It’s Time Metro Marked the Frequent Service Network

I’m not sure whether it should be by route or stop location (since there are pairs of non-frequent routes that combine for frequent segments), but King County Metro needs to clearly, obviously, and visibly label the frequent service network. This has been a known issue for years, and many people have called for it, but it hasn’t been done. Other cities like Portland and Columbus already do it (by logo and route color, respectively), but people need the ability to passively notice where they can rely on a bus coming every 15 minutes or less, and where they can go on those routes. I’d love to gather a team of guerilla activists to go mark a set of bus stops, but I don’t know who would do it (the Transit Blog people if they were useful. Alas.). Plus Metro might have valid complaints about that. But increasingly it seems like we’re not being listened or responded to. I haven’t seen data (very curious to), but I’d bet that ridership goes up when you provide people this kind of increased and improved information–we know that happens in similar situations.

I don’t really care if frequent service is defined as every 15, 12, or 10 minutes, and the route schedules and maps should also be labeled on paper and online, but the critical thing is physical visibility at stops and on bus routes. This is for far more than just bus riders, to help encourage good transit-friendly location decisions. Even a new color of paint on the street where frequent routes go would be good. But frequent service is the core of what enables car-free life (not just work commutes or planned trips). It’s Metro that owns/maintains the stop flags, benches, and shelters.

There is so much critical work around here that needs to be done but which no one is funding. Just the kind of project I would undertake if I had a basic income.


Pet Sitting Bad for Sleep Disorders

For all the bullshit about sleep “hygiene”–as if it’s an issue of cleanliness or moral weakness–it seems bloody obvious that sleeping in a different place every weekend with different animals, noises, beds, etc. is one of the MOST disruptive things you could do to your sleep. I’ve been pet sitting for 3 1/2 years, but not one health care provider pontificating at me about sleep has bothered to consider that. I need to be at home. Which means I need a different source of income. Which should be SSDI, but you can die waiting for that. I just managed to summon all the energy to arrange a trip to Florida; I’m in no position to fight the disability denials or start something like online editing for hire. I need someone to help me with that stuff, the energy of initial startup, but that would require them to be paid for their time. And a minimum wage sure as hell won’t do that, no matter how high or low. But situations like mine are invisible to those who choose a solution based on ideology, insist it’s perfect and ideal, and blind themselves to the human suffering it causes. I’m just collateral damage.

19 May 2016

I met with the vets opening the Columbia City clinic. I think it went well. They invited me to their opening party next month and said I could bring a stack of business cards. They also might have a receptionist job in a while, though it would be full time and sounds stressful. At least they might keep me in mind when they’re ready to hire one. 

  1. I got a used water filter/tank and went to the disability law office to ask about doing some forms SSA sent. They said I can disregard them entirely! 😀

Then I called to check on my food stamp application. They already have at least 9 documents from me totaling 36 pages. But they want more! They want self-employment business statements that don’t exist. They want bank statements I already gave them (because they need more information, which is somehow gained by sending more copies of the same documents). And now that they’ve taken so long to process my application (April 22nd online), they want all my statements for April. They SAY that should be enough and my benefits should resume soon after they get this round of paperwork, and that my benefits will be retroactive to my application date. But I’ve also been told many times in the past that they never give retroactive benefits (like the Utility Discount Program, which I downloaded 6 forms to apply for). I have stable housing, no addictions, and no severe mental illnesses. If you were homeless, alcoholic, and untreated schizophrenic; how on EARTH could you navigate all these hurdles just to get money for groceries? It’s infuriating. 
Going to get my free ice cream and look for stuff at Goodwill, then pick up a few more things from the house to bring home. New client visit postponed to tomorrow. So far today, I’ve ridden the 2, 7, 36, and Link. (Update: the 10 and First Hill streetcar too)

Food Stamp Fraud? Yeah, Right!

I’m doing paperwork to get food stamps back. There’s a 1 page form I had to partially fill out then forward to the temp agency so they can sign that I haven’t worked for them since February. Monthly bank statements January-April 2016 for both my credit union (8 pages total) and my online bank (12 pages total). DSHS wants my self-employment income separated by month for the last year, so I’ll have to gather and print lots of PayPal records. Or perhaps my 17-page tax return for 2015. Then they want a copy of my new lease showing my rent (which I just found out today isn’t done). Each document has to have your Social Security number or Client ID number.
You can’t just email them PDFs–they don’t use email yet. You can fax them, but the free online fax services only let you send 1 page per day each, then you start paying. So I end up using slow, tree-killing snail mail.
All this to get a paltry benefit that doesn’t cover a month’s groceries, with a card that stigmatizes you as a food stamp recipient, heavily restricts what you can buy and where, isn’t getting a security chip, and doesn’t work in mobile/virtual wallets.
AND THEY’RE WORRIED ABOUT FRAUD??? It’s long past time this bureaucratic, complicated, uncoordinated, slow, inefficient, ineffective, classist, demeaning rigamarole got replaced by a simple guaranteed basic income for all.

Impossible Decision Point

The Social Security Administration limits disability applicants to earning $1130/month for 2016.
If you make any more than that in a calendar month, you’re automatically disqualified from getting disability. 
Well, by working at Taco Time doing boring mindless work for a lower nominal (let alone real) wage than I earned in 1999 before I had any professional work experience, and which I had to commute 75 minutes each way to get to and from, it turns out that my February earnings were…$1131.27. Of course, I’ve since lost that job for being sick too often (embarrassing, stigmatized health issues like PTSD with no coverage to speak of from Medicaid), but that extra $1.27 does me in. After 20 months of bureaucratic nightmare trying to get disability, including a trumped up arrest dismissed by the prosecutor (only arrest in my life), and their loss of my birth certificate for 7 months and claim it was my fault, my application is now automatically disqualified. This is the great vaunted social safely net in America. I can’t hold a job but can’t get disability. I can’t have a stable home, pet, girlfriend, any of the physical or mental health treatment I desperately need–no matter how hard I fight for it or how many times I seek it out. Or how clearly and certainly I know exactly what I need–the poorer and less powerful you are, the less anyone bothers listening to you. Including friends and family, if you have those. I have nothing but inadequate food stamps, which will be taken away soon–because under their standards, I’m an able body adult w/o kids. (Since I’m not approved for disability) 
The only thing we do for people in need in the US is blame them, judge them, ignore them, castigate and excoriate them, and pretend everything bad in their lives is their own fault. Never mind systematic classism. Because we can’t possibly admit that the US is not a perfect meritocracy which deliberately and systematically exploits the poor to feather the nests of the Super-rich just a little more–in fact, no advanced nation is as anti-meritocratic or anti-utilitarian as the US. We make sure to maximize the number of people suffering and the depths of their suffering–see Where to Invade Next. It doesn’t have to be like this at all–we choose it consciously. But pretty lies always trump ugly truths in our land of denial and magical thinking. It’s far easier to blame victims and cast them as immoral, lazy, weak, undeserving, etc. than to acknowledge or fix problems. 

Is it worth trying yet a third time (with another 18-24 month wait) to apply for disability anew with all its impossible endless bureaucracy and total lack of guarantee you’ll get a fair hearing, let alone benefits? Is there any job I could possibly get and keep–one with a reasonable commute that uses my “huge Aspie brain” and lets me advance social justice in some way, paying well enough not to need help from poverty programs, but rather let me enter the middle class for the first time in my life at 39? Am I truly better off killing myself, since that’s clearly what every institution of any power or significance in the US really wants of us? Or is there any plausible way for me to emigrate to the vastly more advanced, fair, humane, egalitarian, happy, functional, democratic countries of northern Europe where people are treated with dignity and opportunity? My inclination now is suicide, unless emigration gets simpler, faster, and more feasible in short order.

The Atlantic on a Basic Income

I didn’t realize there were already basic income activists living off of crowdfunded basic incomes. That seems fine as a means to the end, but ultimately it’s not guaranteed unless it’s funded publicly. Labor unions and feminists, among others, ought to be natural supporters. If our existing social safety “net” costs $1 trillion/year, that’s enough to pay every American ~$3000 annually–well below the poverty line, but an amount found to substantially reduce poverty.

“Santens’ crowdfunding foray has been embraced not only by liberals or progressives who are warm to government benefits but by some libertarians as well, such as Matt Zwolinski, a philosophy professor at the University of San Diego. In his view, a basic income would shrink the bureaucratic nightmare of the current $1 trillion social safety net.”

Basic Income Washington 

I stopped on my way home from the grocery to do my DSHS food stamp “interview”. (You have to call right at 8am or risk waiting on hold for a very long time) They said I can’t because it’s too early. You can’t win with these people. They told me to call back Monday, which is Memorial Day. When I noted that, they suggested I wait until June 15th, which I believe is past the due date they gave me in the letter they sent. 

Part of me would love to start a non-profit to work for a basic income in Washington state. Basic Income Washington. I’d hate raising money, and there are some things I’d have to learn, but I know I could do it. It would mean staying here much longer instead of emigrating to Europe, and working very long hours. I’d love to research and produce reports showing how little it would cost after replacing all these bureaucratic means-tested programs like SNAP, ABD, HEN, unemployment, Medicaid… but at the state level we could only replace the state-funded ones unless we got waivers from the Feds. I think we need to make sure everyone has housing and health care, but after that a basic income may suffice. (I also think we should fold Medicaid into Medicare which would shift the funding responsibility from the states to DC, and people on Medicaid would get better coverage and care)