So,. where are all the new jobs going to come from, if that's the case?

The difference between agricultural changes and the current situation is that other jobs were available in this country for those that lost work because of those changes. When the jobs are shipped overseas, other jobs aren't magically available here.

For example, there was now work to be found making, repairing, servicing tractors.

As I said, we'd have to do a lot of regulating, including ways to prevent the problem you mention.

Simply requiring CEO/average salaries to be a more reasonable ratio wouldn't have such drastic effects, I think. As I said, we all did fine in the '50's with 30-50/1 ratios.

What's your suggestion, by the way, other than urging people to "market" themselves, which seems unlikely to create more jobs?

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

I included one link that provided lots of information about in-demand jobs/future jobs. There's plenty of information about the topic that can be easily accessed. It's a fact of life that something must be in demand for people to want it, including job skills. Those farm workers no doubt went through disruption and probably lots of relocation to adjust to the reduced demand for the kind of work they used to do. Just like the need to repair tractors, as you note, today fields like healthcare and anything to do with seniors (eg devices that make them more mobile or secure, housing for elderly, etc) are growing and companies are hiring. Might some people have to move to places where companies are hiring to improve their prospects? Sure - and that's been true for millennia. I gave my suggestion-- people should adapt, government policy can help in many ways. The enormous expansion of govt control and power you advocate is frightening and would be counterproductive, I have no doubt. "We'd have to do a lot of regulating..." Which wouldn't help, but only empower politicians and ultimately hurt the people who most need help.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

What you mainly said about government is that it can't do much to help.

I disagree that all that's necessary is for people to "adapt", and that government doesn't have a vital role to play.

That's the sort of thinking that's created the problems we now face in this regard.

As people age, there certainly may be some more jobs in fields related to that, but I can't imagine that's enough to offset the huge losses from outsourcing, downsizing, etc.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

--- The repub party declared the day Obama was elected their primary function would be to make Obama a one term president.

--- Consequently their millions of NO votes became the disastrous campaign against women,The USA ,new economic growth and jobs for Americans.

--- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

"For every 100 industrial workers in December 2010, there were 73 “workers” receiving disability payments. " 73% of the US is receiving disability?

Armstrong 2 years, 9 months ago

27%, reading the article helps when you want to argue a point.

beatrice 2 years, 9 months ago

Entitlements like a $70,000 tax deduction for a fancy dancing horse, is that the type of entitlement Will is talking about? The ability to avoid paying taxes by hiding money in accounts in the Cayman Islands? How about the more than $4 billion a year to oil companies despite their record profits? The system favors the wealthy and it needs to be fixed.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 9 months ago

"What ever happened to rugged individualism and feeling shame from taking Government money."

Yeah, how dare the elderly, infirm, handicapped, and insane. They must all think that the government owes them a living. They could at least be making themselves useful. Medical experiments might be an option for them to earn their keep.

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

Then go after the people who are ripping off the system. But when poor people need a little help give it to them. Are we going to let people starve, because of some crooks?

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

Government assistance programs such as TANF have a lifetime limit on how long one can collect. This has been in place since 1996 when the last welfare reform was passed.

Additionally, most of the fraud involving food stamps (and healthcare) is from businesses, not individuals. http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/millions-commit-food-stamp-fraud-every-year

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/05/business/medicare-fraud-charged-against-91.html?_r=0

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 9 months ago

Oh, and I forgot poor children. Their small hands must be able to do some kind of detailed work. Sewing, maybe?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

What harmed indigenous people was genocide and theft of their lands and way of life.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

Didn't the exact same thing happen in the USA?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

Ah, the dance of the straw men. Do you dress them in leotards, or would that be too gay for you?

George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

In the endt it is not about helping people! It is about making more and more dependent on the Democratic Party so they will vote Democratic to preserve their "entitlements". It is about power for those pushing that notion.

There should be two types of entitlements

  1. Short term to return people to work
  2. Long term for those unable to "work. or who can not earn enough to properly care for themselves (not buy their pot)!

johnwoods 2 years, 9 months ago

You imply that it is only democrats that are using entitlements... I am almost certain that is not the case!

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

The total economic aid to Turkey and Egypt is greater than the economic aid to Israel. And, all of the the economic aid to Israel goes straight back to the USA to purchase defensive weapons.

I was a patient recently in a VA hospital, and I talked to a man who was on his death bed, Hep C, and some problem with his pancreas. He came back to Kansas from Arizona to die here, so that he could be buried next to his deceased wife in Manhattan, I think it was.

I don't know how common it is for people to lie on their deathbeds, but if he was telling the truth, Israel doesn't have a thing to worry about. Back in the 1960s there was a transfer made without the knowledge of the President of the USA, and so, if Israel gets in a really bad way, the capitals of every one of the Arab countries could be eliminated, with plenty of firepower to spare.

It's one notch above "Top Secret", though, so I don't really know. And, maybe people lie on their deathbed all the time. He was really upset that he was going to have to face G-d with what all he had done for his country.

There was more too,,, Wow!

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't know how safe I would feel with 50 year old transferred "stuff" :-)

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

There's a tidbit that's rather interesting which you will come across if you read enough in the Israeli press.

And that is, what is Israel going to do after the USA implodes? A lot of Israelis don't believe that the USA has a long term future, and Israel has a plan in place for that.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

There's something else that I have never seen in the Western press, it seemed to have been covered only in Israeli news sources. And that is, the massive crude oil and natural gas reserves that have only very recently been discovered in Israel.

President Obama never bothered to visit Israel, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia saw fit to do so twice in the last two months. On his most recent visit, he visited the Wailing Wall, and prayed (A Communist prayed! Wow!) that the Jewish people could soon rebuild their Temple. Meanwhile, Gazprom was busy signing contracts for Israel's crude oil and natural gas. The USA was nowhere in sight, apparently not interested in any crude oil or any natural gas.

Of course, the Dome on the Rock (Noble Sanctuary aka Al-Aqsa Mosque) would have to be destroyed in order to rebuild the Temple. The Russians don't care about that, they want that crude oil and natural gas, and the Islamic world was infuriated.

Sometimes I wonder how many people read news sources from all over the world. Judging from some of the comments I read here, there obviously aren't very many.

So exactly who is doing a favor with foreign aid that comes right back to the donor country?

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

Whoops, no crude oil has been found in Israel, what has been found is unimaginable amounts of natural gas. Israel seems to be wavering between selling it to Europe or Russia.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

Whoops, no crude oil has been found in Israel. What has been found is unimaginable amounts of natural gas.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

Israel is not an "entitlement state."

The article is rather long, this is only excepts from: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/1dbda574-f16d-11e1-a553-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2AoVyZKnb

After decades of importing every drop of fuel, Israel has struck it rich, uncovering vast reserves of natural gas in the Mediterranean.

For more than half an hour, all there is to see is the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Then suddenly a hulking mass of brightly painted steel rises from the midday haze. Towering more than 100m above the water, this is the Sedco Express, a drilling rig that has been operating in this stretch of ocean for almost three years. As the helicopter touches down on the landing pad, we see a small blue and white Star of David flag fluttering in the wind. It is the only sign that the Sedco Express sits atop one of the greatest treasures that Israel has ever found. Far below, connected to the rig by a slender steel pipe that runs through 1,700m of ocean and another 4,500m of rock and sand, lies a vast reservoir of natural gas known as the Tamar field.

The men on board the Sedco Express are busy testing the field’s multiple wells in preparation for the long-awaited day next April, when a US-Israeli consortium will start pumping the gas onshore. With reserves of almost 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the Tamar field is a hugely valuable asset for the Israeli economy. Discovered in January 2009, it was the biggest gas find in the world that year, and by far the biggest ever made in Israeli waters. But the record held for barely two years. In December 2010, Tamar was dwarfed by the discovery of the Leviathan gas field some 20 miles farther east – the largest deep water gas reservoir found anywhere in the world over the past decade. The two fields, together with a string of smaller discoveries, will cover Israel’s domestic demand for gas for at least the next 25 years, and still leave hundreds of billions of cubic feet for sale abroad. The government take from the gas fields alone is forecast to reach at least $140bn over the next three decades – a staggering sum for a relatively small economy such as Israel’s.

Experts are convinced that Tamar and Leviathan will not be the last big Israeli discoveries. They point to the US Geological Survey, which estimates that the subsea area that runs from Egypt all the way north to Turkey, also known as the Levantine Basin, contains more than 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Israeli waters account for some 40 per cent of the total. Should these estimates be confirmed through discoveries in the years ahead, Israel’s natural gas reserves would count among the 25 largest in the world, on a par with the proven reserves of Libya and ahead of those of India and The Netherlands. For decades a barren energy island, forced to import every drop of fuel, Israel today stands on the cusp of an economic revolution, fueled by the vast riches that lie below its waters.

JohnBrown 2 years, 9 months ago

George Will said: "...with the degradation of democracy. This degradation consists of piling up public debt that binds unconsenting future generations ..."

Wow..

Reagan doubled the national debt, and George W. doubled it again. In fact, Republican presidents have added more to the national debt than all the Democratic presidents. Where was George then?

O'Bama inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from George W., AND an economy in free fall... , the economy was losing 800,000+ jobs a month when O'Bama took office, and all .after 8 years of massive tax breaks for so-called "job creators" and two wars not being paid for.

And NOW George Will gets upset with debt piling up? Give me a break.

If you want big government telling you, or your wife or your daughter. what she can...and can't do with her body, then vote for the RINO's*. But if you believe in individual freedom, vote for the Democrats.

JohnBrown

*Note: Today's so-called Republicans are not real Republicans, they are RINOs: Republicans in Name Only.

deec 2 years, 9 months ago

What's really silly about the arguments is that the economy historically does better under Democratic administrations.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamhartung/2012/10/10/want-a-better-economy-history-says-vote-democrat/

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Well, at least you finally noticed that - I've been saying it for some time.

It's a good reason to conclude that Obama is hardly "far left" in many respects.

But, why on earth you think Romney would be better in the respects you mention is hard to understand.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

As I've pointed out numerous times in the past, Obama has been criticized by those on the left for years now.

Politicians often make decisions for "political" reasons - there's no good reason to think Romney wouldn't do the same thing.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

Determining whether someone has a valid disability claim or not sometimes comes down to three factors:

1) How many times have the police become involved?

2) How many inpatient stays has the person had in a psychiatric ward, and how long was the total time spent there?

3) How many different psychiatrists has the patient seen?

After it is no longer possible to accurately answer all three of those questions, there might be a problem.

hedshrinker 2 years, 9 months ago

I am a medical professional and have frequently filled out the tortuously complicated, multipage questionnaires for disability application. The only one of the questions you cite that has any accuracy is #2. I have never been asked anything about police involvement. The applicant is required to report any medical consultant to the disability examiners and sign releases for records request.s. I don't think the @ of providers figures in much if at all. The assigned disability examiner reviews all the medical records and questionnaires and often has a doctor or psychologist of their own who interviews the applicant directly. the process takes many months, if not years, is frequently denied first time around and is reviewed every few years with basically the same process so as to stay current, I am amazed at those who think this is an easy out, get out of jail free card. Unless people have an extensive and well paid work history, their disability payment may only amount to a few hundred dollars a month. Yes, they may be eligible for other benefits, such as a pittance in foodstamps or a medical card. One of my clients who is now a senior, got 3 to 4 hundred bucks a month, in disability, was eligible for public housing which takes a specified percentage of yr disability, I think 30 percent. When after months on the waiting list she got housing, they reduced her foodstamps fr around 100 a month to 25 (b/c of her "income). Nobody would work this hard for so little if they weren't desperately in need,

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

hedshrinker, I believe, but I could be wrong, that you are talking about SSI or SSDI, and I am aware that they are very, very different, I was thinking about the Veteran's Administration disability and the papers for the discharge of Federal Student loans.

I don't really know how many pages the VA disability application is because I was out of that loop in the psych ward, but it was awarded to me within two months. And, the payment is considerably more than a few hundred dollars a month for a wartime veteran. And, medical care is 100% covered, no copay. But, these days there is a very long backlog, so it now takes much longer.

But I have seen the application for the discharge of federal student loans, the application is only one page long, and it also takes about two months to be completed. Sometimes you have to try a couple times to get it done, though.

That's from my personal experience, the experiences of others may be different.

I try to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing, it's sort of a take on the old adage of "You have to laugh to keep from crying."

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

P.S. If anyone thinks it's worth it, boy do you have it wrong. I would love to have a normal life, but with my problems, that is simply not possible. It is a combination of genetics and circumstances. I was fortunate in that I was in the military during wartime, otherwise I would not be eligible for the program that I'm on.

"It pays to be a vet."

That's more than just a slogan, it's a reality. If any young persons are eligible for, reading this, and considering military service for our country, I would certainly urge them to do so. If you're there for your country, your country will be there for you. For the rest of your life.

Windemere 2 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for pointing out the shocking truth about Will, and all the facts you present to back it up! You do us a great service.

Actually, if you look at the federal budget, SS and Medicare/Medicaid together are roughly double what the military budget is.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

So, your position is that we don't know how much fraud there is, and there's no way to know.

Seems rather odd to me - if you're right, then it's a non-issue.

But, seems like it's quite a large issue for many people, on both sides of the aisle - those on the right are convinced that we've got tons of people scamming the systems, and want to cut funding, while those on the left are sure that's not true.

Finding out what the truth is would be the only way to resolve the issue.

On a personal note, you seem to be somebody who was very idealistic and a bit naive when you were younger, and now you've become cynical.

Also, I'm not at all sure I agree that the 18% are "deadbeats" - I'd need to see more information about that group.

But, if we agreed they were, then efforts should be made to prevent them from abusing our systems, freeing up resources for people who really need and deserve help.

Or, I suppose, we could just throw up our hands and do nothing, as you seem to prefer.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

No, I don't prefer to do nothing. In fact, I would argue that the first step in solving any problem is recognizing that a problem even exists. Read the many posts here and you will find many who deny the fraud we've been discussing even exists. You included.

I abhor theft, whether from the top or the bottom. If convicted, I believe thieves should suffer serious consequences. I think equal vigor should be used to convict thieves at the top as thieves at the bottom.

I've asked this hypothetical here before. I don't recall if it was directed at you. But if you had to say which is worse, one guy who steals $1 million or one million individuals who steal a dollar each, I would argue the latter. With the latter, there is no good solution. You can't prosecute a person for stealing a dollar and then throw him in jail. You can't (reasonably) do a thing. Yet, you have a million thieves, presumably free to continue stealing. With the guy who steals a million, you can throw him in jail and protect us all from future theft. Not so the million individuals. The fact that the amount stolen in both cases is coincidental.

As to the personal note, sure, there is some element of truth in that. But there is also a very natural tendency to become more conservative with age. "If you're young and a conservative, you have no heart. If you're old and a liberal, you have no brain". (attributed to Winston Churchill, but discredited. But whoever said it, they were exactly correct, in my opinion).

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

I never said there wasn't "any" fraud, I simply believe, from what I know about the federal disability system, is that there's not very much, and that it's quite likely many people with legitimate claims are denied.

And, I asked for any actual evidence of fraud you had, other than your belief.

So, what's your suggestion for preventing fraud? I suggested we find out how many people are abusing the system, and you said my idea was "idealistic" and unworkable.

Funny hypothetical. The real solution to crime is both consequences after the fact, and doing what we can to prevent it in the first place, which involves analyzing the causes and nature of crimes.

Throwing people in jail isn't a real solution, unless you keep them there for life - you do know that we have a very high recidivism rate, I assume?

Conservative and cynical aren't synonymous, in my book.

And, I make more distinctions about different kinds of theft than you do - all theft is not the same for me, and who steals and why they do are important for me to make judgements about it.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I said I though fraud should be fought with equal vigor, whether at the top or the bottom. Is that not sufficient?

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

It would be an extraordinary set of circumstances for me to condone theft. Theft is just wrong. We live in the most prosperous country the planet has known. Basic needs can easily be met and even if someone doesn't have the basics, that can be made up with charity, public and private, which can be easily accessed.

So analyze causes of crime, like greed, human nature, poor morals? I don't know what that means unless you suspend the notion that thievery is wrong. If you start from the premise that it might be wrong or it might not be wrong, maybe. I don't start there. Stealing is wrong, except in those most extraordinary instances.

It's what to do about it when we find out. That's been something we've struggled with since we moved out of caves. Sure, jails might not work, but neither does turning the other cheek. But at least jails make me feel good. We've tried the probation route only to see repeat offenders. We've cut off people's hands, only to become disgusted with that solution. We've hung 'em, tarred and feathered 'em. We've crucified 'em. (We being all of us, all of humanity). I can't really say what the solution is. But from experience, I'd say we have a pretty good idea about what the solution isn't. I'm pretty sure that studying the problem isn't the way to go since stealing cuts across all cultures, all ethnicities, throughout all time. The common denominator is staring at us in the mirror. It's inside all of us. Some of choose to steal while others choose not to. Not really much to study, if you ask me. The only question is what to do about it when it happens.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

I notice you didn't answer my question about your suggestions for determining how much fraud exists.

You're free to hold those beliefs about theft.

I think the causes are complex, and include social as well as personal elements. As such, I think it would be worthwhile to see if we can structure our society in ways that make it more possible for people to get decent jobs and live productive lives (perhaps even meaningful ones?).

There are of course some personal psychological or spiritual elements that social structures can't do anything about.

Why would putting people in jail make you feel good, when you know it doesn't decrease crime, and may in fact increase it?

I don't hold such rigid beliefs as you - for me, some theft is worse than other theft. And, I have more compassion for some than others, based on the circumstances.

And, frankly, theft in general isn't as bad as violent crimes, in my opinion. I'd rather have somebody steal my wallet than beat me up.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Wow, I think I'm going to get to answer a couple of questions with one fell swoop. The amount of fraud that exists, in my best guesstimation, is roughly equal to the number of crooked bankers on Wall Street. Which is equal to the number of corrupt contractors making bids on war making toys, which is equal to the number of state employees who cheat their bosses which is equal to the number of private sector employees who cheat their bosses. If forced to pick a number, I'd guess at between 15-20 percent. But less than the number of people who cheat on their income taxes, which I thin is a much higher number.

As I said, it cuts across all cultures, all the time. It has nothing to do with having a decent job, or else that 15-20 percent of Wall Street wouldn't be doing it. It cuts across all cultures, so if you're looking to re-structure society in such a way as to eliminate this behavior, you better structure your society in such a way as has never been tried, anywhere, ever. Got something in mind?

Why would it make me feel better if someone went to jail? A couple of reasons. First, I believe there should be natural consequences for all our actions, good and bad. Steal, and you go to jail. For some period of time, when that person is in jail, society will be protected from that particular thief. Not putting him in jail runs the risk he will victimize again, more quickly. So while you're suggesting that should we put him in jail, he will re-offend, I'm saying if we don't put him in jail, he will re-offend even more and will do so more quickly. He's a thief and all keeping him out of jail is doing is giving him more opportunities to steal.

Bottom line is this, you're suggesting some poor people steal because they are poor. But that doesn't explain why a rich person would steal in roughly the same numbers. A more likely explanation, in my mind is the most simple. Some people are thieves. And sure, I also would rather have my wallet stolen than be beat up. But I'd really rather be the victim of neither. And make no mistakes about it, for every crime such that we've been discussing, violent or not, there are victims.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

Well, since it's just your guess, your conclusions aren't based on much evidence.

Re-read my post - I said there are both social and personal causes, and changes in social structure don't eliminate the personal ones.

That doesn't mean we couldn't do a better job of creating decent opportunities for those at the bottom and middle.

The problem is there aren't enough positive natural consequences for many at the bottom.

And, what if, as is likely, when he's in jail, he learns about how to be a more successful thief, and perhaps even becomes hardened, so that when he comes out, he not only steals but also physically assaults people?

You also have to look at our policies, which are set up to favor those at the top, so a rich person who steals generally gets away with it, or has to pay a fine, or goes to a minimum security facility, which is more like a country club than a jail. Sometimes they even get bailed out by the government.

There are no social structures that can solve the problems of greed, etc. But we could have some much better ones, ones that reward doing the right thing. And, if we're going to punish those for not doing that, we'd better be darn sure it isn't just making things worse.

I'd favor not putting people in jail for non-violent crimes, and spending that money instead on education/job training/etc. as well as restitution.

It would be a much better outcome for me if somebody stole something from me to get that back, or be financially compensated, and to know that they're much less likely to steal something in the future, than to just throw them in jail.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's talk for a minute about facts vs. common sense, shall we. For the purposes of an example, I'm going to use the example of the recent rash of home break-ins we've seen here in Lawrence. And for the sake of this example, let's assume the number of break-ins is 100, a nice round number.

Who did the break-ins? Probably no one over the age of 90. No one over the age of 80 or 70. Probably no one over the age of 60. Fifty becomes iffy. Probably zero women. Probably no one under the age of 10. No one under the age of 12. Above that become a maybe. Probably not just one person, but equally unlikely that it was 100 people, each committing just one break-in. In fact, given that criminals likely would commit another crime when they've already got away with one, I suspect the number of individuals to be less than 90, less than 80. Probably less than 20.

I'll stop now. My point is this, Jafs. There is a lot of information that can be had with zero facts, zero research. Just a little common sense. Maybe not facts that will hold up in a court of law, where the standards of proof are very high. But there's something to be said for common sense. You can get a lot of information, if not cold hard facts.

I don't understand why you reject information, why you reject common sense. I don't understand your need for facts when we're nowhere near a court of law. There are a lot of people out there who have been eyewitnesses to lots of events. There's a world of experience out there. There's no reason to reject it if you think the story is recounted honestly.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't reject common sense or information at all.

I agree with much of your speculation about the break ins, although not all of it. But, we're talking about fraud in the disability system, and my common sense tells me that it's unlikely lots of people are scamming that system, and it's more likely people are getting denied benefits even when they're eligible.

Your argument seems to be "everybody's equally likely to steal, so I'd guess about 15% of all populations steal, which proves that everybody's equally likely to steal".

Surely you can see the circular and unconvincing logic there, I hope?

booyalab 2 years, 9 months ago

If private insurance companies have to deal with fraud, common sense should dictate that Medicare fraud exists too. However, Medicare fraud is much easier to commit than with private insurance. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/03/medicare-fraud-is-incredibly-easy-congressional-panel-hears.html "[Medical equipment] fraud is incredibly easy to commit," he said. "The primary skill required to do it successfully is knowledge of basic data entry on a computer."

My brother investigates private insurance fraud in New Orleans. It happens, of course, but it is harder to pull off than with Medicare. You have to incorporate the lie into your entire life because someone will often be filming you or checking your Facebook profile. With Medicare, the investigations are much less efficient so they are fewer and farther between. You can steal a lot of money over a longer period of time until someone catches on.

Katara 2 years, 9 months ago

The article you linked to talks about how easy it is for businesses to commit Medicare fraud (such as billing Medicare for medical equipment that is not used by the individual or billing Medicare for services never rendered). It does not state that individuals on Medicare are the ones committing the fraud.

booyalab 2 years, 8 months ago

Not that it matters, since fraud is fraud...but individuals within businesses try to commit fraud. The business itself does not have a brain and free will.

Katara 2 years, 8 months ago

Well, yes it does matter. As an individual, you can't just up & bill Medicare/or Medicaid for medical equipment. But you knew that.

You tried to equivocate fraud done by businesses through Medicare/or Medicaid with fraud done by individuals on a private insurance policy. They are not the same and the investigations for them are not the same. They are not even on the same level in terms of impact. A business can bilk Medicare/or Medicaid millions but an individual is subject to whatever the limits are of the private insurance. But you also knew that.

booyalab 2 years, 8 months ago

It sounds like you're suggesting that Medicare fraud is somehow not as bad as private insurance fraud, which is insane. Both have negative effects within the industry and to consumers. Fraud in private health insurance mostly affects the health insurance costs of people within that state. But it also affects the costs within the medical care industry on the whole. With Medicare fraud, it costs all of US taxpayers as well as increasing medical care costs. The bigger the fraud, the bigger the cost.

Katara 2 years, 8 months ago

It sounds like you need to re-read my comment if that is what you got out of it.

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