Sunday, August 4, 2013

New York Times: Pot Shots at Disabled Workers

In a post I did for the Economic Populist, I noted the NPR's war on the disabled. It seems there's someone else at the New York Times that just can't help but get their digs in as well.

Binyamin Appelbaum sometimes writes about unemployment for the New York Times, but in his posts he also likes to reference an article he wrote about Social Security disability.

On August 2, 2013 in a post titled An Employment Number That Isn’t Budging he writes," The share of Americans on disability has soared, in part because the program is serving as a safety net for people who might have found work in better times. But once on disability, people almost never return to work." --- which refers to his article The Rise of Disability where it says:

  • The share of working-age Americans receiving federal disability payments has roughly doubled in recent decades. It rose from 23 of every 1,000 workers in 1980 to 47 of every 1,000 workers in 2011.
  • 5 percent of the potential work force is more or less permanently out of action.
  • The government likes to describe the increase mostly as the result of two demographic trends. Independent experts, however, see substantial evidence that disability insurance increasingly serves as a safety net for people who cannot find jobs.
  • A new research note from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimates 40 percent to 60 percent of the growth in disability claims in recent decades is a result of the program’s attracting a broader constituency.
  • Historically, few people who qualify for disability during downturns return to the work force during rebounds, creating a twofold drag: Fewer workers and more people depending on each of those workers to pay their taxes.
  • Disability insurance is likely to keep expanding unless program rules and incentives are fundamentally altered.”

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Number can be twisted to tell many different stories. The Wall Street Journal had also made some unsubstantiated claims which were more or less assumptions than anything else --- and not supported by facts or data, as indicated in my post. I also noted that earlier this year in a new study by Jesse Rothstein (University of California, Berkeley and NBER) found that there was "no indication that expiration of UI benefits causes DI applications."

On July 18, 2013 Binyamin Appelbaum wrote another article titled Labor Force Participation Is Not Coming Back where he writes, "It also points to the growing popularity of federal disability benefits, a program many researchers say is functioning as a safety net for people who can’t find jobs – except that it tends to remove them from the workforce on a permanent basis." --- which also refers to his article The Rise of Disability.

In another post I wrote on disability I noted:

  • According to the Social Security Administration, as of June 2013, there were 8,892,515 disabled workers in the U.S. who received SSDI benefits and averaged $1,130.34 a month.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability declined from 2011 to 2012. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 13.4 percent in 2012.
  • According to the Social Security Administration, actual SSDI awards (not claims or applications) declined from 2011 to 2012, and SSDI terminations were up, for a net increase of 2.94% for people in current payment status for SSDI benefits.

But Mister Binyamin Appelbaum doesn't also mention these facts. On May 3, 2013 - Binyamin Appelbaum wrote an article titled Keeping Up, Not Getting Ahead where he says, "The number of Americans receiving disability benefits has increased by 1.8 million since the recession began, and people on disability rarely return to the work force." --- where he references someone else's article titled Disabled, but Looking for Work, where it says:

  • For the last five years, Social Security has paid out more in benefits to disabled workers than it has taken in from payroll taxes.
  • About 8.2 million people collected disabled worker benefits totaling $115 billion last year, up from 5 million a decade earlier.
  • About one in 21 Americans from age 25 to 64 receive the benefit compared with one in 30 a little over a decade ago.
  • Some economists say they believe that an increasing number of people rely on disability benefits as a kind of shadow safety net.
  • The benefits have no expiration date, like the current 99-week limit for collecting unemployment.

Yet what Binyamin Appelbaum also neglects to ever say is, according to that same article, "Nicole Maestas, an economist at the Rand Corporation, has examined Social Security data with fellow economist Kathleen J. Mullen, and concluded that in the absence of benefits, about 18 percent of recipients could work and earn at least $12,000 a year. Other economists say that even among those denied benefits, a majority fail to go back to work, in part because of medical problems and a lack of marketable skills. And because many people spend years appealing denials and building their medical case before being granted benefits, their skills often atrophy and gaps open on their résumés, making it more difficult for them to get back to work."

You can look at the data on my posts and see how the statistics can be spun to make any ideological argument for or against anybody's opinion. Binyamin Appelbaum clearly has no empathy for American disabled workers, and just like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, he most likely believes that Social Security is a scam and we should make it more difficult than it already is to quality. Let's just hope that for his own good, Mister Binyamin Appelbaum never breaks his back.

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