Daily Digest

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Daily Digest 3/24 - Top 10 Euro Economies, The Rise Of Disability In America

Sunday, March 24, 2013, 9:38 AM

Economy

“Green Giant” (rdinr08)

It was great to share a Kale Hero Smoothie with my former colleague, Martin Bashir, and talk more about putting our money where our mouth is.

Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America

In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.

Russian Ties Put Cyprus Banking Crisis on East-West Fault Line (jdargis)

Accusations of treachery, mostly aimed by poorer nations at Germany for demanding budget cuts and other painful steps in return for help, have become a regular feature of Europe’s three-year-old debt crisis. But what began in Cyprus as just another episode in a now-familiar narrative of stingy, rich Northern Europeans versus put-upon, poor southerners has escalated into a bigger drama tinged with cold war-style language and strategic calculations involving not just money but also energy and even military power.

The America That Works (Nervous Nelly)

Yet there is also another America, where things work. One hint comes from what those bosses like to call the real economy. Recent numbers from the jobs market and the housing sector have been quite healthy. Consumer balance-sheets are being repaired. The stockmarket has just hit a record high. Some of this is cyclical: the private sector is rebounding from the crunch. But it also reflects the fact that, beyond the District of Columbia, the rest of the country is starting to tackle some of its deeper competitive problems. Businesses and politicians are not waiting for the federal government to ride to their rescue. Instead, as our special report this week shows, they are getting to grips with the failings Congress is ignoring.

Graphic: The Top 10 European Economies (westcoastjan)

The outbreak of the crisis in Cyprus this week is putting renewed focus on the economic health of Europe. So far, only smaller European economies, such as Greece and Ireland, have needed bailouts to prevent a collapse. But how economically stable are the continent’s biggest countries? Below, we lay out the numbers for Europe’s ten biggest economies,
including a quick look at what their biggest pressures are.

A bitter taste of ‘class war’: Pizza joint the latest target of Vancouver’s anti-gentrification ‘anarchists’ (westcoastjan)

Three times in the last 11 months, that was all the justification a self-described anarchist group needed to kick out the restaurant’s windows to give them a “taste of the class war,” in the words of an online screed posted in the wake of the attack.

And Famoso was only the latest victim. Last month, similar sentiments compelled a band of sign-wielding poverty protesters to mass outside Pidgin, a high-end restaurant opened in a long-vacant building on the nearby Downtown Eastside.

Graphic: The Governomics of Canada (westcoastjan)

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a budget Thursday that projected growth and few surprises as it tries to slay the $26 billion federal deficit by 2015. But how did Ottawa get to this point and how do all the financials break down? Drawing from Department of Finance data, figures from the Royal Bank of Canada and numbers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we offer a breakdown of Canada’s financial past and present.

FAA to close 149 air traffic towers as budget cuts bite (westcoastjan)

"We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

But he said the closures of the control towers were an unavoidable response to the spending cuts known in Washington as the sequester.

Mayor Asks Montrealers Whether City Should Fill Potholes (westcoastjan)

He said a shortage of asphalt means that after a current contract expires on April 15, Montreal’s potholes will go unfilled — unless these companies are granted the contract.

Applebaum is asking Montrealers to go to the City of Montreal’s website to vote on whether they feel the contracts won by these seven companies based on their bid and geographic location should be honoured.

Your Frequent Traveler Points are Losing Value. Act Now! (ScubaRoo)

Many people who have attempted to utilize frequent-flier miles to obtain free or upgraded travel in the past few years, and who had also done so years earlier, have experienced tremendous inflation. Even in situations in which point requirements for a specific flight have not officially inflated – that is, prices expressed in terms of miles needed have not officially risen – the addition of fuel surcharges, cash co-pays for upgrades, “premium” mile requirements for specific fares, and other fees and/or extra-point-requirements have become commonplace, dramatically reducing the de-facto buying power of frequent-flier miles, and of the dollars spent to acquire them when people earn them via paid travel.

Energy

Editorial: Prevention key to tanker safety (westcoastjan)

The government emphasized that only double-hulled tankers would be allowed to operate in our coastal waters. But only 50 single-hulled tankers remain in the world, and none have been allowed to operate here for years, Green party MP Elizabeth May said. The International Maritime Organization is banning them as of 2015.

Britain faces the prospect of gas rationing for the first time (ScubaRoo)

The Government was forced to issue a statement today strongly denying suggestions that Britain’s gas supplies are about to run out, after a series of concerning developments around the energy grid. As the cold weather continued to wreak havoc on the grid, the wholesale price of gas jumped by as much as 50 per cent at one point to a record 150p a therm after a water-pump failure forced the closure of a key import gas pipeline.

Gold & Silver

Click to read the Gold & Silver Digest: 3/22/13

Provided daily by the Peak Prosperity Gold & Silver Group

Article suggestions for the Daily Digest can be sent to dd@peakprosperity.com. All suggestions are filtered by the Daily Digest team and preference is given to those that are in alignment with the message of the Crash Course and the "3 Es."

5 Comments

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 2792
SS disability programs

I have seen the SS disability programs from the belly of the beast, so to speak.  This article discusses many of the problems associated with the programs, but also misses a few.  I could go into detail, but I would be diving into the arcane which probably no one wants to read.  So, I just want to mention a few aspects that strike me as most relevant.

First, there are two SS disability programs, SS Disability Insurance Compensation (SSDC) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The article does not differentiate between them.  The first is basically the gov’t’s disability insurance program largely funded by your payroll taxes.  IOW, you pay the premiums.  SSI is essentially federal welfare for the disabled.  The medical criteria for both are the same, at least for adults.  Children are different, but the criteria differences would be diving into the arcane.

SSDC is not means tested, if you qualify based on your history of payment of payroll taxes and your medical problems, you are entitled.  If you are entitled, you also qualify for Medicare.  SSI is means tested.  If you meet income and resource criteria (or more accurately, your lack thereof) in addition to your medical problem, you are eligible not only for SSI, but also for Medicaid.

Quote:
But disability has also become a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills. But it wasn't supposed to serve this purpose; it's not a retraining program designed to get people back onto their feet. Once people go onto disability, they almost never go back to work.

The article goes on to discuss private contractors for state gov’ts who specialize in representing potentially disabled people before SS administrative law judges.  Some states have their own staffs of attorneys and non-attorney representatives who do the same thing.  They are essentially there to shift the burden of welfare from the states to the Feds.  They screen their welfare rolls for people who might potentially fit SS criteria for disability and require that they apply for SSI and/or SSDC.

Quote:
As I got further into this story, I started hearing about another group of people on disability: kids. People in Hale County told me that what you want is a kid who can "pull a check." Many people mentioned this, but I basically ignored it. It seemed like one of those things that maybe happened once or twice, got written up in the paper and became conversational fact among neighbors.

I won’t go into detail here except to say that the SSI system provides a tremendous incentive for parents to keep their kids “disabled.”

Quote:
Bill Clinton…expanded many programs for the working poor, but he also promised to "end welfare as we know it" -- to nudge people off of public assistance, give them some job training, and force them to make it on their own. "A society rooted in responsibility must first promote the value of work, not welfare," Clinton said. History has judged Clinton's welfare reform a big success.

But when you include disability in the story of welfare reform, the picture looks more ambiguous.

Part of Clinton's welfare reform plan pushed states to get people on welfare into jobs, partly by making states pay a much larger share of welfare costs. The incentive seemed to work; the welfare rolls shrank. But not everyone who left welfare went to work.

Many went onto SS disability rolls.

Quote:
In the past few decades, an entire disability-industrial complex has emerged. It has just one goal: Push more people onto disability. And, sometimes, it seems like the government is outmatched. This is especially true in the legal system.

There are many private law firms that have discovered that representing disability claimants is relatively easy and can provide a reliable source of income.  Some have made it a practice to screen their list of Workers’ Comp and personal injury clients for potential disability claimants, providing themselves and their clients with additional income.

The article notes that the "government is outmatched", but in reality, the attorneys who work for SS are not allowed to appear in court.  Justice Department attorneys represent SSA when denials of disability are appealed to Federal District Courts.  This effectively means that gov't lawyers are woefully ill informed on disability law and all too frequently have the cases remanded to SSA for some technical aspect of the case that has little or no bearing on substance.  It's an easy fix for the JD lawyers who would likely prefer to be working on more interesting cases.  When a case is remanded, it usually adds another year onto the administrative process that has already taken at least a year and more likely two or more years to get to that point.

Quote:
Somewhere around 30 years ago, the economy started changing in some fundamental ways. There are now millions of Americans who do not have the skills or education to make it in this country.

This is a systemic and very expensive problem in virtually all aspects of our national economy that is partially hidden by SS disability programs as well as private disability insurance.  The numbers are huge, keeping the insurance industry and lawyers in deep clover.

Finally, I will mention the medical aspects of SS disability programs.  They are theoretically based on an individual’s functional limitations.  IOW, their mental and physical ability to do “substantial gainful activity.”  This is usually defined by income from work activity, but can also be defined by actual work activity they are capable of or are performing.

The regulations require (hypothetically) that individuals comply with medical treatment that can return them to employability.  However, this is rarely enforced and, in at least some specific areas, are grossly ignored.

Perhaps the most flagrant of these areas is obesity.  There is little doubt in my mind that obesity is probably the largest (no pun intended) single cause of disability.  Although statistics state that back problems are the biggest cause, a huge percentage of back problems are related to obesity and lack of physical conditioning.  There are many other medical conditions related to obesity, including hypertension, diabetes, weight bearing joint dysfunction, cardiovascular problems and a variety of endocrine disorders.  To my knowledge, the regulatory requirement to comply with treatment is never enforced wrt obesity.

The other greatest cause of disability is mental problems.  I am pretty convinced that just about everyone can be diagnosed with some kind of mental problem.  Under SS regulations it is pretty easy to conflate a mental condition into a disabling mental condition, particularly in cases where substance abuse in also involved.  Although substance abuse can no longer be a “material” cause of disability (it once was), it is difficult to differentiate between symptoms and limitations that arise from substance abuse or other mental disorder.  Skillful representatives exploit those areas of confusion all the time.

Although I could go on at length, this is more than enough for the moment.  If anyone is interested, I can elaborate.

anexaminedlife's picture
anexaminedlife
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 19 2012
Posts: 48
Dylan Ratigan

Glad to see Dylan Ratigan's venture received notice on this site. Other than a short segment on his friend Martin Bashir's show, I doubt the "new" Dylan will get too much attention, at least probably not the attention he once garnered with his epic rants. Yet, what he is doing is now is so much more important,  productive, and worthy of emulation. I have always admired Dylan Ratigan but never so much as I do now. His latest mission deserves our attention and support; he is out to do no less than propagate the seeds of resiliency across the land. 

Travlin's picture
Travlin
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 15 2010
Posts: 1322
Thanks Doug

Doug

Thanks for your excellent post about Social Security disability.  I've read some awful accounts of the long and tortureous process for people who are truely disabled.  You expended a lot of effort and it was very informative.

Travlin 

saxplayer00o1's picture
saxplayer00o1
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 30 2009
Posts: 2846
40% haircut on Bank of Cyprus depositors

"Cyprus and its institutional lenders have reached a bailout deal, according to reports citing European Union officials. As part of the agreement the country will impose a 40% haircut on Bank of Cyprus depositors holding more than 100,000 euros ($129,760) in their accounts, Agence France Presse reported. The deal followed a weekend of tense meetings between Cyprus and the Troika -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- to reach a deal before a Monday evening funding deadline."

"Deposits below 100,000 euros in Laiki will be transferred to Bank of Cyprus. Deposits above 100,000 euros, which under EU law are not insured, will be frozen and will be used to resolve debt. It remains unclear how large the writedown on those funds will be.

The EU spokesman said there would be no "levy" imposed on any Cypriot banks, with the package requiring a full "bail-in" of uninsured depositors, which is likely to mean heavy losses for those with large holdings in Laiki and potentially Bank of Cyprus, where many Russians hold bank accounts."

Woodman's picture
Woodman
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 26 2008
Posts: 1027
disability

I heard the story of rising disibility on This American Life tonight also.  sounds like the program is out of control.

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