Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Beating up on the disabled

Posted by Charles II on June 4, 2013

Neil DeMause of FAIR has a good piece about the revival of disabilityfrauditis among the apparatchiks of our quasi-democracy. This meme had its origins 20 years ago in darkest Arkansas:

In 1994, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (2/13/94) reported that some local residents were receiving tens of thousands of dollars a year in “crazy checks” for their mentally disabled kids. The story later spread to the front pages of the Washington Post (2/4/94) and Boston Globe (5/12/94). Eventually, ABC’s PrimeTime Live (10/13/94; Extra!, 3–4/95) declared children’s SSI to be “a government program gone haywire,” charging that children were “faking disabilities” after being coached by their parents.

Forbes Media Critic, in an article titled “A Media Crusade Gone Haywire” (9/95), soon revealed that four major studies of the SSI program—by the General Accounting Office, the Department of Health and Human Services, a congressional Disability Policy Panel, and the Social Security Administration—had all agreed that “there is no evidence of widespread fraud or abuse of the program.”

Well, this stupid meme is back, and who is pushing it but the usual suspects (deMause, continuing):

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (12/9/12) reported that poor families in Appalachian Kentucky were pulling their kids out of literacy classes. The reason: They feared that if their kids learned to read, it would disqualify them from receiving monthly $698 disability checks from the federal government’s Supplemental Security Income program.

It was all enough to earn Kristof a public chiding from Times public editor Margaret Sullivan (NYTimes.com, 1/29/13) for making “assertions [that] were based on too little direct evidence” and using “statistical information that is, at the very least, open to interpretation.”

Yet Kristof’s column turned out to be just the opening salvo of a series of high-profile news reports exposing America’s alleged plague of skyrocketing disability benefits.

In a March series, NPR’s Planet Money [a repeat offender for peddling BS] revisited the world of SSI, this time for adults—and seemed to have learned few of the lessons of the Kristof mess. Calling the program “a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net” and “a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills” (NPR.org, 3/13), NPR’s Chana Joffe-Walt painted a picture of soaring disability rolls and nebulous diagnoses, where a “disability industrial complex” is pushing people willy-nilly onto the dole whether they need it or not (All Things Considered, 3/25/13).

the NPR series set off a flurry of copycat articles in the mainstream press that bemoaned disability as home of the new welfare cheats.

In the Washington Post (4/8/13), op-ed columnist Charles Lane decried SSI as a “drain [on] the Treasury” that discourages people from working. At Time.com (4/9/13), Joe Klein called Social Security Disability “an end-run around the [welfare] system” and a “scam” that “has no work requirement.” The next day, the Wall Street Journal (4/10/13) wrote that workers who’d “piled into the Social Security Administration’s disability program [threaten] to cost the economy tens of billions a year in lost wages and diminished tax revenues.”

And, of course, it’s all based on baloney: made-up statistics like the claim that 8% of children are on disability, conflation of SSI and SSDI, and so on. The recession and its aftermath have made more people poor enough–not to mention desperate enough– to become eligible for SSI benefits. In other words, there is no crisis, just a desperate longing of rich people for more and more and more and more.

These are really awful people who are trying to take bread from the mouths of the very most helpless. They deserve to be shunned. The world should sit shiva for people like Kristof and Klein and O’Reilly and Lane who are morally dead.

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