Saturday, February 19, 2011

A drain on society

The thing that doesn't get mentioned when people whine about the cost of supporting people on disability and paying for Medicaid is that these measures give us more productive people to contribute to our society and economy.   All anyone calculates is the cost of the programs.  But there are dividends to the investment!

Actively sick people don't work as well or as much as they could.  People with stabilized conditions (say, someone who can afford their antidepressants) are going to be a lot more useful in the workplace, and pay taxes in to the system.  The same perverse system plays out with social security disability.  

You can't get social security for disability unless you're completely unable to do any work.  This forces some people to choose between working below their true capacity and not working at all.

If a pianist gets rheumatoid arthritis, she can probably still work some retail, so she's not eligible for any support, even as she gives up the prestige and pay of her old career.  Maybe she could be a successful music teacher, but if she loses her status in her profession (along with class status - dressing like the kind of person you'd pay well to teach your kid piano is tough to do on social security), it's going to be hard for her to get a foothold in a business suited to her talents, so she may well end up organizing the sweaters at Old Navy 15 hours a week.

Private-sector disability insurance sometimes works in terms of long- and short-term tiers of disability.  If you're disabled for only a little while, you have some support to get back into work.  If you are just relying on social security, you have to wait until you're completely disabled to get any income support (and then a couple of years to get through the process of applying).  Under-funded Medicaid is hard to rely on to bring you back to your previous capacity, especially if you are out of work while you're under the weather.  Living without income is not conducive to recovery.

This system is a lot more sustainable, since it keeps more people in the workplace and paying premiums for those who won't ever get back (e.g. the pianist who has a massive stroke and can't process language anymore).

An added bonus to the tiered system is that it works for parental leave as well.  You don't have to just cut ties with the working world if you need a year of maternity leave.  American men and women have shown that they're not willing to let work swallow up their entire lives, and the American workforce is fractured into a million dysfunctional pieces when having children means exiting the workforce, or even mommy-tracking your otherwise brilliant career.

But we can't have fakers suckling at the government's teat until they're ready to work again.  It's fraud!  And theft!  Who do these people think they are?  

Monday, February 07, 2011

Warm and fuzzy patriotism

Jacob Weisberg is right that it's pretty understandable to mess up the Star Spangled Banner, even at the Super Bowl.  I really thought Christina Aguilera was more talented than that, but I guess I was fooled.  This all reminded me of one of the neatest moments of patriotic pride I ever had.

In Summer 2000, just after I graduated high school, I was fortunate enough to be sent to Finland in a Lions Club social exchange.  While I was there, I participated in a camp that gathered all of the exchangees in the country that summer, which created a really neat international group of people.  At one point, on a hiking trip, there was a sudden, huge rain storm, and we all had to hide out in a little room with no power, but a fire for light.  How romantic.  This meant we had to actually entertain ourselves, and everyone decided we'd sing our national anthems for each other.  Of course, I was terrified to sing ours, but I went ahead and did it, and despite my complete inability to sing, it was very well-received.

Everyone said it was very beautiful, and hearing that made me realize for the first time that it sure is.  It has clumsy lyrics and is technically challenging, but to me that embodies a lot of the best qualities of the USA;  we're ambitious, and going to do things our own way.  

In my little school, I was lucky enough to have some pretty good free, public musical training (I was not really concerned with voice, I played flute.).  Mr. Murdock did everything the hard way.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Carry a sign, pat yourself on the back

Ta-Nehisi Coates featured a bit of Matt Yglesias' observations on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's editorial warning about Islam being a form of fascism, and rightly pointed out that it went a little far.  I noted this paragraph in particular:

But surely she must see, I counter, that the majority of British Muslims are moderates? Sitting in her publisher's office in an elegant grey-flannel trouser suit and pearl earrings, she fixes me with her lucid brown eyes. "If the majority are moderates, why did the Muslim community never take to the streets to abhor the 7/7 bombers? Why is it that the only time we see Muslims protesting en masse is when Islam is allegedly insulted, like with the Danish cartoons, or the Pope's comments?" 

TNC goes on to say that this isn't a very good test, and I agree with him, but I think it's a challenge white North Idahoans should take up.  We're embarrassed and horrified of our white supremacists, but that's not necessarily clear to everyone.  If we're so anti-racist, why aren't we making a big stink about the racists?  There's a significant stink in the area's press, but that hasn't made much of a difference on the ground.

There is, still, the problem that "taki[ng] the streets to abhor" isn't really a thing, especially when what's abhorred is pretty much officially abhorred.  Racist views aren't illegal, though.  The discussion at TNC's applied this thinking to Take Back the Night-type rallies, which don't make a lot of sense if they just exist to say, "Stupid rapists, please stop raping me," since rape is already illegal.  However, I'd argue that Take Back the Night is more about calling attention to the pervasiveness of violence against women (It's pretty bad if just going outside when it's dark is scary.) than scaring or shaming rapists themselves.  The problem that someone pointed out is that the Take Back the Night name implies that the main issue is strange men attacking random women when they're going about their own business.

Applying Take Back the Night logic to GTFO White Supremacists demonstrations requires the recognition that, like with violence against women relying on widespread misogyny, there's something in our particular local culture that allows these outposts of bigotry to remain, when most of the country has avoided it.  I feel pretty confident saying that there's little virulent racism in the area*, but subtler problems are really really widespread.  I had to give up on a local blog's comment section when someone joking-but-not-jokingly proposed banning the word "racist" instead of "fuck" in the discussions.  White people often need a lot of hand-holding when it comes to talking about race, but that's completely ridiculous.

I was awfully disappointed when my clumsy attempt to start a discussion about what more needs to be done was completely and defensively ignored.  Admittedly, it was a little of-topic where I attempted.  An elevator pitch of, "You're racist, do something about it," isn't a big winner.  I started talking about things I've learned in my own struggles with ignorance about race issues, and my personal racism.  No one liked that, especially since I'm a bitchy, arrogant confrontational writer even when being diplomatic.    I tried some hand-holding in passing on lessons I've learned the hard way.*  There's no real legislative solution to the problem, so work needs to be done on a more subtle, social level.    A GTFO campaign is more like it, but easily co-opted and pretty toothless.  Idaho has been "too great for hate" for probably two decades, but the slogan has done little beyond making people feel less racist-by-association.   Apparently some of our best friends are black, but no one wants to look much deeper than that if they're at risk of being called racist in the process.

Racism isn't exactly our fault, but it's a legacy we're obligated to fix, even when it means being embarrassed and feeling guilty.

*The average amount of virulent racism is much higher here than in the rest of the country, but it doesn't take a lot to bring up an average in such a small population.  The corollary should be that it doesn't take much to bring it down either.