“Everything’s Fine”: The Comfortable, the Afflicted, the Beakwetters, the Gaslit

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Gawd knows, I ought to be writing about the Democrat National Convention, whose opening night is tonight, but I can’t even. (Please direct any comments on that topic elsewhere, not here.) Rather, I’m going to hoist a long comment by Amfortas the hippie, for a few reasons. First, I want to make certain that Amfortas gets all the professional-quality advice that the NC commentariat can give him regardng one of those legal/financial/bureaucratic/ethical questions that so often come up, and not just in the lives of old codgers like me. Second, the refraction of class through family relations (and family relations generally) must surely be of interest to many readers. Third, I find two questions of vocabulary, one positive (the meaning of “gaslit”) and one negative (the absence of a word for the tactics of crapification) intriguing as well. I am not going to handle these topics in order; rather, I’m going to post Amfortas’s comment, and add footnotes to it. So things may seem a little circuitous and out of order!

Amfortas takes a link to The New Republic as his starting point: “The Real Pandemic Gap Is Between the Comfortable and the Afflicted.” Here for our purposes is what I think is the key paragraph:

But there’s a divide that’s been more difficult to talk about [than the divide between the billionaire class and the rest of us]: The one between Americans earning about the median income or less and Americans who earn two or three times that wage. Life is vastly different for people who earn $30,000 and people who earn $300,000—not on the same scale as the distance between the average American and Jeff Bezos but distinct nonetheless. Life is also significantly different between people who earn $30,000 and people who earn $130,000.

Needless to say, life is also vastly different for those who earn $30,000, and those who earn so little they don’t file taxes; that divide, at that level, is the context for Amfortas’s comment. But before hoisting it, just let me expand a bit on “the Comfortable and the Afflicted” near-cliché in TNR’s title. It comes from the pioneering American columnist Peter Finley Dunne, whose persona, Mr. Dooley, is often paraphrased as follows:

The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

However, that’s not what Dunne actually wrote. Rather, in Dunne’s rendering of Irish-American dialect, he has Dooley say:

“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”

Of course, newspapers don’t do all those things, although they do sometimes think they can or should. And likewise with bloggers! However, “comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable” is something we can do, because words alone can do those things (especially in the Naked Capitalism comments section). With that, let me hoist Amfortas’s comment (to which I have added capitals and lightly repunctuated, apologies if need be, but I’d be driven crazy otherwise, and to which, as I said, I will add notes in square brackets, thus: [0]):

My stepmom has been calling me every 3-4 days since my dad died… mostly for comfort[1], which I provide as best I can (I am far from skilled at such social graces).

Today, she was apparently into politics… and sounded just like my mom, and just about any other person I know of that age cohort that isn’t dirt poor[2].

The launch pad was what this life insurance policy would do to me and mine.

I’ve determined that it will be counted as income for the month I get it, and assets thereafter[3]… Most certainly kicking wife off Medicaid[4], and causing us to spend 10k up front for regular insurance through the school.

Stepmom is a retired school admin person, and in the same teacher systems as wife, but apparently got in when things were good… because she denied that there could be any problem getting insurance through a school. Direct quote: “Everything’s fine”[5] (I actually bit my tongue).

For wife, school insurance would cost us a quarter of her income, at least…. What with premiums, copays, deductibles… and the threat of them not paying would always be there[6].

All of that info is from the school person who handles all that as well as the financial gal at the oncology clinic…. I did not get it from infowars, lol.

But this is denied as even a possibility[7]… We must be doing something wrong[8].

So I tell the brief version of my 6 1/2 year struggle to get a hip…. And again: “It doesn’t happen that way.”

But this is my dad’s widow, and I didn’t want to yell at her.

This… right here… is one of the most crazy-making features of our current situation… and has been for a long while now: this total denial that anything is wrong with the world… and that the Dems are decidedly not on the side of the poor and the disabled.

“You must have done something wrong” is the excuse I’ve heard for most of my adult life… From the insane crusade against me by the cops, back when (“That doesn’t happen, you must have been beaten by someone else” (!!!))… to the incredible Kafka hoops wife had to crawl through to get certified to teach Spanish in Texas[9]…. To my own difficulties getting a hip.

All of these require a not soundbite-friendly narrative, due to the esoteric nature[10] of each of those things.

If you’ve never tried to get certified for Spanish, you can’t know…. Similarly for poor people programs, and for being terrorized by cops.

Each of these narratives challenges so many sacred cows that it’s near impossible to educate anyone about it who isn’t there already… Ironically, especially Democrat voting PMC types.

“Everything’s fine.”

The impossibility of successfully navigating any of those systems from within them[11] is totally lost on so many folks…. Wife’s Spanish cert and my hip felt more like accidents than anything… As if whatever beakwetter[12] sitting in the works had got their fill and allowed us to pass.

Of course, stepmom hasn’t been poor since the 50’s… Certainly not since she met dad… and she lives in Clear Lake, and never sees a poor person unless they’re cleaning the pool or mowing the yard[13] …and those are all brown people with little English…and one doesn’t talk to them, merely points[14].

Sorry for the rant, but it has to go somewhere[15].


[1] Not affliction.

[2] Discussions of politics between family and friends can be extremely difficult, and I am not sure how to handle them, other than keeping silence (which is fine until I hear something I just can’t let go (and am not nearly enough of a Buddhist to practice non-attachment)). I didn’t speak freely to a friend for a good six months after election 2008, and nearly lost the friendship altogther. I’d be interested to hear from readers who have the social graces to handle this situation better than I did, especially considering that the 2008 zeitgeist, crazed as we then thought it, was mild compared to today’s.

[3] Alert reader griffen comments:

Something worth researching more is how that insurance policy is treated for tax purposes. This was many years back, but when Dad passed I don’t believe my Mom was required to pay or treat the proceeds as taxable income. That was North Carolina, & I strongly suspect dad paid for it with AT funds. Given the mid 80s work environment in small town USA and such.

Do we have any tax experts in the readership who can clarify? Both for Federal and State (Texas) taxes? Certainly this seeming good fortune afflicts Amfortas, so it would be a mitzvah to comfort him (see e.g. 2 Cor 1:4).

[4] Alert reader Noone from Nowheresville comments:

Yep, each state has their own asset and income limits for Medicaid plus clawbacks. Even some lovely lovely different rules for different ages too. Makes complexity even more complex.

Ask now for an estimate. It’s absolutely not taboo, given your family’s medical situation. You’ll absolutely need to plan for it and most likely spend it all in one month. Possibly pre-paying expenses like property taxes and other monthly bills. Extra food stock., etc. Perhaps set up an irrevocable funeral account trust. (know the rules on this one for your state)

Make sure you keep every receipt showing how it spent. Nothing which could be considered asset purchase under the state’s Medicaid asset rules. Nothing which increases the value of any current assets under the Medicaid asset rules like the funky trailerhouse.

Make sure any lawyer you use is well-versed in Medicaid rules, not just a great lawyer.

Here again comforting Amfortas in his affliction would surely bring good karma to the comforter.

[5] I don’t think either stepmom or Amfortas has this meme in mind:

But maybe they did!

[6] It’s important to liberal Democrats that the recipients of governmental largesse be worthy, and they employ themselves in setting up complex systems of eligibility requirements that to make that determination.

[7] This is the first vocabulary question. We need a word for the denial of Amfortas’s reality by a person who, by virtue of their class position, has never had to experience what Amfortas experiences. Alert reader Diptherio suggests a term for this denial:

I believe the term is “gaslighting.” Sorry you’ve got to deal with it. I don’t think I’d have the strength not to scream at her.

I disagree. Gaslighting comes from the movie Gaslight (starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotton, directed by the great George Cukor, and Angela Lansbury’s screen debut). Gaslight is a psychological thriller, and gaslighting is the mechanism used by the villain:

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light,[4] and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944.[5] In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The play’s title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gas lights in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions…. The wife repeatedly asks her husband to confirm her perceptions about the dimming lights, noises and voices, but in defiance of reality, he keeps insisting that the lights are the same and instead it is she who is going insane. The term “gaslighting” has been used colloquially since the 1960s to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s perception of reality.

I first encountered the term “gaslighting” back in the days of Bush the Younger, who used the color-coded “threat level” terror alerts to gaslight the American voters in the run-up to election 2004. However, I don’t think that Amfortas’s stepmom — unlike George W. Bush — is a murderous sociopath. She is not, I think, denying Amfortas’s reality in order to manipulate him; she is simply impervious to any reality other than the reality that exists within her own class bubble. There’s a lot of that going about just now, but I can’t think of a word for this embubbling process. Readers, especially including Amfortas, can you? Ideally the word should not sound like it was cooked up in a post-Modernist lab, and should be one or two syllables (unless there’s a precise word in a foreign language, in which case, and especially if its German, take as many syllables as you like). If you can come up with a candidate, please use it in a sentence.

[8] This is my second vocabulary question. The feeling that “We must be doing something wrong” is pervasive in a system that Kafka-eque depends on complex eligibility requirements (which often overlap, as in Amfortas’s case.) The complexity is a form of crapification at the tactical level — other countries, for example, avoid the complexity of “premiums, copays, deductibles” by making health care free at the point of delivery, even for the unworthy — and the feeling of wrongness is a mental signal of some kind, the feeling that one is about to be caught in a trap. (And surely it is a trap that if you accept a one-time payment of $10K, you lose your health insurance forevermore, and pay taxes on it into the bargain.) And our political economy is full of such traps (indeed, one might urge that “predatory precarity” is the sad and existential position of so many PMCs, because they make their living setting and building traps — take the health insurance industry. Please! — instead of doing productive work. But I don’t have a word for the tactics of crapification. Booby traps? Banana peels? Pitfalls? Dark patterns? Hooks? Snags? Gaffes? Land mines? Same rules of engagement as above.

[9] More [crapification tactics] (insert real word here).

[10]. They are only esoteric to the embubbled (?) who have not experienced them.

[11] More [crapification tactics] (insert real word here).

[12] “Beakwetter.” From Godfather II:

Don Fanucci : Young man, I hear you and your friends are stealing goods. But you don’t even send a dress to my house. No respect! You know I’ve got three daughters. This is my neighborhood. You and your friends should show me some respect. You should let me wet my beak a little. I hear you and your friends cleared $600 each. Give me $200 each, for your own protection. And I’ll forget the insult. You young punks have to learn to respect a man like me! Otherwise the cops will come to your house. And your family will be ruined. Of course, if I’m wrong about how much you stole, I’ll take a little less. And by less, I only mean – a hundred bucks less. Now don’t refuse me. Understand, paisan? Understand, paisan?… Tell your friends I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak. Don’t be afraid to tell them!

“Beakwetter” is a lot better than “gatekeeper,” because it makes the economic relation central.

[13] That’s hardly fair. Somebody’s got to clean the granite countertops!

[14] A mini-field report on class relations, right there.

[15] I don’t feel that Amfortas needs to be sorry. This was a terrific rant, and hopefully productive and fun for readers.

* * *

In a normal post, I’d put the Conclusion before the notes, but here we are. I hope there are some subject matter experts out there who can provide comfort for Amfortas (see text and footnotes at [3] and [4]). I also hope that there are some readers who are more clever than I am right now, who can solve the vocabulary puzzles in [7] and [8]. Then we can go out and afflict the comfortable with them.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Adam

    I’ve seen certain types of trusts that pay out monthly amounts that aren’t taxable income for the recipient (instead the trust pays the tax). If this type of trust was setup to pay for costs directly (which granted, I don’t know if that’s allowed as I only saw it from a the perspective of a lender when I worked in a mortgage brokerage), then it would not even enter your personal bank account. Those feature combined might deal with the healthcare eligibility issues (which I’m assuming is an income+asset combination).

    1. Adam1

      Yes a trust is a good tool for situations like this, however his problem is that the insurance policy was likely set to pay him as the beneficiary and not the trust. So he must deposit the check before it can be transferred to the trust which during an audit would be identified as his assets and an improper transfer to the trust which would likely make them clawbackable.

    2. Alex

      If the Medicaid recipient is disabled or 65+, it’s definitely worth looking into a non-profit pooled trust. Search for pooled trusts that operate in your state and contact them for advice. You may be able to set this up without involving a lawyer.

      You might call your local Area Agency on Aging (https://www.n4a.org/) and ask for referral for assistance with Medicaid issues that may be free or low-cost.

      Depending on the amount of the payout, it’s worth doing the math to see if paying an elder lawyer to take care of this for you would save you more than you’d lose if you lost Medicaid. Alternatively, Elder Law practices sometimes employ social workers to do the gruntwork on Medicaid issues. If you can get in touch with one, they likely will be able (and willing) to refer you to an organization who can help. Social workers rock.

      I hope the payout ends up working to your benefit. Don’t lose faith.

      – A social worker

  2. apleb

    I agree that gaslighting is not the proper description. There is to my knowledge no word for this detachment from reality or non-understanding of the bigger world. At the same time it’s an old phenomenon: the famous quote by Queen Marie Antoinette of the French Revolution fame. That one she supposedly hasn’t said:
    “Let them eat cake.”
    This is the exact same thing and for the exact same reason. By the same kind of people said about other people.

    1. Waking Up

      Instead of “gaslighting”, wouldn’t this be another prime example of “cognitive dissonance”? As simply described in Psychology Today:

      ” The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance – The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. It offers one explanation for why people sometimes make an effort to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash with each other. When one learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief, for example, or acts in a way that seems to undercut a favorable self-image, that person may feel motivated to somehow resolve the negative feeling that results—to restore cognitive consonance. Though a person may not always resolve cognitive dissonance, the response to it may range from ignoring the source of it to changing one’s beliefs or behavior to eliminate the conflict.”

      1. Mike Elwin

        Cognitive dissonance is one of those blazingly obvious things that no one notices until there’s a book about it. Yes, when we’re confronted with new facts and experiences that contradict what we know or feel to be true, we get uncomfortable, squirm in our seats, even deny the new is credible or real.

        We feel as though we’re being gaslighted.

        By the way, good teachers learn to manipulate cognitive dissonance in their students–too much or too little of it and students tune out, just enough and they’re enticed.

        1. A republic if you can keep it.

          To Mike Elwin, you can write, in short distinct sentences, making the obscure understandable. This was needed on this otherwise enlightening and interesting Post (I would prefer to call it an essay) and every day on Naked Capitalism.
          I use this as a stepping off place to make several more points.
          The first is that I am drawn to Naked Capitalism despite its frustrating organization, bad writing and use of elliptical phrases and incomprehensible allusions (beakwetters, predatory precarity, gaslighting, etc.) which dive me nuts, because Naked Capitalism’s point of view is closest to and ceaselessly informs mine. In other words, Naked Capitalism is important and unfortunately unique. I can find no other publication that has Naked Capitalism’s point of view.
          For example, no other publication understands the importance of the Professional Managerial Class (PMC), a class that emerged and grown to importance since WWII. I believe the PMC is largely mirrored in the New Class of Milovan Đilas, the Yugoslavian democratic socialist politician. Call it the highly-educated middle class or whatever you want, the PMC includes those who staff and live handsomely off the difficult-to-pay and impossible to change fees of the oligopolies such as large phone company internet service providers; medical doctors, whose inordinate compensation is not threatened by any change except single payor; etc. The PMC now under-girds and is part-and-parcel of our System. This class staffs the multinational corporations, law firms and other public and private institutions that make up The System. I don’t know where the pentagon sits in this System, outside, inside or adjacent. But it is part.
          I first heard PMC used as an acronym when it was intoned by Bernie Sanders young base when we were working primaries earlier this year, some of them budding members of the PMC themselves. Maybe an occasional essay in Jacobin used it.
          This Professional Managerial Class’s importance is felt, not conceptualized, by the middle and classes below it, which I will call the underclass — those displaced and displaceable by the System as it evolves and changes. This underclass does not see others who make up the System: the families of great wealth, not what were formerly called the investment bankers (whose ravenous ethic has found its way down to the branch manager of the commercial bank) and not those in the c-suites. Thus the PMC is the visible part of the System and easily identified to the underclass as the cause of their problems, e.g. Volvo and BMW driving liberals. There is more than a bit of truth in that description. People feel what they can see. Conservative Republicans, the libertarians, and cult-leaders like Trump vilify the PMC, not by name, but use aliases. Thus the underclass can be motivated by those who support the System to oppose those who staff the System, but not the System’s prime movers.
          My further point is that the PMC composes a large portion of the movers and shakers of what I call Professional Democrats — those that Professional Democrats really advocate for, or at least will not cross. For example MSNBC will not report on the PMC’s handsome perch in the System. This might be because MSNBC perceives itself to be a node of the PMC. (Long before this, I worked for NBC News of which MSNBC is a part.) The others protected include, of course, Finance writ-large, and certain strategically-placed public employee unions. In this latter belief I might have crossed a line for some readers of NC.
          My point is that Naked Capitalism is unique in this point of view, which is unfortunate in a nation of 330 million people.
          My final point is that I see, with the possible exception of Warren, Sanders alone among national leaders intends to meaningfully better the lives of our nation’s underclass.

    2. clarky90

      Is our epidemic of Fake News, gas-lighting?

      This account is macabre, but important.- And it was not confined to the Nazis. The Bolsheviks behaved similarly.

      “The Actual Truth” (logos) is often the diametric opposite of the narrative being spun. I see this a lot now.

      Testimony of Hershel Spieling on Treblinka Camp


      The Treblinka Camp was setup as a sophisticated, efficient, gaslighting operation. People are trusting.

      The “Lazarett” (field hospital, infirmary) had a Red Cross emblazened on it. An inmate, wearing a white doctor’s smock, redirected the old, infirm, recalcitrant arrivals into the “lazarett”……..as they disembarked.

      “……The transports of German and Czech Jews were received with all kinds of tricks and pretences which masked the true situation. On the platform signposts were put up; “To Bialystok,” – “To Wolkowice.” There were also signs saying “Platform 1,” Exit,” To the Toilets” . The people were not beaten on arrival and even the commands were given in a polite and friendly fashion. One woman who has brought a lot of suitcases with her does not want to go into the Lazarett, is given assurances that her luggage will be sent on after her…..

      …..The SS take even more care over the transports of Bulgarian Jews. They arrive in nicely appointed passenger coaches. Their trains have coaches with wine, bread, fruit and other foods……”

      1. Berit Bryn-Jensen

        Bulgarian Jews living within pre-war borders of Bulgaria were saved, most of them. Church leaders and prominent citizens and civilians protested vehemently so deportations stopped after one or two transports. Sofia’s more than 25.000 and the other Jews were saved. I did not know until a visit to Sofia in the 1980s. I’m curious and looked past a huge gate half ajar in the town center. A few elderly men in black, sitting behind the fence in a small garden, invited me in and gave me a tour of the premises. It was a huge, old, wooden synagogue. The kind, old men were a rabbi and caretakers of the synagogue and of history. Unforgettable. Please correct my name: only berit

    3. L

      I think a simple thing might just be age. Not in a negative sense but in an experience sense. People older than me, even those who are aware that things are different still run on memories of how things used to work. Sometimes that comes out as polite misunderstanding that not everyone has a pension, and other times a Presidential Candidate tells you they don’t want to hear you say things are harder now because back in their day… etc.

      Either way it represents a profound disconnect that we carry with us from our past experiences that can make it hard to fully understand those who did not have those or whose salient experiences were so much different from ours. Again this is not an insult, just a comment.

      That is why the DNC convention is running the reruns not the young guns. Because reruns are safe, and they make older Republicans feel comfortable.

      1. BillC

        I think the answer to the vocabulary question at [7] is willful ignorance.

        OK, agreed, “… our past experiences … can make it hard to fully understand those who did not have those or whose salient experiences were so much different from ours.”

        But one need not fully understand someone else (in the sense of actually feeling their reactions: anger, confusion, pain, joy, etc.) in order to at least intellectually understand the factors that engender those reactions. What this does require is (1) a real desire to understand the other, (2) listening carefully, and (3) making the effort to squeeze all the juice out of what one hears, not just your first knee-jerk reaction.

        Living a life different from another person in class, race, gender identity, epoch, or any other dimension of interest may make it easy not to do those things, but does not make it impossible. Failing to do so — e.g., stopping at the first knee-jerk reaction — is willful, even if the knee-jerk itself isn’t. The consequence is that you are indeed ignorant of what the other person experiences, whether it reflects factual truth* or not.

        * or whatever yardstick you use to perceive the world, see reader flora’s Sullivan link re. “wokeness” in Aug. 17 Water Cooler comments at 2:17 pm.

        1. T

          100%. This is impossible unless a person at some point, on some level, actively refuses to look at the evidence.

          People use cognitive dissonance to describe how people protect the fantasy in their head from being influenced by reality and I’ve never liked it.

        2. jef

          BillC – I have been wrestling with this for some time now and I see that it falls into three different versions.
          There are without a doubt some who are truly ignorant, some who are willfully ignorant, and then those who have ignorance thrust upon them. That last one incorporates the first two but is worth a greater degree of compassion.

          What differentiates these is the amount of accurate information one has and how that information is acquired. At this point you have to be a very special person to seek out enough accurate information that will allow one to behave properly/humanly.

    4. Anders K

      Might I humbly suggest “classlighting” ?

      Thus keeping the relation to the original word, and its psychological impact, while also pointing out the source of the refusal to believe in what the other person is saying.

      Admittedly, there is a problem when the things actually work differently from when you do them and your friend/family does; my personal experience (positive) of unemployment assistance (as a white edumacated dude) is vastly different from one of my friends (white but blue collar working class dude).

      This is often part of the disconnect, as people actually have different experiences (of course the issue gets muddled when you assume that things work a certain way, as seems to be the main problem for the widow). What works for me does not necessarily work for thee, and vice versa.

        1. berit

          Very good, spot on. Klasselys or klassejuss in my mother tongue, I think. Huge scandal here. Quite recently. Thousands of people on temporary social disability money while being “processed” as permanently disabled or with some rest work ability and back to work, have been sentenced to prison terms, fines and/or pay back huge sums of money. Since at least 2012 when EU changed rules that effected EFTA which have bearing on Norwegian practice. NAV norsk arbeids og velferdsadministrasjon, (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) did not notice the change, neither did lawyers, judges, secretaries of state, NAV bureaucrats, supreme court judges … Systemic failure, politicians say, while sick, old, poor people wait and wonder if they’ll receive compensation while still alive. Klassejuss!

      1. freedomny

        Classlighting! That’s really good. My entire family is mostly filled with the PMC with their advanced degrees from Ivy Leagues. My generation and those younger know exactly what is going on but will never admit to it (although one of my sisters did call me a class traitor). There is a portion of the PMC that is absolutely vicious and will do anything to hold onto their own class standing.

      2. Patrick Thornton

        I once proudly ‘invented’ the word “imprismed”* to capture the idea that we are all a product of our own reality.
        Anders K is much more humble than yours truly, and better at finding the proper word: “classlighting” is a wonderful choice.
        *One dictionary defines the word “prism” as “used figuratively with reference to the clarification or distortion afforded by a particular viewpoint”

        1. rob

          “imprismed”….. that hits a lot of nails right on the head…. I like it.
          especially considering the variable of distortion or clarity depending on perspective… it’s dynamic.

    5. diptherio

      For the record, I was using the word in the sense that it gets used by a lot of (mostly youngish) people on twitter/mastodon, specifically those from minority groups, to describe people who tell them that whatever unjust nonsense they have to deal with can’t possibly be true (“What do you mean the cop pulled you over for being Black? You must have been doing something.” etc). So, in the current common usage the word doesn’t seem to imply the kind of purposeful malice that Lambert highlights, but can be the result of simply obliviousness. As far as I can tell, for most people using it, the term does really just mean denying the reality of someone else’s lived experience, whatever the motive.

      That said, I do think it’s a distinction worth having, and worth making…and I like Anders K’s “classlighting” a good bit.

    6. CuriosityConcern

      5To me the concept of “Frame of reference” describes the situation, but I don’t know a single word to impart the concept.
      Or, cultural apartheid?

      1. John Rose

        I like cultural apartheid but the language is a little high class. How about “thought prison”?

  3. jr

    “no word for this detachment from reality or non-understanding of the bigger world”


      1. John Anthony La Pietra

        One could stick one’s own head in the sand (or other comforting but concealing medium) or have it done by others, well-meaning or not. Usable as an active or passive verb — in the present, past, or participate sense.

        Alternatives: cocooned — or, if a third syllable is acceptable, bugblatted . . . in honor, of course, of the infamous Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal — so appallingly stupid that you can actually escape it by covering your head with your towel, since it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you.

        1. John Anthony La Pietra

          Really, spell check — “participate”? That was meant to say “participial”. . . .

    1. hunkerdown

      1. To bewitch or enchant someone.


      2. To wrap or bind with a thrown rope.

      Brilliant! Accurately describes elite-middle class dynamics.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        It does, but to me “ensorcelled” implies a sorcerer, and the whole point of this discussion is that the induced delusion is systemic.

        I like “classlighting.”

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          “Classlighting” works for me…although it assumes that one knows what “Gaslighting” is.

          and, damn, Lambert…gonna make me blush.
          and allow me to fill it out a bit:
          I don’t know how much of this is willfull at all…sure doesn’t feel that way.
          my dad, for instance, inherited the unconscious working class affinity from his dad…but they got subsumed somewhere along the way…coincident, i might add, with the republicanisation of dempolitics, from Carter onward.
          a few years ago, he closed my grandad’s small sheetmetal manufacturing business(founded in a barn in 1955 or so…built the Anheiser busch brewery and a lot of the refineries, etc)…sold the shop, and the equipment, and transformed it into a gig work, ad hoc manufacturer/maintenance out fit that had an office, and a sort of stable of workers who could be called on to bring their own tools to the job site.
          once, when we were down there, and he and i were running around Clear Lake, he went on about his top welder…30’s, with wife and 2 small kids, living in exurbia with a mortgage he got before the radical transformation of his work”place”.
          dad was grumbling about this guy asking for a raise in order to get a “fancy truck”.
          I pointed out that he needed reliable transportation in order to remain his top welder…hauling himself and his tools, etc.
          this shut him right up,lol.
          and he admitted he hadn’t even thought of that.
          I said “Papaw would have”.
          But “Papaw” would have known how that welder lived, known his wife and kids, have been to his house…if not helped out with it’s construction.
          Papaw would have also been unable to forget the Depression and the War…and was well known for firing an accountant who’s reason for being was tax avoidance…Papaw Liked Paying Taxes.(find me a boss like that, today!)
          Conversely, Dad hadn’t rubbed elbows with any poor people in decades(always denied that i was poor…or if too obvious, would imply it was my own doing)…hung out with millionaires at the marina…and was constantly “nudged” by Smerconish on the radio, and msnbc at home.
          Bill Maher was his idea of a radical.
          when he’d come up here, he’d marvel at my genius at poordom…the composting toilet…the extreme recycling…even went to the dump with me once…
          after a beer, he’d talk about summers on his grandad’s farm…who lived much the way that I’m trying to.
          but he couldn’t get his head around why it took so long for me to get a hip.
          I think, like racism, the cure is exposure.
          these bubble dwellers…just like the bottom 50% anticommie type republicans…would learn a lot, just by osmosis, if they were exposed to people outside of their bubbles.
          That’s been the findings of my feed store anthropology and symposia….Teabillies saying we need universal healthcare like it’s their idea.
          Thanks for elevating this.

          1. Craig

            Wow. I just had a very similar experience with my step-mom. Bubble dweller. I love the term. A full on hour of abuse that attributed her wealth to her intelligence and ingenuity (it was none of that) and my situation to sloth and stupidity. Exposure won’t work as they will never leave their bubbles. This country is breaking in two at more and more granular levels. It’s really a sad state.

  4. Carolinian

    I don’t see the word Trump anywhere in this post. Clearly this post is irrelevant to all our current problems (according to the Dems).

    Good luck Amfortas.

  5. David Jacobs

    In almost all cases the beneficiary of life insurance receives the money free of taxation from both the federal government and the state. So in terms of losing benefits, it would only be benefits with asset limits.

    States who have accepted ACA’s Medicaid expansion now allow you to receive medicaid benefits while only meeting the income requirements (e.g., not asset tested). So as mentioned by others a lot will depend on which state he is in.

    If you are wondering about the exceptions to life insurance taxation you can check out (but I doubt they apply in this case) https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/102015/do-beneficiaries-pay-taxes-life-insurance.asp

    1. Lee

      Agreed. Life insurance paid for with after tax dollars is not income taxable. It could be subject to estate tax but an inherited estate the value of which would exceed the current exemption would be so substantial as to leave one quite well off.

      I haven’t researched this but might not a pre-inheritance paper divorce protect the insurance proceeds as well as half of the existing community assets from medical expense claims by the state?

  6. juliania

    I cannot assist amfortas in negotiating the system, much as I would love to do just that, being in my own situation even lower than he, but blessed to at least be in the senior category, and so I am forgiven much as a cranky old lady with not all her wits about her. What I relate to and enjoy so much in amfortas’ posts is his ability to swim below the radar and reluctance to engage in what many here have a bit more ability to argue about or contest. The challenge, as I see it, that his stepmother presents is that of Being Noticed.

    I too was almost Noticed when having a hip disorder I had to be ambulanced to hospital some years back and given an operation without which I would probably have lost ambulatory function completely. I was in the system, but I had unknowingly trespassed, at least according to the financial official of the hospital whose shock at my inability to furnish an insurance provider other than my minimal medicare card is etched on my subconscious to this very day. She was shocked; I was mortified. And all of this was back then, pre-covid, when the system just barely accomodated klutzes like me. I was allowed to pay $50 per month on my bill, and it didn’t go up with interest, so in three years I could become solvent again, and blessedly creep back under the radar.

    Under the radar is a safe place to be – and I suspect many are those like me, who just shrink from the light and are happy in our nonconformity, in being as our parents were, not bothered by insurers, living simply, making ends meet, just. We are the ones who even can see the difference a mere five dollar increase in our monthly social security check makes. We don’t have supplemental insurance because we can’t – that would mean a hundred dollars less for food, and many of us have a son or daughter living with us who shares what we can provide. And I tell you, as Amfortas himself does, life has meaning.

    Well, I won’t take up your time. I hope others can be more helpful to Amfortas. He champions a lifestyle that I understand, and it’s not an easy one but that’s what makes it special. Farming relatives of mine in New Zealand were locked to their land and animals the way he is, and they lived such a rich life. Knew everyone in the little town, especially the neighbors who helped them out when the house burned down. But then, oh dear, those neighbors won the lottery! They were so rich, they didn’t need to farm; they travelled wherever they wanted to go. They became strangers. I wish the world was full of small farmers, not conglomerates. That was my childhood.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I too was almost Noticed when having a hip disorder I had to be ambulanced to hospital some years back and given an operation without which I would probably have lost ambulatory function completely. I was in the system, but I had unknowingly trespassed, at least according to the financial official of the hospital whose shock at my inability to furnish an insurance provider other than my minimal medicare card is etched on my subconscious to this very day. She was shocked; I was mortified. And all of this was back then, pre-covid, when the system just barely accomodated klutzes like me. I was allowed to pay $50 per month on my bill, and it didn’t go up with interest, so in three years I could become solvent again, and blessedly creep back under the radar.

      I like the word “Noticed.” That’s a good word (and ties up with “Giving notice” for me….)

    2. furies

      I’ve also ‘lived low’ my whole adult life after growing up very middle class. I’ve also lived a similar lifestyle to amfortas– and loved it and miss it. Only a lowly renter now.

      I watched my mom after my parent’s divorce never have enough to put a down payment on a house. She was the ultimate consumer; clothes, books, make-up…*shoes*. My dad the same way…always tired but has to have that new Cadillac, new sailboat etc etc.

      I saw all that and said nah, no way am I going to slave away and sell my life away for *stuff*.

      And now in my old age, here I am, living on less than $1,000/month, happy to have found my 325 sq. ft. studio, worse for wear and tear–the stories I could tell about family dysfunction, judicial corruption, about sadistic social workers, about lawyers who are really just professional *liars* (the status they receive??gross); life in amurica has turned even uglier with the Covid pandemic.

      I fully expect to become homeless (again) before the fat lady sings thanks to relentless ‘means testing’ that’s really just a trap with slip ups designed thruout. But I take comfort in that I have lived according to my principles sticking to the Buddhist admonishment of ‘right livelyhood’.

      I very much appreciate amfortas’ posts! (and I wish all the best navigating his dilemma)–a reminder of a life I once had and is no longer an option. But I still have those skills so will have something to offer, if recognized. (Probably not…)

      Thanks to NC, to Lambert for highlighting this post and the NC commentariat for helping educate me.

  7. Procopius

    A term that was current a couple of years ago was “epistemological closure,” the idea that right-wing people shield themselves from information that would make them doubt their (mistaken) beliefs. It should apply just as much to the people suffering from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrom), those who believe in Russiagate, and Clintonite Centrists. I don’t think there is an existing word for people who believe benefits must only be given to the worthy. There should be.

    1. wsa

      I don’t think there is an existing word for people who believe benefits must only be given to the worthy.


    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > A term that was current a couple of years ago was “epistemological closure,” the idea that right-wing people shield themselves from information that would make them doubt their (mistaken) beliefs.

      You are quite right, I should have remembered that. It’s accurate, but not confined — obviously! — to the right wing. Still, we need a word of one syllable, like “woke.”

      1. Mike Elwin

        Fearful. That’s the word. It all comes down to that, doesn’t it?

        I’m fearful that what you’re telling me challenges my belief that life is basically good, that god’s watching over us, the Yankees will win another World Series, Cadillac is The Standard of the World, the US health system is the best in the world.

        So I tell you/myself that your portrayal of the world is wrong.

  8. fwe'zy

    I get the sense that stepmom is gaslighting herself and Amfortas, in a desperate bid to “keep it together.” Subject positionality could explain her lack of awareness, but I think fear is keeping full awareness at bay. It takes intricate and exhausting mental/ emotional/ social reinforcement to maintain/ inhabit our roles without seeing the structures/ relations between them. Not doing so is potentially suicidal.

    1. flora

      Maybe stepmom isn’t aware of the many bureaucratic rule discrepancies in Medicaid based on age, income, date of entry into the system, state rules, etc. One govt program must have the same rules for all, right? (nope)

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        Flora’s “Unawareness” is driven by Fwe’zy’s “exclude it in order to keep it all together”.
        I do not want to be hard on her…this is a very rough time for her, rattling around in that empty house, where everything reminds her that he’s gone.
        But this is why i so rarely talked politics with her…I grokked a long time ago that i’d need to tie her to a chair, and get out a big whiteboard to get anywhere.
        and, she grew up dirt poor…and a large portion of her identity(reflected in her sisters who married even better) is escaping that poverty…and then turning around and wagging the finger at that Poverty(a socratic form, represented by po folks themselves), as a Warding Gesture…to protect herself from it’s approach.
        I get it.
        that’s a genuine psychological response to childhood trauma.
        but it lends itself readily to the hyperindividualised re-made human/citizen…and not to solidarity, let alone to tackling the systemic structures that actually produce that trauma in the first place.
        Years ago,I mentioned having a flat…and all the ridiculous things i had to do to overcome it(call wife to bring me the real jack, in the other truck, etc)…and she asked, in all seriousness, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, “why didn’t you just call tripleA?”
        Conversely, when dad went with me to the dump…here we are with a trailer full of trash and my POS truck with no A/C, and manual everything…and we run out of gas on approach to town, and i seamlessly switch to inertia maintenance, and coast the last mile, trailer in tow, into the Second Gas Station(!).
        Dad squirming in his seat, says..”so…this has happened before?”

        1. diptherio

          That bit about the psychological response to escaping poverty is very insightful.

          Perhaps on a related note, one thing I’ve noticed in the little bit of cooperative organizing I’ve done, is that the lower the income level that someone is coming from, the more concerned they are with the financial aspects of the co-op (i.e. making as much money from it as possible), whereas for people from the middle- or higher classes, the socially transformative part is what really motivates them (broadly speaking, of course, not true in every case, just plenty of them). This can lead to some real issues, where the middle/upper-middle class people basically accuse the lower-class people of being crass materialists…which is why I’ve found it easiest to successfully organize with groups that are composed of a single socio-economic class. A lot of cringey conversations just never happen if everyone is having broadly similar life experiences.

          1. hunkerdown

            It’s hard to come face-to-face with the threat of ruin made flesh that the system has continually brandished since before we were born, especially if one deems oneself to have put a safe distance and plenty of obstacles between oneself and the threat. Especially when the person who serves as an example of that threat sees the threatened person as having sold them out.

            Veblen pointed out in his Theory of the Leisure Class that lower-class delinquents usually have a similar, predatory perspective to that of elites. JM Greer, in an Archdruid Report expounding upon his class system based on where one’s income comes from, suggested much the same alignment of attitudes between his alms class and his profit class. The difference is in scale and opportunity.

          2. fwe'zy

            yes, I’m coming out of some experiences like what you describe, attempting to build coalitions among very different classes. Imagine a public policy masters degree student (not me) being in an internship with an environmental nonprofit with multiple millions of endowment being asked to drive around picking up free office furniture on the curb, instead of working on something to justify his student loans.

            That’s what happens when the treasurer is a wonderful older lady who’s raised kids on her own while working at the bottom of the totem pole in skyscrapers her whole life. Meanwhile the org’s corporate adversaries are operating on girthy, girthy budgets.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Subject positionality

      The last time I encountered “positionality” was in the letter from College Democrats smearing Morse. Where is this word coming from?

      (On the fear, see again Steve Waldman’s “Predatory Precarity.” It’s really the best exegesis of, well, PMC positionality (?) that I have seen.

      1. fwe'zy

        E-gads I’m so embarrassed to share a word with those stupid boys but it’s from anthropology. Probably related to intersectionality.

      2. fwe'zy

        Just read the Waldman piece and it’s great! It has both positionality and my pet peeve, the perils of high stakes intensifying class society:
        The only way out of this, the only escape, is to reduce the degree of stratification, the degree to which outcomes depend on our capacity to buy price-rationed positional goods. Only when the stakes are lower will be find ourselves able to tolerate, to risk, an economy that delivers increasing quantity and quality of goods and services at decreasing prices, rather than one that sustains markups upon which we, or some of us, with white knuckles must depend.

        Lower the stakes.

        This isn’t moralistic but rather pragmatic, as the pandemic has shown. We are not merely aggregated individuals. We are a web of life. Street poops and space coupes is our foul web at this moment.

      3. Skip Intro

        I took it as a weird reference to a Gramscian ‘battle of position’, but not if it comes from college dems.

        Classlighting is good, but still has an implied villain, so it misses the sort of privileged oblivion of Versailles. In this case we have both victim and villain in the same person. I took a brief look in the Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows, but nothing leapt out at me.

      4. Sub-Boreal

        Good question.

        I don’t know the origin of that specific word, but “-ality” and “-ivity” (or better still: “-alities” & “-ivities”) are efficient BS alarm-words when scanning titles and abstracts. I’m not a “social scientist”, so this kind of “discourse” is still rather foreign to me as I don’t swim in this milieu.

        They’re good examples of syllable creep – linguistic crapification? Another: when did “societal” replace “social”? They appear to be synonyms, but the former appeared some time after my undergraduate days in the ’70s.

  9. ChrisAtRU

    With sympathies and best wishes (given that some advice was provided) to Amfortas and family. Thanks for posting this!

    1. ChrisAtRU


      “… we need someone to talk to
      And someone to sweep the floors …

      from “Distant Early Warning” by Rush

  10. periol

    The situation between Amfortas and his family I have also experienced with my family. The only word I have been able to use to describe it is ‘denial’. The things that are or have happened to me are too challenging to the paradigm my parents use for living, so they pretend it’s not real, it doesn’t exist, it wasn’t said. After about a year, anything I said about myself or my life that challenged their framework went in one ear and straight out the other. I would ask about the conversation the next day, say, as a follow-up, and they would have forgotten the conversation even happened.

    It’s a form of psychic denial, that doesn’t even allow the conflicting information to present as real. Best description I’ve been able to come up with in my wanderings.

    Best of luck in out-witting The Man, Amfortas.

    1. CanCyn

      Agreed wholeheartedly – the word is denial. People just do not want to see how bad things are for so many. They do not want to acknowledge the insanity and inequity of our economy and the woes it has created for most of humanity and the earth. To paraphrase something that Lambert often says… it is pretty hard to get someone to see the truth when their comfort and wealth depends on their not seeing it.
      I too wish that I could figure out a way to talk to people about the realities of our economic and political systems. I have been told that I have outrageous opinions when trying to get people to see the right leaning and money grubbing ways of most of our so called liberal politicians. Try explaining MMT to people who ask “how are we going to pay for it?”with regard to any social support program? Fuggedaboudit!

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The only word I have been able to use to describe it is ‘denial’

      I understand “denial” as applying only to the user of the word, a person denying their own reality.

      1. periol

        I guess I think sometimes as a counselor, which is something I have done in the past. As a counselor, there were times I (sometimes successfully) tried to help people see that they were in denial.

        But I do agree with you, it’s not the right word. It’s not even quite the right word for what I’ve experienced. There’s a mental block that is stronger than mere denial. Classlighting works for some situations like this, but many of my experiences weren’t about class so much as larger lifestyle issues.

        A situation I remember clearly, because it was somewhat recent. My grandfather passed away, and about half of the family was having dinner a few days before the funeral. The aunts and uncles were reminiscing, talking about funny things Grandpa used to say, and mentioned some word they remembered him using that was always hilarious. My cousin looks at me and says out loud “is that racist”? Everyone at the table stares at him in shock. Like, of course GRANDPA wasn’t racist! A few aunts made some comments at my cousin for even saying something like that. Then another cousin pulls out their phone, looks it up – sure enough, racist. Like, pretty nasty actually.

        The shock at the table was palpable. Everyone was shaken, except the grandkids and greatgrandkids. We know America had lots of casual racism – Grandpa was nearly 100 years old, he lived quite a bit. But he was also a pastor and military chaplain with a fierce puritan moral code. Not one of his children, all good Christians themselves, could handle the casual racism in their father, maybe because it meant there was some casual racism in them as well? Dinner was over, and this dinner has never been mentioned by anyone in the family (except when I’m hanging with my cousins) since.

        It’s not denial. But it’s close, a kissing cousin if you will.

      2. Olivier

        Need to broaden the scope just a little bit: she is in denial about the condition and trajectory of the society she lives in. That is personal, too, or should be. Come to think of it, the denial is twofold: of the situation itself and that it concerns her at all. So, totally a denialpalooza.

    3. Acacia

      I also thought of denial, though when Lambert sharpened it as denial “by a person who, by virtue of their class position, has never had to experience …”, unfortunately the word that next came to mind is the wokester mot du jour: “privilege” (and I’m not sure I want to go there). As for a suitable German word, there is of course Freud’s Verneinung, though that is more of the pre-emptive “and it’s not about my mother!” form of denial.

    4. furies

      Wow, thanks, periol, you just described my family’s attitude towards me…

      this helps make sense of the cruelty.

      Whatever they say about me after I’m dead will be a lie and I have no control over that.

      I’ve made peace with it. On good days…

  11. Roquentin

    Re #7 I think you could use the classic Marxist concept of ideology here (and I mean that using the narrow, strict definition which goes with it). It might still be too academic, and it’s 5 syllables but it’s exactly what you are talking about. Louis Althusser defined it succinctly as “representing one’s imagined relationship to one’s actual conditions of existence.” You could think of ideology as something akin to the sun. It is responsible for illuminating everything around us, but most of the time it’s taken for granted to the point you don’t even notice it’s there. But if looked at directly, it becomes and object of obscene power and violence, which is painful to focus your eyes on. This is what living in a class bubble is like. Amfortas is seeing the obscene power of ideology and it feels like staring into the sun.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Amfortas is seeing the obscene power of ideology and it feels like staring into the sun.

      Ideology isn’t necessarily conscious or theoretical. But I think it’s freighted with a lot of meaning that may or may not be relevant.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        “Ideology isn’t necessarily conscious or theoretical”

        i think this gets overlooked far too much.
        it’s analogous to the Liberal who watched a lot of “Law and Order:SVU” and unconsciously becomes more frightened of going out.
        for being a bunch of subjects(hyperindividuals and Enterprises), we have great difficulty interrogating that subjectivity.
        I tend towards a social engineering explanation for a lot of this….taking buttons that are already there, and enlarging them, and pressing them repeatedly…such that you get something like hyperalgia, where the pain receptors get stuck in the on-position….and pain becomes the new baseline.
        It’s always been uncomfortable to look within…and the way our society has developed has made it more difficult…the contradictions are overwhelming at times. Better to ignore them.
        and that doesn’t even touch on the complexity…like the thing about teacher’s cert for spanish—while texas was inventing profit making hoops to jump through for domestic would be spanish teachers, the press had stories about a shortage of spanish teachers, so we had to import some from ecuador!.
        How to even begin to explain all that to somebody who thinks teachers are all marxists and satanists?
        Or even that they’re all just greedy and lazy?

      2. Acacia

        I thought that ideology in the classical Marxist sense is about a condition of not being conscious of a state of affairs, i.e., when Marx is talking about labor and the commodity, he uses the phrase: “They do not know it, but they do it.” In this sense — and also in Althusser’s understanding of ideology — it’s not theoretical. It’s something that happens at the level of social practices.

        I agree with Roquentin that ideology is an accurate word for describing this phenom. However, the main problem I see is that many people aren’t really clear on this word (and it has a complicated history), so it may not help us much. I could be persuaded otherwise, of course.

  12. foghorn longhorn

    1) It is my understanding that a parent can ‘gift’ their children a set amount per year, around 14k or so now, that is not taxable for the giftee and is tax deductible for the giftor. Might want to look into that.

    2) We are not being ‘gaslighted’, we are straight up being ‘catfished’.
    For example, we were sold ‘hope and change’ (the beautiful girl in the hot bikini) and were served up the same old, same old.
    Much the same way, medicare for all, has morphed into, access to healthcare.
    It is not something new, it has been this way my entire life, 62 glorious years, lol.
    Nothing we peons can really do about it, just have to roll with the punches and learn to use the rules they set to our advantage.
    Good luck to all.

    1. Coldhearted Liberal

      Tax rules are not medicaid rules. In any event, Medicaid has an extremely low asset limit (I read ust now 2k lquid assets) for qualification.

      As with a lot of social welfare in the US it is designed to punish and keep immuserated the people who use it.

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    I think vocabulary item [7] might be equivalent to “clueless”.

    The framing of this vocabulary question: “denial of a reality by a person who, by virtue of their class position, has never had to experience that reality” is a little unfair to Amfortas’s mother. I think the kind of problem Amfortas is facing might be unimaginable to her, not on account of class as much as on account of age. She might be old enough to come from a generation where such crapification seems alien to her beliefs about this country based on how things had been for her the greater part of her adult life — not on account of class so much as because such things had been alien to our country. I doubt that class alone would shield her from similar bureaucratic catch-22 situations. Perhaps she never did her own taxes. How many people — who are in what passed for the middle-class — have children or siblings who are in a lower class? How many people these days can say they’ve never been hassled by cops or never knew anyone who had been beaten by the cops?

    I think another aspect of the denial of the reality of Amfortas’s situation reflects a strong desire not to believe that such a situation is possible in America.

    1. Dirk77

      In my experience, and I include myself, people have limited compassion. They are able to understand the predicaments of people like themselves and sympathize, but it’s an effort to do so for others, to the extent that they often refuse to bother. And it is all a matter of degree. It’s the old line about conservatives: without imagination, they have sympathy only for people if they’ve experienced similar themselves. There is a David Chapelle skit where he likens LGBQT to a taxi. A gay man and woman are in the front seat. A queer man gets in the back and they look at each other saying: “now that guy is weird.” Perhaps Buddhists have a term for this kind of self-deception, and I will ask, but maybe it’s just part of the farce that is being human. A**hole to saint, we all lie somewhere on that line.

      1. Dirk77

        A teacher of mine suggested avijja, but I’m not sure I described the situation properly. Anyways, it seems a two step process: first one must make the effort to understand, and from that decide whether to get emotionally involved, to be compassionate or even to just be sympathetic. Self-deception I guess occurs when one subconsciously sees where things are going and doesn’t want to go there.

    2. Dan

      I think another aspect of the denial of the reality of Amfortas’s situation reflects a strong desire not to believe that such a situation is possible in America.

      This is my personal experience with members of my own family. I suspect this is the overriding reason for many people’s denial.

    3. Amfortas the hippie

      “…such crapification seems alien to her beliefs about this country based on how things had been for her the greater part of her adult life…”
      Yes…this is likely near the roots of it, at least in this case.
      They had almost free college, and cheap healthcare, and relatively high wages…and the experiences i had were so outside of where they’d been, that they couldn’t put them in the narrative framework.
      and the now commonplace “kids poorer than their parents”…well…that just couldn’t be true.
      Unthinkable is maybe a better discriptor.
      as in literally Un Think Able.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The “robot” character from Lost In Space offered us a phrase for that particular state of mind.

        That does not compute .

  14. Arthur Dent

    I grew up in Canada and moved to the US several decades ago. It baffled me for the first couple of decades about why the US was unable to have a functioning safety net that could be navigated without requiring a Harvard law degree.

    Over the past few years, I have come to understand the extreme level of bias and racism that permeates almost every aspect of the American economy from real estate (read “The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein) to healthcare to welfare etc. I saw a quote a couple of weeks ago about the fundamental tenet of class in the United States is to make sure that no group ever falls below African-Americans. In some areas of the country, Hispanics appear to be in that category as well.

    The US simply assumes that a large percentage of poor people are black and therefore inherently undeserving. Historically, the federal government and state states set the bars pretty low so that largely only blacks would slide under them. However, 35 years of widening inequality, declining minimum wage (in real terms), offshoring of jobs etc., means that more groups of people are sliding under the bar now, including employment-based healthcare that is offered to fewer and fewer workers.

    So US systems are designed to be complex, cumbersome, illogical, difficult to access, and understaffed. These are all features, not bugs, as they reduce usage and understanding. If it is government agency reduced access saves money and if it is a profit-making enterprise, confusion increases profits. State unemployment systems were exposed this spring when many could barely function at all in normal times and got two to three order of magnitude increases in applicants, many of whom were barely aware an unemployment system even existed because they had never had to access it. The US healthcare insurance system is designed to be impenetrable at the best of times.

    I have been teaching my kids that you have to understand the rules. It takes research because they are often difficult to find and then understand. Then you have to just go through the rules one by one to see if it screws you or you can work your way around it. I also teach them to simplify everything they do and to NEVER invest in something they don’t understand. The basic assumption is the entire system is one big alligator pond and it just views you as fresh meat.

    One of my kids had to access Medicaid this year after getting laid off. It is complex, but at least NYS lets you have it for a full 12 months once you qualify for it, even if you get a job after qualifying. Illogical, but apparently that is how the rules work. To get to Medicaid, they had to go from original healthplan to COBRA to NYS healthcare exchange to Medicaid in a span of four months. Insane, but that’s how the system is structured.

    So Amfortas, you need to sit down and become a tax attorney, legal aid advocate, and insurance agent to figure out how to navigate the system. There is usually a way through the shoals and across the portages, but it is not easy by design. It is similar to the ancient medieval quests for knights, where you have to prove yourself worthy of assistance by the state unlike the regular serfs and peasants.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Then you have to just go through the rules one by one to see if it screws you or you can work your way around it. I

      And the vocabulary word for the tactics used to do the screwing? Traps? Land mines? (It’s interesting to me that this question has not, so far, been addressed.)

      1. furies

        Traps and landmines. Both.

        SSI/SSDI reviews are a nightmare for the recipients; lots coming up thanks to Trumpkins. I think it’s asking a lot of poor people to have to be their own lawyers. I know paperwork just stresses me right the fu*k out–and after the brain damage from prescribed drugs (to ‘help’ me) it’s hardly a fair fight.

        So for me, Joe? or Trump? (and his short attention span) Pull the trigger; the bullet is coming either way.

      2. Arthur Dent

        Medicaid is often run at the state level even though much of the money comes from the Feds. So you have to go through the state rules and regulations to figure out eligibility. This is similar to unemployment insurance. Every state has their own nuances and rules and they change over time. It is complex, time-consuming, and requires time on the phone with people. Simple classifications of what type of work and how you get paid can put you in or out of eligibility.

        Social Security is federal and the rules are generally simpler and more straightforward.

  15. Krystyn Podgajski

    Even my close friends who make over $300k cannot understand what it takes for me to like to live on $20k a year. They always try to tell me how fix my problems and it always takes money. Or I tell them I an having trouble with housing and they assume there are programs that help people like me.

    The trouble is that I once lived their lives, but they have never lived mine. Or they did but they forgot. It creeps up on you slowly, the conditioning of the money. But to believe that it might not be an individuals fault for their poor station in life it means that they must also accept that their good position might have nothing to do with their own doing either. You see I think my friends think that they all are in control of life, and that is where I think these people are.

    They are in a constant state of anxiety and theses stories they share, this new matrix, inly replace the Gods they have had in the past. This new story is structured around capitalism. You work hard and be good and everything will be fine. Talking with these people is just like talking to a Jesus freak (an endearing term since that was my mother).

    Taking away their belief system will shatter their world and that is what will make them uncomfortable. Nothing else. It is only something experience can give them. You can have these newpapers and book screaming the truth all you want, but they are the devout, and you will all be sinners (or socialists).

    So just let go, let it fall apart, help it fall apart, confront people’s conditioning by living differently, like Jesus or something. The more people who are afflicted, or see their affliction by comparison, the less people we will have to convince to do the right thing. Yes, they will suffer, but these people are suffering already, it is what they call in Buddhism “Sankhara-dukkha”, the suffering of conditioning.

    We also have to get right with our own suffering and our own conditioning. It is hard but liberating. Just keep trying.

  16. fresno dan

    she is simply impervious to any reality other than the reality that exists within her own class bubble. Well, I call such people oblivious….

    First, I hope everything works out well for Amfortas. In California, we have HICAP that helps people understand Medicaid (note that understanding it means mostly coming to understand that there is no help) There is also legal aid to help people of limited means navigate the laws relating to eligibility and how different awards and benefits affect eligibility, but again, for a lot of people, they will learn that the safety net is total bullsh*t
    But, it is obvious that the system is designed for people who have enough income to hire attorneys, and the more money you have, the more and better attorneys you can marshal for your cause. And that the vast majority of the time it is simply an exercise in who has the most resources, and that litigant wins. It seems pretty obvious to me that the system is designed to protect the people with the most assets, and to oppress the people with the fewest.
    A colleague asked me for some information about medicare Part D – she had found out that her mother (who lives in Maine) had apparently not kept up with her Part D (drug benefit) premiums. Now, the daughter is a highly educated and very intelligent woman. So I began what was of course a frustrating attempt to explain medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D, and oh by the way, if she is on original medicare, does she have medigap? Medigap plans are designated as part A, B, C, D which are part of medicare but not the same as the other ABCD designaters which are for medicare but not medigap, and F(but ending) and G, K, L, M. And of course, there are deductibles, co-pays, and tiers (which would be far more truthful if they were called “tears”).
    Anyway, I came to the conclusion long ago that the modern bureaucratic state is designed to minimize any help to the poor, and its only a charade to maintain a facade that there is help to the needy.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      “Oblivious” is good! The word holds for me some the inherent refusal some people have about seeing anything outside what they want to see.

      How about blindered or blinkerd — like a horse.

        1. John Rose

          My reply to this post is to repeat from elsewhere above, “thought prison. It doesn’t have punch so many never go viral but I keep coming back to the image as I read these comments.
          The walls of a prison may not be obvious in what or whom is being enclosed. But on one side, there is no freedom.
          Maybe “self-made thought prison.”

      1. John Rose

        I do see a distinction between societal and social, perhaps having developed more recently as we have observed the societal effects of some social events????

  17. Jeremy Grimm

    As for Amfortas’s situation, I think David Jacobs offers good advice. I don’t know about taxes on life insurance — far the most important questions regard the Texas Medicaid program. I am not clear on whether the life insurance money is “coming” or whether the policy might be changed to direct the money elsewhere to a trusted relative — perhaps Amfortas’s brother. Amfortas brother could trickle out the $10K to Amfortas in cash. The money could be used little-by-little over time to buy food and other consumables. I am not sure how legal such an arrangement might be or what angles could be played to make it legal — legal wrt. the Texas Medicaid laws — but I think it might be practicable for an amount like $10K.

    People with a lot of money do much the same sort of thing by creating a trust fund. My brother is on disability and my father has arranged a trust fund for him that allows him to remain on disability and his state’s Medicaid but still receive some benefit from what my father might bequeath to him.

  18. Jeremy Grimm

    For vocabulary word [8] I suggest “guilted” — it’s sound rings of jilted, and gelded, and conjures the Calvinist concept of the life abundant for the chosen.

  19. ShamanicFallout

    I really giggled at the word “embubbled”. I love it. But how to truly capture in a word the human incapacity to think clearly about another’s situation, and to actually feel another’s situation (not emote about it, or react to it, or judge it)? We are very far from even empathy, let alone compassion. So much “me”, so much egoism but egoism as a word is so tired and, well, meaningless really. But again, really liking embubbled- it’s like something the great Simpsons writers of old would have come up with

  20. Tom Stone

    I always read Amforta’s posts with interest, unfortunately i can’t give any helpful advice even though I have experienced many of the same difficulties.
    I have had a wider experience of humanity than most and have been run through a flint mill several times, I have learned not to talk about some experiences with certain people because they can not comprehend what I am saying.
    It’s like describing a symphony in sign language to someone who is deaf.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I would continue to attempt discussion about anything with anyone who will continue discussing with me. I seldom attempt to convince someone else to my opinion unless I sense a willingness on their part to be convinced or convince me or at least to rethink what they believe — [a position I hope and believe well describes those who comment at Naked Capitalism]. I am genuinely curious about what other people think and believe and why — as I believe you are too, just a little frustrated by those around you.

      [If you would describe a symphony in sign language to the deaf you might liken the music to dance and to some of the beautiful sign poetry. Try also the written notations in the music for its interpretation and dynamics, and start with Opera not a symphony. The sound patterns of a symphony are not so very alien to anyone who appreciates art.]

  21. Jeremy Grimm

    Oh! Thank you Lambert for not “writing about the Democrat National Convention”. I don’t think I can stand much more of U.S. politics.

  22. Vichy Chicago

    Family relations are a minefield.
    This won’t help Amfortas but maybe he’ll chuckle at it:
    After the George Floyd murder a repellent cousin called one sister to rag about the protests and BLM. In the follow-up WhatsApp chat with the siblings a different sister said “you know, he’s always been like that plus he’s simple minded.”
    I replied “racists count on apologists.”
    And she flipped out, left a rant, and stopped talking to me for a few weeks.
    And we’re on the same part of the political spectrum. Oh, the comedy.

  23. drumlin woodchuckles

    Legally speaking, is it possible to pre-donate the Insurance Policy Payout to a worthy charity such that the charity gets it for real, and it is legally as if the intended recipient never even received it at all?

    In short, is it legally possible to program a different set of targetting co-ordinates into the Policy Payout Missile’s guidance system beFORE the missile can be legally accused of having reached the Amfortas the Hippy target? So that Amfortas truly legally can avoid and prevent ever even reCEIVing the money to begin with? For not even a hair-splittingly legal nano-second?

    1. Samuel Conner

      Perhaps it would be possible to make the grandchildren the beneficiaries. I would think, if they are old enough, this would not have tax or safety net consequences for the parents.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Something even simpler occurred to me. Does Amfortas have to SIGN FOR this bequest beFORE he is allowed to LEgally reCEIVE it? And is it Not YET His as long as he has not actually SIGNED to reCEIVE it?

        If that is not so . . . . if it is “legally his” as soon as the bequest was read out, such that the benefits-overseeing government entities will accuse him of already owning the money just because he was named to receive it in the reading of the will . . . . then tricky methods will have to be found to legally prevent the money from being his.

        But IF! ! ! . . . all he has to do to make the money NOT HIS . . . . and therefor NOT a THREAT to his benefits-structure . . . is to refuse to ever even receive it to begin with, and all he has to do to refuse to ever even receive it to begin with is to refuse to ever even sign for ever even accepting it to begin with . . . . then all he has to do to save his benefits is to reFUSE to EVer EVen SIGN for the money to EVer EVen beGIN with. Would that reFUSal to sign and accept be a way to preserve his
        benefits against the poisoned chalice?

        1. Janie

          He’s cash basis not accrual, so it’s not his until he receives it – at least where I come from.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            the one email i’ve had from the insurance people, confirming they got the “papers” i printed and scanned(upside down, it turns out), had a legal notice boilerplate attached, wherein they said a bunch of stuff i just barely understood…including that the irs, et alia was already in the loop.
            as soon as i know how much we’re talking about, I’ll waylay the bank president, and ask him for advice…he’ll at least know where to start, and i trust him.
            everything depends on the how much…which contains it’s own psychological burden: i am anything but a greedy person…and it’s uncomfortable to me to be even thinking about all this.
            30k will effectively screw up our lives for a time….50k, and we’ll be alright.
            10k, why even bother, since it will all go to wife’s health insurance.
            This price breakdown of effects on us is one of the things almost no one wants to understand…not just stepmom.
            getting free money is always a good thing, right?
            Perhaps it should be…but that ain’t the world as it is.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I would have to go back and read more carefully/slowly to get all the details. In general I gather that you have been willed and bequeathed a sum of money. The person who bequeathed it to you wanted the money-in-particular to do good things for you and in general wanted to show constructive love and to improve the material side of your life some.

              If running the numbers shows that accepting the bequest-load of money would cost you in the long run more money than the amount of money that is in the bequest, such that the bequest would actually make you poorer and more precarified in the long run; I think the bequeather of the money would understand if you decide to avoid contact with the money in order to avoid getting made even poorer than you are now.

              The bequeather would want you to be better off, and if being better off or at least staying as well off as before requires viewing the bequest as a poisoned chalice to avoid touching, I think the bequeather would understand.

              If some among the living just simply would not understand, you might well end up deciding that protecting your own survival is more important to you than securing their understanding. If indeed that is the binary choice which they attempt to force upon you.

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                problem is, my dad was just a little bit more aware of my reality than my stepmom.
                $5.00= “Mad Money”
                when i say “Aloof”, know that i ain’t lyin’.

                I never expected a cent.

  24. InquiringMind

    vocab word [7] is very close to the way the exclamation “inconceivable!” is used by Wallace Shawn’s character Vizzini in The Princess Bride: https://youtu.be/D9MS2y2YU_o?t=125

    vocab [8] are something like “systemic snares”. You might call them ‘schmuck bait’ if the victims were unwitting…but that’s not really the case here. Sometimes, it’d seem like a con-within-a-con where the victim thinks they are smart enough to evade the obvious snare…only to get caught in the trap within the snare.

      1. Off The Street

        Vietnam Vets, among others, talked about how it wasn’t the bullet with your name on it that was the problem, it was the one marked To Whom It May Concern.

        Snares are like that, where any quarry will do, pour encourager les autres.

  25. Tom Doak

    I second the comment that Amfortas’s stepmom (like so many of the comfortable class) is in denial – denial of how crappy is the ‘safety net’ that they think their taxes have paid for. Denial is the petfect word because their reaction is precisely to deny that it can be so bad, but of course they’ve never had to be on the business end of it to see how it really works.

    But it’s a willful denial. They would rather deny than investigate whether it’s true, and I think that includes the political class who have gifted us this Purgatory. I hate Joe Biden with a passion, and partly it’s because he has no idea how bad is the system he helped build. He doesn’t think anybody has it tougher than Beau did, ffs.

    No one has yet to offer a vocabulary word for Lambert’s other need, and for that I humbly offer the word ‘trap door’. One minute you’re standing on solid footing, and then somebody behind the scenes pushes a button, and you’re rushing off via a series of ducts and slides to a very hard landing in the basement, with no chance of climbing back out the way you came in.

    My brother has been in that same system for three years now – afraid to accept any help for fear he’ll lose his insulin provided by Medicaid. He voted for Biden over Sanders because he was afraid if Bernie was nominated, the rich would take their ball and go home.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps a word for ” willful denial” could be ” denialize”. Denialize, denialism, denialization, etc.
      Just a thought . . .

    2. YetAnotherChris

      For #8 I was thinking along lines similar to “trap door” and came up with “monkey trap”:


      I’ve been in two such traps, both related to medical insurance. For years I stayed at an insane job that was literally making me sick, because it offered a comparatively lavish insurance plan. Only when I let go of the goodies (benefits) was I free to walk away from the trap (by quitting my job). And only then did I regain my health.

      More recently I was enrolled in a state-subsidized insurance plan, means tested. When my income crept past the threshold, the insurance evaporated. In this instance, the trap consists of assiduously keeping one’s income below $24k.

      In all sorts of government assistance the applicant is made to feel undeserving or — worse — greedy because instead of walking away frustrated, they simply won’t let go of the goodies in the trap.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Further words just invent themselves. I will offer a few. They seem like such good words that I suspect there may be specific realities or situations which they could exactly name.

        Monkey trap door.

        Trap door ratchet.

        Monkey trap ratchet.

        These some feel too good to just be randomly generated. There just have to be specific places where they would exactly fit. Maybe someone(s) can discover those places.

  26. Samuel Conner

    As a narrow response to the question in note [2], I have tried, in conversation with a sibling who is a pretty obstinate supporter of the President, to acknowledge the service he did for the country in 2016 in stating certain uncomfortable truths — pre-eminently the folly of the US’ fruitless wars and the consequences for workers of trade liberalization. I then have stated my disagreements with his policies. I don’t think I get through, but I haven’t destroyed the relationship (yet).

    On a obliquely related note, Sanders has taken flack for noting certain ways in which the Cuban government under Castro attained better outcomes than US has (life-span, for example, and universal health care) and “giving credit where credit is due.” I think that sincere attempts at honest acknowledgment of merits where they can be discerned can be disarming, or at least help to defuse combustible situations. It hasn’t worked well for Sanders, but then one has to note the character of his interlocutors.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      I have tried to have conversations with family on this topic as well.. because we agree on the problems, but disagree on the causes and solutions. Being patient with facts and asking questions is only met with moving goalposts and reaffirming of their own belief system. Belief is very hard to change, and it takes miracles to do it.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        “Lean in” to the “asking questions” part…a la Socrates.
        it works, even with teabilly rednecks.
        but one must be patient, and lead them from the cave without appearing to lead…it has to be their idea.
        and thank all of you.
        I could weep in gratitude, but that might open doors,lol….my own wilful denial.

    2. John Rose

      One thing about [2] not yet mentioned is a strategy of deep truth, that these family members are very important to you. Begin by saying that, along with the fact of deep disagreement, without specifics. And add what sadness and even distress this brings to you especially as you remember that time you and the other person did something great together.
      Idealistic perhaps but bits and pieces might be useful.

  27. griffen

    Out of curiosity I googled for the Texas health and Medicaid services site. I’m sure it has an officially well thought title, so bear with me here. Site appears reasonably useful.

    It lays out the criteria, and draws a distinction between an employment related policy and non employment related policy. Substitute “annuity” for policy as you choose. It then delineates based on a date, for any policy previous to 2006 it appears to allow one to not include it. I have to say it appears to read that way.

    When it refers to CFR and varying US codes, then it’s getting very granular. Go find this needle and continue onto the next needle.

  28. h2odragon

    no wisdom to offer Amfortas but best wishes.

    No one has suggested “Faith” as the word to describe denial of reality in favor of the way things are supposed to be?

    I’m scared of the blow off on this show, we’ve had the purges, we’ve had the demons surrounding and the pointless violence; where’s the apocalypse and the kool aid? Usually there’s hints of it in the wings but this time its what, aliens? The lizard people all go back home and we’re left to purse chastity, prohibition, and service to the state in pursuit of vengeance?

    Have the pyrotechnics gotten out of hand yet or not? have events so far instilled confidence in the stage crew juggling bongs while lighting fuses?

  29. sd

    Any insurance agents in the house? Life insurance has some unique twists to it.

    Does your mother have an insurance agent that you can speak with?
    Do you know what kind of Life insurance policy it is – is it whole life, is it term, universal, something else?
    Depending on the type of life policy, your mother may be able to make cash-value withdrawals and gift a limited amount each year. Or she may be able to borrow against it or sell the policy for cash.
    Life insurance policies are one of those things you really need to talk to a trustworthy agent knowledgable about insurance.

  30. CanCyn

    Thank you, Lambert, for hoisting and highlighting Amfortas’s rant. I agree that there is no need for Amfortas to apologize.
    Amfortas – know that I hope you figure this one out and that I believe you will – you are a very smart person. Your comments are as important to me as the original posts here at NC, I scan for them first after every post. I wish you and yours all the best.

  31. cripes


    David Jacobs comments are most relevant. And the gentleman’s comments about determining if assets can be received in the form of annuity payments, which you would need to design your monthly spending around not to exceed $3000 assets per couple (or $4,698 income per month in texas) which should be easier
    At $10,000, not worth your time or a lawyers to create a special needs trust (disabled) or Medicaid asset protection trust (MAPT) and probably not the MMMNA, Qualified Income Trusts (QIT) or Miller trusts, again because amount too low.

    Basically you are on your own to keep the disqualifying asset amount in your bank account as briefly as possible, since Medicaid treats each month as a separate qualifying period.
    Don’t get sick or see any doctors during the month(s) in question. Hoard medicine. Immediately apply to restore your medicaid at first opportunity. I like the idea of not cashing the check until it suits you, but not sure that works–liquid assets and all. Can someone not write the check until you tell them to?

    There’s always a nice used truck or similar, furniture and any other non-liquid items (not easily sold like stocks or gold in 30 days or less). And they say we can’t make good decisions about money, spending recklessly deplorables…

    They just don’t want you to have anything set aside for an emergency. You might get the idea you can complain about the prevailing system.

    Cant have that.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      Tractor with a front end loader, small…friend has me as first option, whenever i want it.
      after that, a new wood stove.
      after that, ten million small things.
      i can move rapidly to get rid of money,lol.
      and none of it is frivolous.
      any day now, i’ll know what i have to work with, and that will dictate next steps.
      the Ideal, whittled down by Necessity.

  32. Lee

    I don’t know about the strength or nature of the emotional bond that AH has with his step-mother, but it sounds to me that if he were looking to her for parental solace and comfort, he went to the wrong shop. To engage in generous speculation, It might be that she is protecting her own emotional wellbeing by distancing herself by means of denial from the pain of people she cares about. A not unheard of phenomenon.

  33. JohnB

    [7] – It’s kind of an odd mix of gaslighting (in the sense of denying an obvious reality – except in this case it might not be intentional); denial (both of the facts, and class denial i.e. denial of the existence and conditions of a lower class); bystander effect mixed with denial (‘class bystander? seeing something bad happening to another class of people, and not even thinking “somebody should do something…”, but actually denying it is happening entirely instead); boiling frog metaphor (not realizing conditions are worsening for some people, creating a class divide, because it happens gradually).

    That doesn’t provide a succinct answer though. Perhaps System Justification? (though is a general concept, not a term coining this specific type of experience)

    All of this being too wordy/theory based – rather than a succinct term – to not sound post-modernish/vaguely-offputting.

    It’s a fairly common thing, though – e.g. the parents who grew up able to buy their own house in their early 20’s, on a blue collar job – not understanding why their kids are still living at home, and expecting them to move out and ‘start their life’ with a partner – when that often just means rent or debt servitude and limited personal time for finding a partner and having a life (nevermind starting a family), these days.

  34. Robert Dudek

    ‘Disempathy’, since ’empathy’ is the ability to understand something from someone else’s perspective.

    1. dk

      Your discussion in the note covers a lot of ground.

      Crapification isn’t necessarily tactical.

      With the general caution to consider stupidity before venality, we should consider error before either, and error is a subjective observation of inconsistency. And information error is itself a subset of general physical entropy. All complex species struggle to pass legacy knowledge down their generations, and our easy reliance on written records and now electronic media may be overconfident.

      Another crapifying mode is incomplete review and/or maintenance of systems, whether it be by incompetence or deliberate for reward. This can produce gradual quality declines or latent risk with eventual catastrophic consequence.

      And of course physical degradation, a machine’s bearing wears out and has to be replaced, but before that the slight misalignment added too much of ingredient x and consumers suffered eventually toxic dosage.

      The methods to prevent crapification are all variations on periodic review, as regulation, maintenance and testing, reproduction of experiments and studies, etc.

      I mention these variations to return to tactical crapification for reward as more grave that it appears at first evaluation, because it increases the rate of degradation and adds to maintenance/regulatory burden (sometimes derisively called “overhead”). Profiteering can be direct (quality dilution, price inflation), indirect (weaken before replacing or eliminating), or subsequent (benefit from collapse).

      I propose that moralizing is a variety of crapification. Probing elements for abstract virtues is an easy way to criticize and delegitimize, and reinforces belief to the detriment of comprehension. Blame is an absurd construct, original faults occurred generations ago and have been passed down and accepted in good faith by children. Beliefs are mental shortcuts to careful reasoning, the hallmarks of lazy and overconfident intellect.

      But isolating tactical crapification from the more inevitable general types makes us focus too much on each other and not on essential processes. Regular detail review is essential even in the absence of bad faith, and bad faith and incompetence and other varieties aren’t always easy to distinguish, better to cast the net wide and concentrate on remedy before penalties. Finding no problems may be boring, but relaxing vigilance is crapifation again.

      1. John Rose

        Yes, yes, nearly everyone can agree with respectful process when that is pointed out. Then it becomes a shared effort to work around to the best that is possible. Some crapifyers might welcome a chance to do something that feels good.

    2. Appleseed

      Catch-22 comes to mind but it’s not just an “absurd or contradictory choice” as Wikipedia says. There’s always “catch” that thwarts evolved decisions. Prigogine’s dissipative structures dissolve only to reconstitute at a higher level of coherence. Crapification is devolution.

    3. caucus99percenter

      How about something like “phix” or “phyx” — think “fix” / “phish” / “phishing equilibrium”?

      Crapification = asphyxiation?

      “If it ain’t broke, don’t phyx it.”
      “The phyx is in.”
      “2.0 phyxed the Internet; now it’s dark patterns, data mining, and surveillance all the way down.”

  35. sporble

    #7: maybe “Bubble-Blind”? It can refer to (using the above as an example) not only Amfortas’ mother’s blindness to her own bubble but also to blindness to others’ bubbles as well. It also suggests the inability to perceive any bubbles whatsoever.

    #8: how about “Rube-Field”? It’s another two-fer: first, in honor of Rube Goldberg (and his illustrations of ridiculous, unproductive complexity).
    Second, it’s a place for “Rubes” (as in: awkward/naive/unsophisticated people) – or, even more diabolically, the purpose of a Rube-Field is to use its complexity (etc.) to turn people who tread upon it into Rubes.
    Alternatives: Rube-Zone, Rube-Factory, Rube-House – or even the “Rubey-Bin”!

  36. anon y'mouse

    this situation is all-too-familiar.

    when Grandma passed, her tiny little life insurance was paid out to all the siblings. my mother, disabled from pancreatitis and on SSDI and Medicaid, received her $1800, then was cut off from both for 6 months. in California where the cost of living easily exceeds $1800mo.

    Amfortas’ mom-in-law is not gaslighting. she’s deluded, blinkered, and like a rat in the proverbial maze, can only see what’s around her and only knows that and nothing else. determinedly tunnel-visioned. not to mention probably brainwashed into Panglossian views, which seem born out by her own perspective and thus “true”, while the rest of us who do not share her experiences are just “debbie downers” and need to think positively, because “it all works out in the end”. these are the same kinds of people who say “just move” or “just do x” and think that solves the complex web of problems people in the poverty class experience.

    it seems that we have tons of people in this country that have little to no empathy because they genuinely lack the understanding of perspective and have a poor Theory of Mind. both of which, according to the developmental psychologist Piaget, you are supposed to acquire at about 12y.o. USians seem stuck at the Preoperational stage, which takes place between 2-7years old.


    i’ll let the more qualified try to determine WHY that seems to be the case.

    also, don’t forget Just World Theory. which even people who have experienced hardship seem to employ against themselves and each other.

    1. fajensen

      I think at least some of those people want to un-see what they actually see, because they have no good options for dealing with what they see and still being true to their core values. They know what has to be done if they really wanted to change things; and they don’t want it, seeing how Bosnia and countless other places turned out.

      One can easily lose everything, including ones entire family, home, and ones own life & limbs should The Revolution kick off, one feels that morally it probably should happen but also being a consciencious person, one really fears the practical realities of it.

      So they put on a happy face and pretend there is A Simple Solution.

  37. Harry

    Fantastic piece! I wish Amfortas the best in negotiating the grift-em as best as is possible.

    That which cannot persist will eventually break. I doubt the breaking will serve those on the wrong end of it all better unless they take charge.

  38. Noone from Nowheresville

    I can’t speak specifically about Texas. I do know that “gifting” assets is a no-no. Whether during or up to say 5 years before Medicaid. Receiving “gifts” can also be problematic. Someone else can “pay for” a bill but only certain bills depending on which program one is on.

    Countable “assets” don’t have to be liquid. Extra vehicles, funky trailerhouses that one does not reside in can count toward the COUNTABLE asset limit. One must dispose of and account for those countable assets over the limit.

    The clawbacks can also be horrible. Used to be that they went after non-countable assets like one’s home if the person went into long-term care. Now certain states have started going after recovering Medicaid premiums (perhaps treatment / drugs) if the individual or families are of a certain age (I think 50-ish in Minnesota so not just California). So yeah, you could lose the family farm so to speak if you make too little to qualify for an Obamacare subsidy and have to utilize Medicaid and are of a certain age in certain states.

    You really really, did I say really, have to pay attention to the complexity of your individual state and it’s clawback provisions. I vaguely remember one of the articles linked to here about California. The town ran a fundraiser for a family and the state read about it and confiscated the money. Certain online fundraising sites are also taxable. Others pay the medical bills directly.

    It’s scary because they’ve created a system of desperation and then they’re making you chose potentially between life and keeping a family asset like a home. That’s even if you never access the system and the state just pays premiums to their 3rd party provider. Again certain states and subject to change at any time.

    Once one hits Medicare age, then there are more additional Medicaid program options with different asset & income limits that integrate with the Medicare program. Plus the Extra Help prescription drug program.

  39. Watt4Bob

    I’m reminded of a conversation my wife told me about some time ago.

    She was talking with an elderly artist, a man of some standing amongst our extended arts community, he said;

    “Look at sperm cells under the microscope, there are some that seem to know where they want to go, they seem to have a goal, and they are obviously working toward that goal. All around them, there are many more that are swimming aimlessly, and even interfering with those around them, they are actively ‘blocking’ each other, and it seems, especially those that seem to ‘know’ what they are doing.”

    Then ha added this;

    “It’s important in life to have goals, but for damn sure, do not be a ‘blocker’

    It’s hard to imagine, but there are those who for whatever reason, act as if it is their responsibility to direct traffic, if not actually block the progress of those around them.

    If you were to inquire of a ‘blocker’, where this impulse comes from, and why they behave this way, they might exhibit momentary confusion, but that look would quickly change to one that questions why you don’t believe what to them, is self-evident.

    In the present context, the conversation usually ends with the ‘blocker’ asking, with the clear expectation of rhetorical victory;

    “How are you going to pay for that?”

  40. Tom

    This is all Catch-22 world for me. I was a draftee in the Army who enlisted for the third year to avoid VietNam combat. I could have written the book except that Heller already did it. Catch-22 for me is crapification, cognitive dissonance, gaslighting and even class lighting all rolled into one.

  41. fajensen

    [2] Discussions of politics between family and friends can be extremely difficult,

    You don’t say – I just came back from the annual family & friends retreat, where we rent a summer house for a few days and barbecue, drink beer, some drinks, some alcohol, some cigars, home made foodstuff, and we have bonfires and roast things on them while slightly tipsy. Kids and dogs roam around. I like it very much.

    We make up a very diverse crowd and occasionally someone has to go out ‘for a smoke/pee’ until tempers simmer down a bit and politeness can be restored. We don’t want politics to destroy our relationships, but, we sure have some heated discussions along the way!

    I am one of the lucky ones, I am affected, but basically OK. It does annoy me that some people will not get that maybe they didn’t get where they are through their own smarts and hard work but simply because they were lucky – and they should be grateful for their luck – as I am, because then I don’t have to carry them also, on top of all the other ‘familiar’ loads that I have chosen to carry!!

  42. melvin keeney

    My father died when I was seven. Mom raised three kids on a $100 a month SSI. She never learned to drive and no men came around so we walked wherever we had to go until I turned 16 and got a drivers license. The phrase I think is
    “walk a mile in my shoes”. Empathy is required. If you have never walked that walk how can you know? FWIW

  43. Frank

    I also endorse catch-22.

    Denial for the stepmother.

    Robert Anton Wilson used to talk about reality-tunnels. Everyone’s experience of the world is different as are their perceptions about the world. Sometimes people’s pictures of the world differ so much as to have little or nothing in common.

  44. Bob

    I feel for you Amfortas:

    Somehow when money is involved, particularly in regards to a will, some folks seem to go nuts. And often the wealthier the more nutty. Not sure why this is however do not be surprised. Some folks will try to talk you into barely legal maneuvers.

  45. Stanley Dundee

    Best wishes to Amfortas. No practical advice to offer, but a long-term goal: I would like to live in a society where money was basically optional. Neoliberalism strives to inject money into every human interaction and into every human consideration. We need to shrink the role of money in ordinary life until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub (h/t Grover Norquist).

    For [8], maybe gouge? Or gougement to move it towards something systemic or structural. Reflects the non-fatal but harmful nature, and something that’s repeatable; you can get gouged over and over and still survive.

    It’d be nice to get some predatory connotation in there since it seems like there’s often a PMC or corporate beneficiary to the subject’s injury. Also the fact that it’s legal or rule-based would be nice to capture. Jurisdation is rather academic sounding. Legatory is already an actual legal term, meaning the deadman’s part!?! Lawdation? Lawsacking by analogy to ransack? Plundacious? Sorry none of these quite makes it.

    How about oversuck? Brings in the class asymmetry in these matters.

    1. Stanley Dundee

      Apologies for self-reply but I have been thinking about this and I rather like oversuck. I would define it along the lines to bear losses due to an irremediable power imbalance. I imagine usages such as monopoly providers:

      Comcast got hundreds in oversuck when I couldn’t find that set-top box.

      Real estate:

      That sh***y landlord oversucked my security deposit even though I left the place in great shape.


      Most of that legal settlement went to oversuck by lawyers and health insurers.

      Or, for Amfortas,

      Watch out for oversuck if you get a cash windfall while you’re on Medicaid!

  46. Trainreq

    How about “bragnotology.” A this thing never happened to me so how could it have happened to you sort of a “humble” disbelief. Maybe I’m too cynical.

    1. Rtah100

      Yes, this! Solipsism, trapped in your own delusions. This is one aspect of what AtH described, the other being the negation / denial of others.

      For 8, I like snare, because it tightens the more you struggle. However, there is also the false choice / illusion of free will, for which catch-22 is a good suggestion. One might use Zugzwang, a chess term in which every move is a losing move. Or huis clos, a dead end with no escape.

  47. Richard Creswell

    Seven years ago my wife and I retired with conflicting advice and misunderstanding. as to timing. We had a tense first month but within days of the payments deadlines, probate of my father-in- law arrived. A small life insurance policy paid probate costs. We live in Colorado and used Freefile. Life insurance did not come up so we ignored it. The inheritance was one ten-thousandth of the minimum for taxation so we paid nothing on it. Obamacare had just begun so I devoted about fifteen hours a week to it for a month or so and our state being an expanded Medicaid state we were forced onto Medicaid for three months until my wife’s social security kicked in. For Obamacare Medicaid our assets were not counted as income . I checked this out over and over. We had a wretched experience with reguIar Obamacare but no clawback for this event. It was seven years ago so the IRS isn’t able to use this against us. guess it all worked out but when I had some annuities start up We asked a friend who was a CPA to give us tax advice. He said he gives everyone the first look free. I sould have done that in 2013.

  48. S.V. Dáte

    I’m not sure what the facts of this case are. Who is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy and is the holder of the policy still alive? For all purposes of tax, state, local & federal it would be best & easiest to make sure the money goes directly to the trust. Or any part going to Amfortas. Most insurance companies will in fact make this deposit. In fact you have to give them the numbers of whatever account it ends up it. Give them the trust numbers. This is legal as no harm to Amfortas has been done. Amfortas, further has no duty to ignore using the law to his best interest. The trust needs to irrevocable and for the benefit of Amfortas and whoever else and when ever else depending on whatever conditions. Like Amfortas dying. As the trust pays income taxes if any less fees (shop around), there is no income to report to anyone. As it is not for legal reasons income. Medicaid & Medicare have all kinds of systems to snoop around with but trust income does not need to be declared, nor shouldn’t, nor is it subject to ‘claw back’. Claw will only occur at your death, it won’t include the trust. And it only claw what exists not what doesn’t.

    Amfortas As you own a farm, I’d start to plant two things: 1. Whatever is on the price support list declare your intent to plant and have the feds say no and pay you, and second plant something like coffee. And I’d make a real effort, in doing the accounting so every penny you spend gets allocated & distributed to every activity. Remember there are research & development expenses, to write off and credits to be applied. There is depreciation on everything. All tools should be sold to a Nevada based LLC and leased back to you. If you’re not generating a million in losses you need to try harder. I have a commercial nursery so I know. I also do will, and trusts because I find them fun. Rich people always have a way and i like finding the way and using it. I like paperwork, so I’m not stopped by it.

    It’s a rough treatment of what I’d do but that’s the basic idea.

    1. Rtah100

      Amfortas, there does not seem to be a us version of the U.K. deed of variation, so you cannot change the will. You could however disclaim your inheritance and rely on the other beneficiaries putting your share in trust for you and yours. That’s a generalisation, the federal and Texas specifics may be against you, especially tax.

      But it is not clear from what you say whether the inheritance is even governed by the will or, for example with life insurance, sits outside the estate and flows directly to you. This may limit your options. However you may be able to declare a trust of these rights / expectations before they crystallise….

      Finally, in the U.K. an estate pays tax in its own right until it is fully distributed. Perhaps you could leave your share unclaimed until you died and your heirs could inherit it? Estates in the U.K. pay tax at the lowest rate (but are not entitled to most allowances) so this trick has been used for tax planning by people who don’t need the money immediately. It looks like US estates pay tax at a higher rate than a beneficiary would but this might still be less than your effective marginal rate of tax if you lost your health coverage etc.

  49. Billy

    “the incredible Kafka hoops wife had to crawl through to get certified to teach Spanish in Texas”

    Try teaching anything from Kindergartners through high school in California. 20 plus years of bureaucratic and humanist handwringing over immigrants has helped lead to a massive teacher shortage.

    “California embraced whole language [English Immersion,] in the 1970s and 1980s, but nationwide academic tests in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed that the state was very near the bottom among the states in reading proficiency, sparking a backlash.[Massive numbers of immigrant children, some of whom don’t even understand Spanish will do that–“solution” Turn California teachers into experts on Quechua and Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayo, Yaqui, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, oh and screw the black and white American kids whose parents pay the taxes to support the schools.

    “It was largely led by Bill Honig, a Democrat who had been California’s state schools superintendent until forced to resign by a scandal. Honig pushed tirelessly for a shift to phonics and a series of bills signed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in the mid-1990s made it happen..””One measure required almost all applicants for a California teaching credential to pass a Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) of their ability to teach phonics.”


  50. Anonymous

    [6] It’s important to liberal Democrats that the recipients of governmental largesse be worthy, and they employ themselves in setting up complex systems of eligibility requirements that to make that determination. Lambert [bold added]

    Unless they hold the economy hostage as the banks and large employers do and then there’s bipartisan support for government largess thereto, worthiness be damned, of course.

    The question I have then is why we allow the banks and large companies to hold the economy hostage, time and time again?

  51. Elizabeth

    Good luck to you Amfortas.

    Back in the 70s (I think) there was a term called “create your own reality” which was endemic in self-help books. The essence of it was that each individual can create his/her life the way she wants it. Its message was that you have absolute control over your life. It became a very popular way of thinking, and I think there’s a lot of that thinking that still permeates our society – especially the well off and PMC.

    When I try to bring up what’s happening in our country with friends/family with regard to the pandemic, job losses, evictions, mortgage defaults, etc., it’s like people just don’t want to hear it – it’s considered “pessimistic” to speak that way, as somehow it might pinprick the bubble they live in, or in fact, creep into their bubbleized lives and wreck something. I’ve noticed this with people who grew up in poverty (during the Great Depression) and managed to get into the middle class. They really can’t conceive of how bad this country has become – getting an education, medical care, housing. They just don’t want to acknowledge it – maybe because it’s inconceivable to them that this is the U.S. today. I think it goes back to that old canard about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” The thinking is that one must always be “optimistic” about the future, play by the rules (whatever they are) and work hard..

    I think Amfortas said his stepmom grew up dirt poor and married well. I see that a lot with people who came from poverty – and somehow got wealthy. With poverty there is a lot of shame, and perhaps people protect themselves from shame by denying their own reality. It’s complex. Perhaps they don’t want to be disabused of their illusions.

    I wish you all the best, Amfortas. Classlighting – great word.

  52. Copeland

    Best to you Amfortas. I have similar dissonances with all of my remaining family members, what with me being the black sheep and all.

    Taking the example of my brother and I, he’s two years older, so I had a pretty good view of him from a young age. He truly came out of the womb being all about money. While he collected coins and stamps from a young age, I built model airplanes, did a lot of drawing and spent countless hours observing nature in the back yard. He had more jobs by the age of 18 than I have had in my entire life. His inborn tendencies have served him well, and he retired before age 50 to become a residential real estate investor, which admittedly can be a lot of work too.

    My point is, people are all individuals, and even close family members can be very, very different from each other. These inborn differences lead to choosing different paths — for my brother, business school, and I’m convinced that “things happen” in business school that changes a persons brain forever! These differing paths result in vastly different ways of seeing the world, and if this happens early enough they can never be unlearned, there just isn’t space in most human brains for anything else later in life.

    Once we were discussing a wealthy person taking advantage of government programs that were implemented mostly to help low income people. And he said in all seriousness: “when a person finds a loophole that will lead to greater wealth, why would he care how this action might affect other people with a lot less money?…..WHO THINKS THAT WAY?” In my head I said “I do, I think that way” but I just smiled awkwardly, because he’s my brother.

  53. Keith Newman

    Interesting and emotionally engaging post and thread. Thank you for it Lambert. Good luck to you Amfortas and thank you for your ongoing insightful comments.
    With respect to vocabulary, I’m not sure I have much to add. I have long believed people live in many parallel worlds that by definition never intersect. Coupled with willful ignorance as noted by BillC you have all you need to produce a total lack of empathy for those who live outside your own world.
    I live in Canada as did commenter Arthur Dent at one time, so I found his comments fascinating. Cynically fomented racial divisions in the US, now magnified to all identities by identity politics, has clearly been a very effective tactic to prevent the empathy required to get improvements to universal social programs.
    This is not to say we don’t have serious gaps in social programs here. Prescription drugs are provided, or not, in much the same dysfunctional way all healthcare is in the US so about 10% of people can’t afford their medication. I have been working in a coalition for 15 years with many people and groups to correct the situation but it is a real slog even though over 80% of Canadians want universal public prescription drug coverage. Still, on the whole our social programs are more generous. Nonetheless 10 percent of our population doesn’t get enough to eat, a problem easily solved, so we have no reason to be smug.
    On the issue of empathy let me brutally frank. How many US-ians have any empathy for the millions of people who have been massacred in their name around the world to provide investment opportunities for big business interests? And for the tens of millions whose lives have been destroyed? And it continues.
    On the issue of systems that supposedly provide financial support for low income people but make it nearly impossible to actually access, Ken Loach’s film “I, Robert Blake” is highly instructive for a view of the situation in Britain. It’s at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5168192/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_4

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      What’s the opposite of empathy? Negempathy? Disempathy? Indifference?

      Sometimes a neat little parable will get brain-frozen people thinking .

      Here’s one.

      One day God came to earth to teach Yorgos the Greek about “loving thy neighbor”. He told Yorgos . . .
      ” I will give you absolutely anything in the world that you want. Just remember, whatever you ask for, your Turkish neighbor Abdul the Turk will get twice as much of it. So Yorgos the Greek said ” Put out one of my eyes”.

  54. Skip Intro

    Got a good German word for the crapification process:
    Verschlimbesserung – a nominal or alleged improvement that makes things worse.

    It doesn’t quite have the death-by-a-thousand-cut-corners kind of systemic scope as crapification, but it is a good ironic description of many actual certifications.

  55. Bridget

    I believe Amfortas is correct. For Medicare asset and income eligibility purposes the insurance proceeds will be income in the month received and an asset thereafter. (Nothing to do with federal income tax. It is likely not subject to federal I come tax.)
    Medicare income test is month to month, so for income purposes I would argue that eligibility is only affected for one month. The real problem is the Medicare asset test. As long as the money is in the bank it is an asset that has to be spent down in order to requalify for eligibility.
    Amfortas should pay off all debt. As Texas Medicare exempts the value of the home from the asset test (I believe) any mortgage debt should be paid off for sure. I am under the impression that he owns a mobile home on some small acreage….he should look into buying a brand new large mobile home and disposing of the old one for salvage. There may be other Medicare exempt assets, I’m not well enough versed at this point to know what they are, but all available funds should be directed to exempt assets. Prepay other expected obligations. I’m sure that an elder care specialist could easily guide him into all available strategies. Once everything has been sheltered insofar as is possible, any funds leftover will have to be spent down before getting back on Medicare.
    Also, amfortas mentions that his wife works for the local school district. Most Texas school districts purchase their own employee health care plans. Open enrollment usually is at the beginning of the school year….like NOW. She should sign up. She can jump off later if she doesn’t need it.

    1. Bridget

      Upon further reflection, loss of Medicaid coverage is probably a qualifying event that would allow Mrs. Amfortas to enroll in the school district’s health care plan even after the close of open enrollment. I wish I knew for sure.

  56. JBird4049

    Amfortas, I don’t have any advice really. I can certainly say that this “system” is designed to f$&@ you up, chew you to gruel, and get spit out of without anything.

    It took one application and three appeals each having pages of paperwork, many phones, six offices in five cities in two states, one lawyer, a judge, twenty years of personal medical records, several examinations and all done over three years to be approved for disability benefits. If I hadn’t had the support of my family, a knack for research and paperwork, and getting annoyed at all the nonsense, I would be homeless or dead.

    This in the Blue state of California in Deepest, Bluest Bay Area, and I just can’t imagine trying to get aid in Texas.

  57. Thomas Neuburger

    Bubblethink — Thoughts of a mind entirely enclosed by its own experience only, by the world of its personal history and nothing else. “If I didn’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”

    Bubblespeak — Those thoughts spoken aloud.


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