The Washington Post ran its twice-annual "Poor people in rural areas are all getting signed up as disabled" piece last week, this time featuring some of the most conveniently – almost comically – unsympathetic characters yet. They're poor! They're dumb! The only multisyllable words they use are trendy medical diagnoses! They're divorced a half-dozen times! Look at how many kids they have! Yeah, we get it.
The tiny detail that is wholly omitted from this story, which does describe a real trend and cites the statistics to prove it, is that the rapid surge in disability recipients is largely due to concerted efforts by states to shift people from their own social safety net to the Federal government. Things like unemployment insurance, housing subsidies, etc. are the financial responsibility of the states. Beginning in 2008-09 when state budgets across the country lurched into crisis mode, strategic governors and state legislators saw easy pickings in encouraging state social services agencies to push people toward SSI, disability, and other programs for which the tab is picked up by the Federal government. This saves states millions at a time when saving millions is of particular importance politically and practically.
You'd think that would be worth mentioning. You'd think an honest journalist would drop that in the piece somewhere, or that an editor doing due diligence would add it after the fact. Instead, the emphasis seems to have been on making sure that there were enough pictures of fat stupid poor people.