atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3999: The changeover to split blogging will not happen as scheduled.

Owing to the fact that I have had everything else to do, the change to split blogging (personal here, politics at Pixy Misa's server) has not had any of the essential work done. I haven't alluded to it, I haven't prepared anyone for the switch--least of all myself--and it's probably going to continue like that for the foreseeable future. Og's idea is a good one; I just haven't had the time.

So you can keep on tuning in here, same Fungus time, same Fungus channel, and get the same Fungus you know and love.

* * *

Today, mostly I'm talking about stuff Karl Denninger posted.

SSI is a big scam, he says. There is a record number of people on SSI, the same way there's a record number of people drawing food stamps, WIC, etcetera, etcetera.

People who have scammed the system since 2007, Denninger says, will continue to get their government cheese and not be prosecuted, because "it's a nice way to "goose" the economy to hand them money to spend when they are otherwise unwilling -- but not unable -- to get off their ass and go to work."

But there are two sides to this. Part of it is, as he posits, that plenty of folks have seen all sorts of waste, fraud, and abuse in the system, and wonder why they ought to be excluded? But the other reason comes from the employment picture, which is considerably less than rosy, and Denninger himself has repeatedly pointed out that very fact.

People who are suffering from long-term unemployment still have bills to pay, and while you can wheedle and plead your debtors for a while the bills eventually come due--and when that happens the services get shut off. You can live without cable and internet, but you can't do so well without heat, light, and water--and you'll be thrown out of your home if the municipality finds out your essential services have been cut. ("Uninhabitable," they'll say, and drag you out of your house.) But it's just as bad to be faced with losing your house, the place you've put a lot of money into buying; given a choice between foreclosure and going on disability, most people will choose the latter.

The government does not exactly make it difficult.

It's a bureaucratic process, and it takes time to wind through the thing, but while the process is adversarial it is not acrimoniously so; mostly, getting on the disability rolls requires hiring the right lawyer if your disability is not blatantly obvious. The person faced with living on the street if he can't find some sort of income is legitimately anxious and depressed, and it doesn't take much for a lawyer to convince a judge that it's disabling.

The bureaucrats at SS are similarly not terribly interested in excluding applicants. The machine sets the bar at a certain level, and anyone who can't get over the bar the first time is not excluded from trying again, over and over and with legal advice, until he makes it. The lawyer is necessary, in fact, only because the system is byzantine; absent the complexity built into the law (on purpose) anyone could navigate the flowchart and end up enrolled for benefits.

But the more people are receiving benefits, the more money SSI needs from the government; and there is no limitation set on spending since the US has run deficits for a very long time. The more money SSI spends, the more important it is politically. So you have to be a total idiot or an egregious fuckup to get thrown off disability entirely. (Most people who violate the terms will be fined but continue on SSI.)

Disability insurance comes with some stipulations, though: you can't own a home, you can't own more than one vehicle; you can work part-time but you can't earn more than a certain amount of money, and you can't have more than $X in cash on hand and all your bank accounts combined. This sounds worse than it is, though, because all you have to do is put your house and other assets in trust. You take away your direct control over them and presto! they no longer count as assets. The trust owns the house and you just live there; similarly--I would wager--you can put your extra vehicles in trust and not "own" them, at least not in such a way that it would show up on a title search or something.

The house thing I know for sure because an ex-GF of mine is on permanent disability and has her home held in trust for her under just such an arrangement; ditto for a modest inheritance she got. The vehicle thing is just a logical extension of that and may not actually hold up since I AM NOT A LAWYER and "the law is an ass", but if you can have a house and (say) a $25,000 inheritance held in trust for you and continue to receive SSI, why can't you have your car and motorcycle held in trust, too?

So there is very little downside to the whole thing, and if you have absolutely no hope of finding a job anytime soon, it actually makes sense; the only real problem is that if you've been found to be disabled because of things like anxiety and depression it may count as "being adjudicated mentally incompetent" which could negatively affect your right to keep and bear. Gnome sane?

The result being, I think Denninger is mostly right in his rant here. There are plenty of people who are gaming the system--freeloading--so that they don't have to work. But I also think there are plenty of other people who are doing it because they have very little choice in the matter.

And on the gripping hand, if there are no jobs where you live you could always move. Go to South Dakota or Texas and get an oil job, for example; it's strenuous work but you make a lot of money even without doing any overtime, and they're desperate for good people.


Other Denninger rant: The US government defaulting is not about its creditworthiness. Emphasis removed:
We are told that Congress "must" raise the debt ceiling or the government will not "meet its financial obligations." The only obligation the government has is to pay the interest and principal on the existing debt, which incidentally is about 1/10th of the tax receipts. What this President wants is the ability to spend beyond the government's ability to tax, which incidentally is exactly what Congress wants too.
Everything else in the budget--ALL OF IT--is discretionary, even the so-called entitlements.

The only line item of the federal budget which is constitutionally mandated is those payments of interest and principal of existing debts. Everything else is open to debate in Congress, and it can be changed with a simple up-or-down vote and a Presidential signature.

Denninger begins by pointing this fact out (emphasis removed):
There is a lot of hot air flying around the mainstream media on the subject of "default." First, what the media is calling "default" isn't, as I've pointed out repeatedly. To "default" on an obligation it must first be a legal obligation that you are compelled (by contract or otherwise) to perform.

There are none of those in the context of political promises. Among political promises, I remind you, are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Those are not contracts. They're political promises and subject to revision any time Congress would like. Such as now, for instance.

Want to argue with that? Go look at your annual Social Security statement -- either the older printed ones or the newfangled online one. It clearly states that Congress may change the law and thus what you receive any time it wants. There have been multiple attempts to challenge those changes in the past (as occurred when Reagan changed the retirement and tax profile) and every one of them has failed in the courts. This is settled law going back decades folks, and no amount of whining changes that fact.
If Congress passed a law tomorrow ending Social Security payouts, and Obama signed it, recipients would not have a legal leg to stand on. (They'd sue, sure, but it wouldn't do them any good.) This would end a lot of political careers but the law would remain at least as long as it took to elect new politicians.

"Entitlements" are the same. You can't summarily end them without being lynched, but there's no constitutional requirement that they be paid. And the SS administration is warning that if the US can't spend more money that it doesn't have, benefits could be cut.

And then Denninger says this:
The American people have the right to default on your demand that they keep working and paying taxes so you can keep stealing from them. This is perfectly lawful -- you cannot compel someone to work, and if they are unwilling to do so your entire house of cards comes down around your ears because there is no backing for Treasuries other than the willingness of ordinary Americans to get up and go to work.
...and there's a record number of people collecting disability insurance.

* * *

"Gestapo" is the word they use.

So the Potempkin Shutdown now includes the following closures:
1) A memorial in a park
2) Florida Bay
3) An elderly couple's house
4) Mount Rushmore
5) Old Faithful
Obama's favorite golf course, however, remains open, even though it (like the memorial, the house, the mountain, and the geyser) is on federal land.

* * *

"Wait, we supported socialized medicine! What do you mean we have to pay for it, too?" People who wanted medical care in the US to be socialized are unhappy now that they must pay for it.

People who are in favor of socialism come in two basic varieties. First, there is the power-hungry evil type, who wants socialism because he wants to be the one wearing the human-face-stompin' boots. Then there is the other type, composed of idiots who don't understand basic economics and who substitute feelings for reason, because Thinking Is Hard And Reality Is Unfair.

People who insist that welfare or socialism can be paid for by "the rich" fail to understand that "the rich" is a vanishingly small percentage of the population. (Any population.) You cannot extract too much money from the rich without either rendering them poor or driving them out of your jurisdiction; the rich may have a lot of money but their supply is not infinite and they will act to limit their tax liability.

While it is true that about 50% of the taxes collected in the United States are collected from the top 5% of income earners, the rest of the taxes come from everyone else and they represent a much larger pool of taxpayers.

* * *

Which will have to do, because Mrs. Fungus and I are busy.

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