Time for everyone to do as they’re told and freak out about our latest outrage superhero Adult Baby On SSI Man.
A key senator has asked the Social Security Administration to investigate how people who live their lives role-playing as “adult babies” are able to get taxpayer-funded disability payments — after one of them was featured on a recent reality TV episode wearing diapers, feeding from a bottle and using an adult-sized crib he built.
Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and the Senate’s top waste-watcher, asked the agency’s inspector general to look into 30-year-old Stanley Thornton Jr. and his roommate, Sandra Dias, who acts as his “mother,” saying it’s not clear why they are collecting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits instead of working.
If there’s a piece of paperwork on file somewhere in the SSA that says this guy has been diagnosed with “gets a boner by roleplaying as a baby” and therefore he can’t work, then that’s ridiculous, but I doubt very much that this is the case. Similarly, I doubt his roommate submitted paperwork saying that she can’t work because she feels like putting a bottle in some grown guy’s mouth instead. The SSA has guidelines on what qualifies you as disabled for SSI purposes, and many people with illnesses and ailments that nobody disputes the validity of are denied the first (second, third…) time as a matter of routine. The program just is not this easy to get into, and given that these two live in California I can tell you exactly what they’re getting: $865 a month each, or $10,380 a year. In a nearly $4-trillion dollar budget this doesn’t even qualify as a rounding error. From a fiscal impact perspective, the outlays for this man and his roommate’s SSI don’t even exist, and gee isn’t it funny that nobody was outraged about this until it appeared on TV? It’s almost as though we’re being a bit reactionary.
Now I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that there are privacy laws preventing the SSA from responding to press inquiries by saying, “No you fuckers, the guy’s also crazy. We don’t pay him to be an adult baby, we pay him because he’s crazy and can’t get a job as a result,” and that his roommate’s situation is similar; when seeking help with coping skills in general, one thing SSI receipients are often counseled to do is seek other SSI recipients to move in with, in order to find a way to help with the bills without having to go through the stress of explaining your living situation to a bunch of random people. While out on that limb, I’m going to further say that Coburn knows this and sees a great opportunity not only to demagogue the issue in its own right but to distract from this bit of hot water he seems to have gotten himself into regarding his role in the Ensign scandal.
The relevant question is not, “Is it ridiculous to pay a grown man disability to roleplay as an adult baby?” but whether that’s even what is happening. I’m going to guess that the answer is no, and that this has a lot more to do with our reflexive habit of distracting ourselves from all the horror and pain of everyday life by finding a more vulnerable target to take a shit on; in this case, yeah sure, we’re blowing trillions on pointless, endless occupation of foreign companies and tax cuts for Warren Buffett, but who cares about that when we can come home from the office of reality and kick a dog we’ve named “$20,000 a year to the adult baby” right in the gut? We don’t solve problems, we ignore them while looking for an unrelated scapegoat. That’s the American Way.