In Part I, the main investigator, Planet Money's Chana Joffe-Walt, went to Hales County Alabama where 25% of the working adults are on disability checks from the government. While there she encountered people who seemed like they should be able to manage jobs that required no physical labor, but did did not. The situation was further complicated by the number of working people in Hales County who told her that a lot of people on disability manipulated the system so that they did not have to work. They believed that people on disability were "freeloaders, cheaters, hard partiers," and obese people who wanted to exploit their problems in order to receive money. People on disability that she talked to all had health issues of which the most prominent were chronic back pain (the most common), high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Many in Hales County believe that it is unfair that people use manageable health conditions, which with the right medication, diet, and exercise can be alleviated, as excuses to not work. They believe that rather than addressing their health issues, people on disability stew in their own self-pity and then receive checks for doing so. One man who had a job talked about how he encountered a man, who did not work, was on disability, and yet suffered from the exact same health issues as he did, diabetes and high blood pressure. Part I of the show shows the prominence of people who negatively view those on disability.
People who hold contempt for those on disability often overlook the fact that these people are poor and have no more than a high school education which prevents them from acquiring jobs that would accomodate their health issues. People with chronic back pain can't stand and make burgers in a fast food restaurant for hours on end. And, they often don't have enough education to get jobs where they can sit all day. The same is also true for those with high blood pressure (standing all day really doesn't work out so well for them) and those suffering from severe obesity.
This problem particularly affects the African American community. Many have high school educations and can only work menial labor jobs. Once they get injured, and especially if it is a long term injury, they are out of work probably for the rest of their life. Of the people interviewed in this episode, one middle-aged black couple survived on disability checks. The husband used to work in a factory until his hands were injured and the wife was in a car accident that resulted in her having chronic back pain. The wife in particular talks about how its not that she doesn't want to work, but that there are no available jobs for her. Joffe-Walt discovered that all the jobs available in Hales County that hired people with a high school education required extensive standing or physical labor.
The article covers the disability situation in America thoroughly. Although it doesn't directly focus on race, it still points to the lack of education in the black community that ultimately prevents blacks from achieving more opportunities and social mobilization, and the fact that these blacks can't go back to work once they are injured. The article shows that the American public largely views those on disability, including blacks, with a lack of respect without realizing that these people are the victims of a system that favors the privileged. This article articulated to me how ignorance is still a large contributing factor to the white community's racist views towards black people.