Hey, I listened to this piece!
Basically, there’s a town where 25% of people are on disability. Many of them have back pain or something minor, but the doctor in town often puts them on disability because they don’t have any education, and therefore, in his opinion, “unfit to work.” That’s messed up already, right, abusing the system? They ask a woman on disability why she doesn’t just get a job where she can sit down, and she honestly can’t think of a job like that, because this is a poor town with poorly educated people. So basically, the changing economy is leaving them behind, and disability pay has become the place they go to when they can’t get a job. Several other people who have lost jobs in the recession from outsourcing or plants shutting down have similar stories, giving up going back to school and possibly getting a $15,000 job for the last few years of your life for $12,000 in disability pay.
You should listen to it, I really liked it, and it introduces the notion that the economy is much worse than the unemployment numbers show, because disabled people are not shown on any other worker-related figures. Listen to it:
This American Life — Trends with Benefits