Over the last couple weeks, Dylan Scott has been out front on the House GOP’s effort manufacture a Social Security funding crisis that would hit over the next two years. There’s more than one Social Security Trust Fund. There’s one that covers most retirees. There’s another that covers the disability part of the program. And over the years, Congress – with little controversy – has shifted funds back and forth between the two to maintain actuarial balance. So to date, the whole push has been rather technical and framed around bean counting. But earlier this month, most notably from Rand Paul, we heard the other prong in the attack come into play.
Speaking to Republican presidential primary voters in New Hampshire, Paul said that most Social Security disability recipients are in fact malingerers and scofflaws who have no business receiving benefits in the first place.
“The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. 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? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.”
As Michael Hiltzik explains here (and others have in other publications), as a narrowly factual matter these claims are demonstrably false and by a huge margin. Even if you think that severe anxiety disorders and chronic back problems aren’t real disabilities, they don’t make up anywhere that number of recipients. But the headline isn’t really the point. It’s the subtext. The score rather than the libretto. The point is that this is taxpayer money for people who don’t want to work, people complaining about everyday problems that most of us get by with no problem as an excuse to get a government check.
Every government program, every insurance policy, every industry has fraud. But this shows both a total ignorance of who the program’s beneficiaries are and a crystal clear intent to put the program itself on the chopping block. Ahead of that – and here you have the real angle – is a plan to set different classes of Social Security recipients against each other in a zero sum for scarce dollars when in fact the scarcity is manufactured to advance the libertarian – everyone on their own – philosophy of those like Sen. Paul and others involved in the hunt to start slashing away at this program. Retirees, survivors benefits, disability benefits, set everyone against each other in the political sphere in a fight for the remaining dollars and keep the pool of dollars shrinking. They may even shut down the government again to push this ahead.
Watch out. This is coming.