Our favorite pseudo-intellectual Rand Paul is at it again. Rand, like his dad Ron, usually specializes in making stupid and outdated ideas sound really smart by going through eight degrees of circular logic. Usually, Rand sticks to just distorting reality and drawing false conclusions, which is an age-old Libertarian mind trick. But like most pseudo-intellectual libertarians, Rand at least generally sticks to (distortable) facts. Not this time, though.
At a January 14th breakfast in New Hampshire (a Tea Party stronghold in New England), Rand said this about Social Security:
“The thing is, all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving. (But) everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system. 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 little back pain.”
That’s a cute soundbite, but how does it stand up to reality? Are more than half of people on disability on it for back pain and anxiety? Politico fact-checked Rand, and found that even by the most optimistic estimates…no. Not in the slightest.
According to a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office, 27.7 percent of people recieved disability for “diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue.” This is the category under which most back ailments would fall — but nowhere near all of that 27.7 percent are back ailments.
From the same report, 31.5 percent of people are on disability for mental disorders, of which 14.9 percent (around half) are on it for “mood disorders.” This is the category Rand was referring to when he made his statement, according to a spokesman — by the Social Security Administration says this category more covers affective disorders like depression. Anxiety disorders would be more likely to fall under the “Other” heading, which makes up 3.9 percent of all disability cases.
But, just to give Rand the benefit of the doubt: Assuming all musculoskeletal problems are “back pain,” and all mood disorders are anxiety problems, the total still only comes out to 45.5 percent. Which as you’ve probably noticed is less than half, not more.
In reality, back pain and anxiety disorders combined would probably make up less than 20 percent of all Social Security disability cases. More likely, closer to 10 percent. And for that reason, Politico rated Rand’s statement unequivocally FALSE.
Libertarians have always hated Social Security. They did in Barry Goldwater’s day, they did when Ron Paul and David Koch ran for office in the 1980s, and they still do today. They just have a particular hatred for it, a hatred that’s been much easier to express in the last few years. With America’s biggest generation (the Baby Boomers) getting on in years, it shouldn’t come as any great shock that SS enrollment as swelled from 2 million in 1970 to more than 10 million today. More than two-thirds of people on SS disability are over 50; which tells you something about how thick a portion of our population Boomers are.
Sure, we all know at least one person who’s gaming the social security system; just like we can all name at least one corporation that’s gaming the tax code. But according to the GAO, for every one person gaming SS, there are 78 people who aren’t.
But, leave it to pseudo-intellectuals like Rand Paul to perpetuate Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” myth. Just one more distortion on the road to eliminating all forms of government assistance or regulation, leaving us to the tender mercies and invisible hand of the Holy and Righteous Free Market.