Bill Maher Bashes Disability

Bill MaherAs you all know, I like Bill Maher. I think he is funny and he is right about a lot of politics. But I get very angry at him when he is egregiously wrong. This happened most recently during the presidential campaign. Goldie Taylor was on his show. She claimed that Obama would win 330 electoral votes. Maher claimed that this was an example of the “liberal media bubble.” But as I pointed out at the time, it was no such thing. When Taylor made the claim, there was a 21% change of Obama getting that many votes. And in the end, he got 335 votes.

Last week on his show, he discussed another conservative canard that for whatever reason he just accepts at face value: more people are on disability and we should be outraged. In his little brain, this is all about the Paul Ryan hammock: Americans are just getting more lazy. It goes right along with Maher’s libertarian inclinations. The problem is, it just isn’t true.

The Congressional Budget Office looked at this question last July. And they found there are three primary reasons why there are more people on disability. First, the workforce is older; older workers are more prone to career ending disabilities. Second, because most women work now, there is a larger percentage of the population that works; more workers causes more people on disability. Third, the Reagan administration changed the qualifications for disability to be more fair; more workers qualified for disability causes more people to be on disability.

This is not hard stuff to understand. What’s more, this isn’t news. A Google search of “rise disability rates cause” brought up that article above. So Maher is either just following his prejudices or he’s listening to conservatives with an ax to grind. Regardless, I really expect better of him.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Bill Maher Bashes Disability

  1. The "phony disability" claim is like the "welfare queen" claim or the "frivolus lawsuit" claim (there are many, many other examples.) It’s one which has no shortage of verifiable instances where milking the system, behaving in a dishonest manner, is taking place.

    The last time I was in Denmark, where I have a few friends, all were talking about a well-publicized "welfare queen"; some were suggesting an end to welfare because of it, some were arguing for better oversight, and some (the ones I like best) observing how a rightward trend was manipulating the media.

    Since that is what claims like this are; pure media manipulation, pure PR. (It’s what our buddy Stossel made a career of.) It’s effective because most of us know, first-or-second hand (third, maybe, in Maher’s case) incidents/individuals which fit the PR pattern.

    Now a real media system would analyze instances of abuse/egregious behavior and weigh the costs of allowing such behavior to continue against the cost of ending the programs/loopholes bad people take advantage of. We SHOULD be on the lookout for where our laws and programs can be improved, after all.

    For example; did the bank bailouts, which resulted in saving (and giving profit to) badly managed institutions while not delivering a promised expansion of credit, still prevent the global economy from meltdown? Hard to say; smart people can have differing opinions on that one.

    But I don’t know of any smart/serious analysis that proves how protection for abused workers isn’t worth the occasional malingerer, or how cutting benefits for poor parents with children — CHILDREN — is better than benefits the children can eat on and the parents might sometimes abuse, etc., etc.

    Interesting how this "one example proves the whole concept worthless" logic never goes the other way. If my side points out that Repub figure "X" has ties to white supremacy, it’s hate speech by calling out that individual on hate speech. If a bank exec gets caught using government funds to pay for wild parties at huge mansions, mentioning that is class warfare. And so on . . .

    (Incidentally, I have an uncle who testified in the infamous "McDonald’s Coffee" case. He worked for the company which made the cup lids, and that company specifically told McDobnald’s not to serve the coffee above a certain temperature, or the styrofoam cups would warp and the lids would not fit, potentially causing severe burns. This uncle, who gave that very honest and important testimony, is, of course, a strict "they’re all takers and we’re makers" Repub . . . that’s America for you.)

  2. @JMF – Speaking of the McDonald’s case: have you seen [i]Hot Coffee[/i]? It is excellent. I wrote about it here:

    I don’t think there is any lack of people getting angry about individual businesses behaving badly. The problem is, the business community can deal with the bad press. But if you find someone taking advantage of food stamps, no one is there to lobby and make the obvious point that it is an exception. (And with the business community it is rarely the exception.)

    The whole thing is typically America: steal a dollar, go to prison; steal a million, be lionized.

  3. Well your final line reminds me of Keynes: if you owe the bank ten thousand dollars, you have a problem. If you owe the bank ten million dollars, the bank has a problem.

    "Hot Coffee" is now on my library list. It was a trailer on another movie I saw, "We Were There" (about the early years of AIDS, depressing but good) and I hesitated to even look at the trailer, since I’m accustomed to what people think about that case.

    Surprise! The trailer was about how McDonald’s was wrong and most class-action lawsuits right. I’m looking forward to watching it.

    It’s crazy how many good documentaries are being released now. It’s a golden age. There are good political ones (I like Alex Gibney), good ones on various subjects (I like Errol Morris), and good ones on everything-the-hell-else.

    Whatever one thinks of Michael Moore (I think he’s vastly improved over time as a filmmaker, and I responded very strongly to "Sicko") one has to admit that the success of his movies has opened the door for other documentary filmmakers.

  4. @JMF – I think that DV has been a great help in opening up documentaries. Moore is his own thing. I wasn’t that fond of his first film. But looking back, I think his work is more along the lines of a personal essay. It would be cool if he followed that more, but he’s so important to the liberal cause that I doubt he will. [i]Sicko[/i] was very good. The one standout scene alone was worth it, "We just want the same healthcare as the evil doers get."

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