Monday, December 10, 2007

Social Insecurity

Lest there be any doubt about the side our government has chosen to take in the ongoing (and escalating) War against the Poor, one need only consult the story Erik Eckholm wrote for today's New York Times about current conditions in the Social Security Administration. Eckholm's lead says it all:

Steadily lengthening delays in the resolution of Social Security disability claims have left hundreds of thousands of people in a kind of purgatory, now waiting as long as three years for a decision.

Two-thirds of those who appeal an initial rejection eventually win their cases.

But in the meantime, more and more people have lost their homes, declared bankruptcy or even died while awaiting an appeals hearing, say lawyers representing claimants and officials of the Social Security Administration, which administers disability benefits for those judged unable to work or who face terminal illness.

The agency’s new plan to hire at least 150 new appeals judges to whittle down the backlog, which has soared to 755,000 from 311,000 in 2000, will require $100 million more than the president requested this year and still more in the future. The plan has been delayed by the standoff between Congress and the White House over domestic appropriations.

These paragraphs are followed by a series of case studies that provide a human element to the "raw data" used to introduce the story.

Will this story be read by those with the power to do something about it (in the Legislative, as well as the Executive, Branch)? We have to assume that, at the very least, every individual with the power to do something about this mess has, at the very least, an aide, who will read it, "clip" it (scare quotes because the "clipping" may be virtual), and recommend that it should be "kept in view," all of which add up to a far cry from taking any form of effective action. If there is anyone left in the District with a sense of history (which, from my own cynical perch, I am inclined to doubt), that person may recognize that Eckholm is writing precisely the kind of horror story that Franklin Roosevelt first invoked by demonstrating just what it was that a Social Security system would prevent. In other words we have circled back to the conditions under which Roosevelt felt it was necessary to propose Social Security in the first place. History is repeating itself, but it would take a terribly hard heart to agree with Marx that this repetition is farcical.

Note, by the way, that the above hyperlink on "Marx" points back to last month's most blatant example of conspicuous consumption for the rich, the $25,000 chocolate sundae. This seems to be more important to some (identified by the size of the assets they hold) than a Social Security Administration that is now pathetically understaffed and is likely to stay that way while our budget continues to be bankrupted by an insane war and our President maintains a state of oblivion, reinforced by his faith-based ideology, over our country's domestic needs. Perhaps it is time for Naomi Wolf to take another trip around the country and write a follow-up to her "American Tears" Huffington Post blog post; but, if her first effort had no effect on the current political discourse (let alone actions) in Washington, why should she expend her time on another one? That, of course, is the reasoning of clinical depression, which, as I tried to argue in my reading of Wolf, is precisely the state of our country's psychology. My own conclusion from that reading was that I had learned how the world could end with a whimper; and my own "American tears" are shed over the fact that no one seems to be left willing, at the very least, to go down fighting the mess, rather than just succumb to it.

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