THE FALSIFIED-INFORMATION tactic employed by many (if not all) the USian state welfare bureaucracies to justify cuts in stipends and services – in this instance to deprive me of food stamps – is exemplified by the official notice I received recently from the always-adversarial Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
As shown in the main paragraph of the copy reproduced above, the DSHS bureaucrats are falsely claiming my rent-and-utilities expenditures have “chang(ed)” – in other words, decreased. And while the $1 food-stamp reduction shown above is seemingly insignificant, the rationale upon which it is based is an obviously malicious bureaucratic lie. More to the point, it is indicative of the methodology of malicious lies by which DSHS slashed my food-stamp allocation from $103 per month to $17 per month – an 83 percent cut – effective 1 January 2016.
Nor is “malicious” an inappropriate choice of adjectives. DSHS's malice is proven not merely by its well-deserved reputation for hateful treatment of the subsidy-dependent poor, but by the indisputable fact my rent, which includes most of my utility costs – specifically electricity, water, sewerage, garbage collection and recycling fees – has risen steadily (albeit minimally) throughout the 12 years I have lived at my present address. The seven years I have been a food-stamp recipient are no different. Since May 2009, when losses inflicted by the so-called “recession” – the plutocracy's murderous theft of income from all the rest of us – hurled me into bankruptcy and forced me onto the dole, my rental payments have gone up 1.3 percent.
Meanwhile my telephone costs, constant from May 2009 until August 2015, skyrocketed 293 percent thanks to the Washington State Democratic (sic) Party's 2013 decision to abolish forever the Washington Telephone Assistance Program subsidy that guaranteed those of us who are officially impoverished our telephone bills would never exceed $8 per month. Thus my monthly phone bill leapt from $8 to $31.44 immediately after the subsidy was terminated last August. It has since – largely due to tax increases – inched upward to $35 as of my September 2016 bill.
Where then is the alleged decrease in rent-and-utility expenditures that caused my already minimal food-stamp allocation to be docked yet another dollar?
While DSHS (predictably) refuses to answer – more about that in a moment – the following National Public Radio report provides a powerfully indicative clue as to what really obtains:
“In a recent federal court hearing, nine employees of New Mexico's Income Support Division — which oversees food stamps — took the stand to testify about fake assets being added to food stamps applications...When higher-ups were questioned in court, they pleaded the Fifth repeatedly. The state launched an internal investigation, but the results are sealed, and officials have refused to grant interviews about the allegations.”
Such defiance of the public's right to know has become a signature tactic of welfare bureaucrats, who have manipulated confidentiality regulations originally intended to protect welfare recipients into bureaucrat-shielding obstacles that now block even legislative oversight. The fact food stamps are now known by several names bolsters the welfare-bureaucracy's opacity even as it ensure the non-foodstamp-dependent public remains ignorant or at least confused about the associated issues. The feds call the program “SNAP,” a happy-faced, Madison-Avenue-contrived acronym for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” the name also used by the New Mexico food-stamp program. DSHS calls it “Basic Food Assistance.” Other states have their own names for it: California's is “CalFresh,” while Wisconsin – where the unapologetically fascist (and possibly criminal) regime of Gov. Scott Walker has made war against the poor a doctrinal centerpiece – ironically labels it “FoodShare,” never mind the sharing of food (or anything else) with lower-income folks violates Walker's Ayn Rand credo.
NPR report's on-line text is headlined, “New Mexico Defrauds The Poor Out Of Food Stamps, Whistleblowers Say.” The head aptly summarizes the entire story, which was first broadcast on 5 July 2016 and focuses on Kimberly Jones, an impoverished woman whom state welfare bureaucrats deliberately victimized by fraudulently inflating her income to deny her emergency eligibility for food stamps. The denial forced her to wait two months before she began receiving assistance.
By contrast, the theoretically permanent cuts inflicted on me by DSHS bureaucrats included not only January's $86 food-stamp cut (now 87 percent counting the $1 cut detailed above), but an 82 percent reduction in my Medicare Extra Help stipend, from $22 per month to $4. This plus associated Medicare Part D prescription-drug price increases of 11 percent and the Democrats' cancellation of the $23.44 telephone subsidy cost me approximately $155 per month.
In other words, in a year in which the anti-food-stamp Obama Administration denied Social Security recipients any cost-of-living increase, from 1 January onward I have been struggling to survive on approximately $155 per month less income than I had in 2015.
The immediate result of these cuts was to trap me in the most miserly of my Medicare Advantage provider's programs – low premiums and minimal levels of (nevertheless skillful) care with maximal, often-prohibitive co-payments. The longer term result was to hurl me into an abyss of such poverty as I had never before experienced – an ultimately deadly realm in which I am literally forced to choose between eating properly or obtaining the health care I need for survival.
For example, in the wake of last May's diagnosis of congestive heart failure, I am technically required to regularly consult a cardiologist. But the co-pay is $50 per appointment with this or any other specialist, which is nearly twice the program's monthly premium. Thus – thanks to the cutbacks inflicted on me by DSHS – it is a co-pay I cannot possibly afford.
Indeed, as I said to the visibly unsympathetic DSHS bureaucrat who last December handed me the paperwork announcing the $86 reduction in my food stamps, “this is a death sentence.”
Months later, while trying determine how the cutbacks were rationalized, I learned from credible inside sources whose anonymity I am sworn to protect that DSHS bureaucrats had done to me exactly what New Mexico's welfare bureaucrats did to Kimberly Jones, albeit by a more plausibly deniable method.
While the welfare bureaucrats always claim such cuts are mandated by regulations, the New Mexico and Washington state cases prove they falsely manipulate supplicants' income to create the desired illusion of regulatory compliance. The bureaucrats are also trained to discourage appeals by telling supplicants their food-stamp allocations are calculated by computers in unerring electronic obedience to state and federal law, another lie. Hence a typical bureaucrat's veiled-threat response to a cutback victim – a person often in shock (as I surely was last December): “You can appeal, but you're sure to lose, and then you'll have to pay back whatever we determine you owe us.”
Though DSHS is known to employ the New Mexico tactic of falsely inflating a supplicant's income, particularly against persons less able to defend themselves, the falsification method its bureaucrats used against me was radical understatement – by nearly $300 – of my monthly living expenses. My sources tell me this is the agency's most common approach – probably because when challenged, it can be more easily excused by a deluge of carefully pre-scripted lies claiming accidental omissions and/or miscalculations.
As to the Medicare Extra Help cuts, I am still in the proverbial dark about the regulations upon which they were based. Were they state or federal? Not only did DSHS bureaucrats refuse to answer my questions, their sullenly uncooperative silence forced me to get the information from my Medicare provider, whose employees proved infinitely more helpful: yes, DSHS had indeed inflicted the cut, but it was transmitted by the briefest of written orders, with no additional explanation forthcoming.
Could I then get a copy of the order? No, I was told, because the calculations are done by DSHS and transmitted to the provider in bulk, so that giving me access to the documentation would would violate the privacy of other Medicare patients: a perfect example of how welfare bureaucrats protect themselves from accountability.
Apparently – as best I can glean from inquiries amongst my neighbors in the lower-income senior housing complex wherein we all reside (and which I continue to serve as the volunteer editor/producer of its monthly newsletter) – the Medicare Extra Help cut inflicted on me last January is another result of DSHS's deliberate falsification of my living expenses. Those with less income than I said their Medicare subsidies were not reduced.
Thus on 23 September 2016 I filed a written, registered-mail demand for an appeal hearing before an administrative judge. Since then, the bureaucracy has orally informed me the hearing has been granted, but its snail-paced clerks have yet to officially notify me of the hearing's locale, date and time.
Needless to say – knowing as I do the favorite DSHS tactic of deliberately mailing such a notice so late the appellant learns of the assigned date only after it has passed and the appeal is thus summarily dismissed – I'm more than a little anxious. Stay tuned: assuming I am still alive, a follow-up report will most assuredly follow.
ALAS, MY FIGHT with DSHS is not my only ongoing struggle with government bureaucracies that are unapologetically tyrannical.
Because of the spinal injuries inflicted on me in 1978 by one of Washington state's innumerable defiantly habitual drunken drivers – the man had been arrested 19 times for drunken driving before he clobbered me – I have since the late '90s been prescribed a generic muscle relaxer called methocarbamol. My episodal use of this drug has increased as my spine deteriorates, the 1978 injuries now painfully inflamed by what one consulting MD said – this after I underwent a long and thorough spinal exam by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – is “the worst case of spinal arthritis (she had) ever seen.” Hence there is no question about the source of the muscle spasms that, ever more often, render me temporarily immobile. Nor is there any question about my need for the drug.
Moreover, methocarbamol has proven itself particularly appropriate for me. It is non-addictive. But most importantly – especially since journalism is like organized crime in that it is an occupation from which one is never really allowed to retire – it is the one muscle relaxant that does not anesthetize me into a slumberous, depression-like state that makes it impossible for me to write or edit. It also – at least in me – generates no other prohibitive side-effects.
Five years ago (in 2010), Medicare bureaucrats, claiming methocarbamol is dangerous to those of us age 65 and older, arbitrarily canceled my prescription and ordered my pharmacist to replace it with baclofen. Initially I submitted to the bureaucracy's orders because I was told I had no alternative. But soon I discovered the baclofen not only gave me severe headaches but made it nearly impossible to stay awake even after a full night's sleep. Hence I complained, rather vehemently, to my doctor. He promptly overruled the Medicare officials, restored my methocarbamol prescription – and thereby also restored my ability to undertake occasional writing, editing and photographic assignments, among them the extensive pictures-and-text coverage of Occupy Tacoma I provided as an unpaid volunteer to the website Reader Supported News c. 2011-2012.
Then all was well until this April, when the Medicare bureaucrats intervened again, this time much more forcibly. Not only did they deny me methocarbamol, they specifically ordered the pharmacy to provide a drug called tizanidine as its replacement. Again I submitted. But within a few days, as I was attempting to write a rather complex historical essay for a class in which I participate, I discovered the tizanidine anesthetized me so thoroughly I was literally falling asleep at my computer keyboard. I complained, was told to reduce the dosage, and complied as instructed. But then I began experiencing repeat episodes in which I was severely short of breath. While a very minor breathlessness had been a known symptom of my congestive heart failure, in these new instances – triggered even by every-day walks to bus stops and local stores – I felt as if I was suffocating. I literally could not get enough air. Apparently – or so I supposed – my CHF had suddenly worsened, and I was therefore at death's door.
Wondering what I should do – I have no remaining fear of death but am admittedly fearful of dying in hospitals, which psychic research has convinced me are soul-traps – I realized my shortness of breath dwindled rapidly any time I was off tizanidine for more than a day or too. Hence I researched the drug, learned it is known to cause just such respiratory problems as I had experienced and so complained again to my doctor, with whom I have an excellent relationship. He responded by appealing to Medicare as he had done in 2010.
But this time its bureaucrats essentially told him he had no choice but to obey their edicts. At the same time they told the pharmacist that if my doctor wrote me a prescription enabling me to buy methocarbamol as a non-Medicare purchase, everyone involved – doctor, pharmacist, possibly even the pharmacy clerk – would be subject to Medicare fraud charges. My further use of methocarbamol, the bureaucrats decreed, was forbidden, and no doctor's appeal would change that prohibition.
Since then, my doctor, a former military MD who saw combat in Iraq and has the chain-of-command experience typical of most of us who are veterans, has been appealing the bureaucrats' decision ever-further up the hierarchical ladder– so far to no avail.
Thus whenever I am pained by back spasms, I am still compelled to depend on the tizanidine, which I now take only in the smallest possible doses: a four-milligram tablet quartered into one-milligram segments, and those segments cut again with my Xacto knife into half-milligram doses. But even that tiny amount leaves me noticeably short of breath. Worse, it submerges into such lethargy, I have had resume drinking real coffee, which is forbidden me by my heart condition, in order to do any serious writing or editing. Otherwise – as I said before – no matter how engrossing the work, I literally fall asleep at my keyboard.
Again, stay tuned: if I'm still around – that is, if the Medicare bureaucrats don't kill me with their damn tizanidine – I'll have a follow-up story on this matter as well.
GIVEN PRESIDENT OBAMA'S history of brazenly pandering to the plutocrats while waging undeclared economic warfare against the USian 99 Percent, it is surely legitimate to question the striking similarity of the atrocities committed by the Washington state and New Mexico welfare bureaucracies. Are they are independent acts that are only coincidentally alike? Or are they – as inside sources have privately suggested to me – part of a clandestine, federally scripted national campaign to go far beyond the savagery of the food-stamp cuts already mandated by Democratic (sic) President Bill Clinton's so-called “welfare reform” and further intensify, perhaps fatally, the suffering of the nation's poor? And could such a scheme be why the New Mexico welfare bureaucrats are hiding behind the Fifth Amendment's protection of self-incrimination?
The damning information contained in the three reports linked in the above paragraph – material doubly relevant because its disclosures about Obama's lies and treachery and the Democratic (sic) Party's now-routine employment of bait-and-switch tactics are powerfully indicative of how former Goldwater Girl Hillary Clinton would govern – suggests such a secretly scripted national targeting of the poor is well within the realm of possibility. Indeed, Obama's penchant for unprecedented tyranny cloaked by dictatorial secrecy provides an environment in which egregiousness of any sort – with or without presidential complicity – might easily thrive. It has already spawned an epidemic of outrages – for example Obama's blatanly unconstitutional program of total surveillance – the uppermost of a long list of U.S. government crimes so effectively concealed only the courageous efforts of whistle-blowers and the tireless work of pro-democracy hackers could reveal them. And we already know the poor (and the 99 Percent in general) are among Obama's favorite targets. As Black Agenda Report Managing Editor Bruce Dixon said recently, “In eight years Democrat Barack Obama has gone further to protect criminal banksters and their investors than any Republican dared go before him...It’s simply not punishable...as long as you steal from the poor or from the public.”
In the same linked text, Dixon accurately laments that crimes against the poor are no longer even investigated, a legitimate grievance for which USia's so-called “mainstream media” is as answerable as government itself. Such media was once, as in the Pentagon Papers episode, an effective guardian against despotic politicians, criminal capitalists and all their greedy and/or subversive scheming. But now it is owned by the same One Percenters who effectively own and therefore control all USian governments at every level.
Thus censored, “mainstream media” has become nothing more than a privatized, for-profit (and therefore uniquely self-supporting) version of the Third Reich's Ministry of Propaganda. Thus too the editors and reporters of “mainstream media” follow the example of the late Josef Goebbels in dutifully echoing whatever Big Lie the One Percent and its Ruling Class vassals want peddled as truth. And even the most dedicated of the USian whistle-blowers and hackers are likely to have been steeped from birth in the Ayn Rand, capitalism-über-alles dogma that now defines the United States, which means – particularly given the nearly inconceivable wealth required to equip and operate successful hacking operations – these alleged enemies of the state are nearly as likely as their fascism-minded adversaries to dismiss the poor as subhuman.
The overwhelming probability is therefore that any secret, federally organized effort to fatally afflict those of us who are impoverished will never be revealed.
However – at least in the New Mexico and Washington state cases – there are motives for crimes against the poor that are far older than the Obama regime. As noted in the NPR report that exposed the malfeasance of New Mexico's welfare bureaucrats, that state has “been under legal pressure for more than 20 years about how it doles out public assistance.” And Washington became somewhat similarly notorious – though all the relevant information has since been disappeared from the Internet – after Seattle's late Watergate Felon John Ehrlichman testified the state was the national plutocracy's favorite rat-lab for testing new techniques of oppression. The two states are also similar in their political ambiguity – that is, they are governed sometimes by Democrats, sometimes by Republicans, with both parties strong enough in each state to ensure that behind the typical charade of USian “democracy,” the One Percent retains absolute control.
While I know nothing more about New Mexico than what can be gleaned from standard public sources, I covered Washington state for nearly a dozen years as a card-carrying member of the working press and for another six years as a freelancer. After my official retirement in 2005, I became openly involved in local politics, most notably as an early activist in Occupy Tacoma (2011-2012). Since then have been at the core of other progressive efforts. Though geriatric physical disabilities increasingly curtail my ability to photograph, I continue to write for OAN and to post regularly on Internet discussion threads as well as to edit and produce a monthly newsletter for the 90-unit housing complex in which I dwell; the housing complex provides so-called “independent living” for elderly and disabled persons, and via its newsletter I cover such political topics – for example public transport – as are relevant to my fellow residents' needs and interests.
Thus I have a long and extensive familiarity with Washington state politics, enough to state unequivocally that beneath its deliberately deceptive “progressive” camouflage, it is in many ways – especially socioeconomically – more reactionary than any other state in the imperial union. For example, a Tacoma city official tells me it is the only state in which tenants have no legal rights whatsoever, a statement confirmed daily by the seemingly endless intrusions and disruptions inflicted on my neighbors and me by a facilities-renovation that was supposed to be completed months ago but – thanks to the landlord's greedy indifference to our well-being – will probably continue to plague us at least until November. But the clearest demonstration of the state's longstanding hatefulness toward lower-income people is its tax structure, which is by far the most regressive in the nation – and therefore probably the most regressive in the world.
The anti-Working-Class viciousness of the state's tax structure is vividly underscored by its contrast to the politicians' breathtakingly obscene generosity toward their corporate masters. Washington's corporate tax giveways, by far the largest in the nation, include the perpetually controversial $8.5 billion exemption granted Boeing. The resultant need to slash stipends and services thus provides motives aplenty for welfare bureaucrats to go far beyond legal limits in minimizing public-assistance costs. And I know from conversations with former DSHS employees they are evaluated not on the number of impoverished people they serve, but rather on how many of us they deny stipends and services.
But the fact remains food stamps are a federal program...
Which brings us back to the likelihood the state bureaucracies are under federal orders to cut food- stamp approvals by any means possible – including unquestionably criminal manipulations of supplicant's eligibility data.
As already noted, the Obama Regime is notorious for perpetuating the anti-Working-Class bias that has effectively unified the Democratic (sic) and Republican parties since President Clinton's abject surrender on welfare policy. Thus the probability a cut-food-stamp-use-by-any-means order has been clandestinely issued by Obama is implicit in the overt hostility – not just indifference – he exhibited in his response to the recession and his pro-austerity appointments.
Thus too it was no surprise when Obama's Deficit Commission Co-chairman Alan Simpson publicly denounced Social Security recipients – never mind their average income two years previous (the most recent year for which data was available) had been a definitively-impoverished $1,115-per-month – as “greedy geezers.”
Though the angry reaction Simpson's bigotry provoked was soon suppressed by the “mainstream media” propaganda ministry, the remark itself remains significant proof of the attitudes of the Obama Regime and the present-day Democratic (sic) Party toward poverty and those of us afflicted by it. Thus since Obama is known to demand ideological conformity throughout his regime, and since Democratic (sic) Presidential Hillary Clinton was a key part of his cabinet, it is arguable Simpson's malice toward those of us who are poor is probably, behind its rhetorical camouflage, little different from her own: another indication of how Hillary would govern if elected.
Meanwhile, whether or not Hillary remains the incipiently fascist Goldwater Girl she was in her youth, what is (deliberately?) overlooked in all the USian Empire's present-day “mainstream” political controversies is that now fully half the USian homeland population is definitively low-income. Nor, short of (extremely improbable) economic revolution, is there any likelihood our lot will improve in the foreseeable future – most certainly not in my remaining lifetime. Not only has the homeland's so-called “surplus population” thus become an issue. The near-certainty of additional job-stealing “free trade” agreements – the irony quotes because the only “freedom” in “free trade” is that of the One Percent to further subjugate us – means the socioeconomic destitution into which we the people are being thrust will soon become the nation's majority condition. That's why it is increasingly evident, particularly to the millennial generation, the only hope for restoration of the so-called “American Dream” is to redefine it in socialist terms – “from each according to ability; to each according to need” – and then impose it by whatever means prove necessary.
The fact this pre-revolutionary attitude has been to varying extents apparent in the USian homeland since the advent of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s no doubt explains the underlying purpose of Obama's total surveillance program. Just as Kate Epstein notes in the report linked in the preceding sentence, “What very few people are acknowledging, amidst all the discussion about the Snowden leak and what it reveals, is that a very real purpose of the surveillance programs—and perhaps the entire war on terror—is to target and repress political dissent. 'Terrorism' is the new 'Communism,' and the war on terror and all its shiny new surveillance technology is the new Cold War and McCarthyism.”
It is in this context we should consider not only the potentially deadly impacts of food-stamp cuts – extra-legal or not – but also Washington state's even more potentially murderous elimination of its telephone subsidies, which deny 911 emergency services to an unknown number of people who were already desperately poor. The Obama Regime's change in Medicare regulations to give medically ignorant bureaucrats absolute veto power over trained and licensed physicians is also potentially death-dealing and should therefore be viewed in the same light – that is, as an intensification of government authority in response to an increasingly rebellious population. Finally – and here is the culmination of my argument – there is the Empire's now-undeniable war against African-Americans, who were the first post-First-Nations people to launch a culture-wide rebellion against USian capitalism and are therefore, by the deadly logic of violent subjugation, now the first targets of the local police who have been federalized and militarized into a de facto national police force – a merciless army of occupation that ever more often performs the genocidal function of a new Gestapo.
While a growing number of USians recognize the Empire's foreign wars as genocidal, there remains widespread reluctance to apply that term to what obtains here in the USian Homeland. That is because of our failure, typically the result of obstructive optimism, to acknowledge that since the Decade of Political Murders – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy slain in 1963, Malcolm X slain in 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy slain in 1968 – the Empire now increasingly employs the same oppressive policies at home it has always used abroad.
Identifying these policies as genocidal is further hampered by the slow-motion process of death inflicted by the thousand cuts of stipend-and-service reductions. Those of us who are its victims – we who are elderly, disabled or chronically unemployed (and thus no longer exploitable for capitalist profit) – cannot doubt the genocidal intent of what is being done to us. But with the USian majority cleverly trained to see genocide only when it is manifest as death camps and gas chambers, it is difficult to to make our case save to others who are similarly victimized.
True, the more obvious genocide inflicted on African Americans, Hispanics and First Nations people by federally trained and equipped local police – which by its endlessly increasing death toll is obviously in response to a national shoot-first order – is finally being (minimally) acknowledged outside the targeted communities. Even so, the white population's closed-minded, 77-percent resistance to recognizing the racial (and therefore implicitly genocidal) motive behind the abandonment of the black population of New Orleans to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 suggests any sort of broader ideological awakening remains decades distant – as does the lynch-mob malevolence typified by the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and his pledge of an anti-minority domestic Holocaust to “Make America Great Again.”
Such is capitalist governance in accordance with Ayn Rand's fictionalizations of Mein Kampf: absolute power and unlimited profit for the One Percenters and their Ruling Class vassals, total subjugation and deadly poverty for all the rest of us. So goes the Empire in the early 21st Century, its ever-more-evident ethos that of a uniquely USian form of Nazism, its Caucasian masses united by the mesmerizing chants of “USA! USA! USA!” – our species' newest equivalent of “Zieg Heil.”
LB/29 September – 3 October 2016.