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Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Member since: Tue Aug 19, 2014, 11:02 PM
Number of posts: 3,732

Journal Archives

Some Remarks for Third Way Kos

I've mentioned before how it really bugs me that Kos (of Daily Kos) is a rightwing New Dem/Third Way in local politics but makes his living off of crowdsourcing progressive opinions. Today his comments were popping up on the pro side of the Air BNB debate, so the spirit moved me to go back and get some screenshots of some of his greatest Third Way remarks.

There was one remark I felt compelled to respond to - not because it was Third Way, but because I felt it showed how Kos had participated in driving the forces of gentrification in the area (besides promoting Big Development, trying to sweep away the homeless people, and not getting it about AirBNB...)

Markos: One of the problems I have in attracting talent to the home office in Berkeley is lack of affordable living space, and I actually pay employees really well. I finally threw in the towel, and most of my new hiring is remote.

My Reply on Why Kos is Part of the Problem

This comment reveals how you are part of the problem in Berkeley. There are lots of highly skilled unemployed people in Berkeley. Yet you feel compelled to look for talent elsewhere. Originally you were bringing in talent to displace the current residents of Berkeley. Now you are hiring remotely, sending capital resources outside of the city.

This is why South Berkeley - where many residents have been forced back on public assistance and supportive housing - has particular cause to complain. If Berkeley has been wooing all these tech start-ups and incubators, where are the *entry level* jobs for them? The soft jobs seem to be passed out to friends of friends, often invited in from the outside. The advertised jobs request skills of superhuman capacity - and they are often only contract jobs to boot!

Someone finally came up with a fabulous resource: localwisejobs.com. At last local jobs are supposed to be consolidated in one place and not hidden hither and thither. But if you look on the tech jobs page, where the GOOD jobs should be: all they ask for is FREE interns. There is no evidence of the jobs that the "gentry" got - the jobs you say you pay well for - that are rapidly displacing the people of South Berkeley from their houses.

Given your persistent New Democrat stance, I doubt you will understand the problem with bringing in your "new blood" and sweeping out the poor people in your way. But they are only poor because they couldn't get good jobs. Please think about that.

Attacks on SSI/SSDI Should Not Be Part of the Democratic Policy Position

Posting OPs or comments about the "fraud and waste" that plagues SSI/SSDI is a backdoor to a discussion about "cutting entitlements", and more specifically "stealth welfare". This anti-SSI/SSDI propaganda comes straight from Fox News, and it is only supported by the occasional scandal (which is duly prosecuted by law enforcement) and a lot of personal anecdotes. Just like the perpetual astroturf on welfare, everyone "knows" someone who got away with cheating SSI/SSDI.

Yet everyone who has actually applied for SSI/SSDI knows what a red tape nightmare the process has become - chiefly because the system is overburdened by all the qualification checks, bureaucratic documentation, and fraud investigations to address the continuous accusations of screeching concerned citizens. It is now practically impossible to get SSI/SSDI without a lawyer, which creates a major access barrier for lower income people with emerging disabilities. If you are under 60, your case gets automatically denied and you usually have to appeal twice, and the process takes around three years. If you do manage to get on SSI/SSDI after 3 years, you are still subject to regular reviews. You can also be reported for fraud at any time. It always baffles me why those people who are so irked about knowing "someone" committing fraud didn't simply report it.

Those people who had to wait three years lived in poverty, often in torturous conditions: sometimes they lived with family who didn't want to take care of them and sometimes they lived on welfare. OFTEN they became homeless. Sometimes they died while waiting to get SSI/SSDI.

Once you have SSI/SSDI, you will continue to live in poverty. It's less than $900/month, and you are ineligible for food stamps. You are allowed to work (swapping out your aid for what you earn) but if you go over a certain amount you will lose your benefits. You are allowed to save very little - even through fancy mechanisms that the government has created to try to help people on SSI save to go to school or make a very small down-payment on a house). When you have to work you have to go through the hassle of reporting your salary - I believe it's on a weekly basis.

And of course you will be surveilled the whole time and have to go through regular reviews to see if you are still medically qualified for SSI/SSDI.

Like welfare, the government does as much as they can to make sure that this program is NOT WORTH IT. That it is demeaning, cumbersome, a hassle, and barely survivable to live on. Taxpayers long before the current crop of "concerned citizens" were poking in their noses to make sure no person could feel comfortable to "depend" on SSI/SSDI even if they were blind and deaf from birth and there could be absolutely no argument about their qualification to be in the program.

I especially hope those on Team Hillary are listening and will take up this message. Her platform is weak on poverty issues right now, and as long as SSI/SSDI is being treated as "stealth welfare", it's vulnerable to cuts and/or further bureaucratic over-burderning that will lead to cuts down the line. SSI/SSDI needs to be actively defended, and it needs to be expanded. The recipients live in poverty in major urban areas: they need help with food and housing. I would advocate streamlining and simplifying the program so people wouldn't need to hire a lawyer and they could easily step in and out of disability coverage as needed.

I don't think DU would stand for it if someone posted an OP advocating the elimination of Social Security retirement benefits. They would recognize that as a Republican talking point, not part of the Democratic platform. Framing SSI/SSDI as a fraud-plagued entitled should be recognized in that same light. I honestly don't get why this is even seen as a matter for debate. We could debate banning abortions, too: but that's not up for debate here because it's a right-wing talking point. Well, so is treating SSI/SSDI as "stealth welfare" that can be had by anyone who complains of having a "backache and depression".

Please step up and recognize that anti-SSI/SSDI propaganda is spreading Fox News talking points and DU discussion should be creating policy around supporting SSI/SSDI (or transcending it with better ideas).

UPDATE: in another thread edhopper posted links to articles that cover the facts about how small a "problem" SSI/SSDI fraud really is. I'm reposting the articles here for the purpose of general education:

Social Security Disability Fraud is Rare: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-budget/195559-social-secuity-disability-fraud-is-rare

Nine Facts That Prove Disability Insurance Isn’t A Giant Boondoggle: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/10/16/2787821/facts-disability-insurance/

Right-Wing Media Miss The Facts On Disability Fraud: http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/06/28/right-wing-media-miss-the-facts-on-disability-f/194669

Update 2: A commenter pointed out that people living on SSI/SSDI are also living in poverty. I don't want to change the flow of my argument by going into the different circumstances for poverty in urban and rural areas - but I will add here people on SSI/SSDI in rural areas also live in poverty and face the additional burdens of lack of public transportation, lack of Internet access, lack of access to community agencies, and lack of access to legal advocates that can help them sort through the mind-boggling problems government programs continually subject poor people to. I would choose urban poverty any day because there is greater chance of finding a lifeline in a time of crisis here.

Update 3: MattP noted that SSI is currently being swiftboated with a phony "overpayments" scandal. People who work while on SSI must report their status an income weekly: you can only imagine the bureaucratic red tape that entails. In the end, the government always recovers the money, and normal people are always stuck with the hassle and extra expense. Here is a great article from CNNMoney on what the overpayments situation really means for all involved: http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/28/pf/social-security-overpaid/

Note that article claims the Social Security Administration actually works at a 99% accuracy rate. Wow! Finally, this is what Sean Brune, a senior advisor at the Social Security Administration, told a U.S. Senate panel regarding the SSI overpayments audit:

“Let me make clear that while we work diligently to correct and pursue them, improper payments do not equate with fraud. Improper payments can occur for a number of reasons, some of which are outside the control of the beneficiary or the agency.”

Source: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2015/03/18/ssi-flagged-improper-spending/20143/

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