The Shirking Man’s Party - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Shirking Man’s Party

Rand Paul accuses most recipients of Social Security disability payments of “gaming the system” and calls them “malingerers.”

“What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check,” the Kentucky senator told New Hampshire voters earlier this week. “You know, over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a back pain.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley calls the senator’s comments “insulting,” “way out of nowhere,” and evidence of “detachment from reality.” He continued, “Paul is saying that 50 percent of those on disability are committing fraud.”

The how-dare-you tone underscores the shift in the political winds. The controversy isn’t that our government pays able-bodied people to shirk but that an elected leader says that they should work. Dr. Paul didn’t suggest they should be executed or jailed or publicly shamed for getting paid to watch The People’s Court on their couches and smoke cigarettes on their porches. He wants them to get jobs. “Work” now strangely strikes ears as curse instead of blessing. When did the four-letter word become a four-letter word?

The workingman’s party morphing into the shirking man’s party surely helps explain this phenomenon. Just as a party addicted to playing the role of provider makes a moral crusade of celebrating the immorality of giving preferences to favored minorities, free birth control to single women, and amnesty to illegal aliens, they fiercely defend the unethical conduct of their able-bodied dependents. If they behave the fiercely protective way a mother does when she sees her young ones attacked, that’s because the shirking man’s party sees the relationship between themselves (the providers of goodies) and their dependents in precisely that manner. But adults are not children and it serves society no good to treat them as such.

“Work” worked so well as a political issue as recently as the 1990s that the bipartisan promises to “end welfare as we know it” took on almost a Tourette’s-like quality in their frequency. Texas Senator Phil Gramm used to talk, quite slowly and quite often, about the people sitting in the wagon making it hard for the people pulling the wagon. Throughout his first term, President Bill Clinton lamented welfare serving as “a way of life” rather than “a second chance.”

Since the president uttered those words in conjunction with Congress’s welfare-reform legislation in 1996, annual applications to the Social Security Administration for disability pensions have doubled. More Americans live on federal disability than live in New York City. Nearly eleven million people, including two million spouses and children of those classified as disabled, rely on the payments. In other words, the Social Security Administration mischaracterizes nine-million people as “disabled workers.” As Rand Paul’s Granite State comments suggest, many of the beneficiaries are neither disabled nor workers.

And in a few ways, the explosion of disability claims eclipses in its insidiousness the welfare trap Clinton and company decried. At least the recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children could genuinely prove their sex and their dependent progeny. The epidemic of anxiety and trick backs appears more difficult for a government bureaucrat processing scores of applications to validate.

It might startle people bound to wheelchairs to learn that curing disabilities proves as easy as turning around a handicapped economy. As the economy grows, as it’s thankfully doing now despite an announced uptick in unemployment claims this week, disability claims shrink. This validation of Paul’s controversial charges of malingering paradoxically decreases the salience of the charges.

As I wrote part of this in a taxi, a luxury frugality (my euphemism for “cheapness”) denies me but once or twice a year, my driver volunteered that my New England city allows cabbies a profitable existence because of the absence of under-cutters from Uber and the plethora of programs providing free rides to the underclass. He likes the business but resents chauffeuring young, addicted, but otherwise healthy passengers on the taxpayer’s dime. He deadpans, “They need to go to work.”

And the resentment gets to why Rand Paul’s rhetoric resonates. Leaving aside the disdain the legitimately disabled must feel for their many impersonators, people who work hard—who drive cabs for twelve-hour shifts or permanently display ink under their fingernails as Phil Gramm’s friend Dickie Flatt famously did—begrudge laboring so that others don’t. And the chronically unemployed often begrudge themselves, even as they zealously pursue specious welfare claims, because society pities rather than values them.

Our bodies aren’t more crippled than they were twenty years ago. Our souls surely are.

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