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.


Job Possibilities

This is both good and frustrating.

There’s a dog training place right near me that I sent my resume to asking if they might have any jobs open. The owner met with me this morning. They do use substitute people for walking and other tasks when someone is sick or on vacation, etc. And being a sub is the entry path to real jobs there. If I got a UBI number (business license?), she could refer people to me for sitting and walking. She also invited me to come in and watch their classes to learn more about dog training. We made an appointment for me to go observe/help this Friday. I’d be on my feet a lot which isn’t great with my feet, but I’d get more exercise and time with dogs and learn more about them (which would also give me a basis to charge more for my own sitting and walking).

Then the agency I gave up on–the one that cancelled an interview without telling me–called saying they have a 2 month job at Metropolitan Market in West Seattle. It’s full-time at $17/hour doing data entry/analysis which is kind of up my alley. Lots of Excel. And I like Met Market, and $17, while still not a liveable wage in Seattle, is more than I’m seeing from other temp jobs. She asked about my administrative experience which I have plenty of, but it’s a common Aspie trait to be especially bad at answering such questions off the cuff. I expressed strong interest, and she said she’d submit my info to them. The catch is that they may want to do a phone interview Thursday, after which they may want me to start Friday or Monday. I’m already booked (partly double-booked) to sit pets from tomorrow through the 28th. I could reschedule the dog training visit, but not the pet sitting. And part of what I take pride in offering to my pet clients is being with them pretty much all day. Yet if I’m not available for interviews, I’ll never get any temp (or real) jobs. OH! I forgot to tell the agency my hand is out of commission until at least Friday, limiting my ability to work at a computer for now.

So the prospect of one or both of these potential jobs is hopeful, but it’s really hard to manage so much at once.

Injury Costs Me a Job

I told the temp agency I can’t use my hand this week. They won’t let me switch jobs with someone else, so I lose out on a day of work at $14/hour. I thought work and opportunity in America were available based on merit, skill, intelligence, hard work. So much for paid sick leave. And obviously I can’t even say anything about it because that would probably lead them to blacklist me. This really pisses me off. The same number of people are switching assignments either way. AARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I met with a new pet sitting client who’s a friend of a friend. She kept me there talking to me for 5 hours, at which point there was only 1 bus left going home. I was running downhill for that bus when I fell on the sidewalk and fractured a bone in my wrist. So much for dedication or hard work!)

Hiring Processes Biased Toward the Rich

National Journal article

Rivera: I understand where that thinking comes from. There’s lots of different types of schools out there and prestige is one metric especially with national rankings now that is easily quantifiable. You have a list of top 10 schools, you can say “Okay someone else told me these are the best, I can justify not looking anywhere else.”

But what’s wrong with it is that I don’t think people understand the extent to which elite university admissions are biased against individuals from lower-income backgrounds. We have this narrative that they really are the most rigorous admissions processes that cherry pick the best and the brightest irrespective of social background—and that’s actually pretty false. Some of the things that matter most in getting into an elite college—whether it’s your SAT score, your extracurricular participation, the actual high school you attended—are so strongly influenced by social class that you’re not necessarily getting the best and the brightest. You’re getting good and bright people who come from the most privileged backgrounds.

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)