Who’s Able-Bodied Anyway? The 400-year history of how we talk about the deserving versus the undeserving poor.
New York Times,The Upshot, Feb. 3, 2018
By Emily Badger and Margot Sanger-Katz
“The “able-bodied” are now everywhere among government programs for the poor, Republican officials point out. They’re on food stamps. They’re collecting welfare. They’re living in subsidized housing. And their numbers have swelled on Medicaid, a program that critics say was never designed to serve them. …
” … Absent all its context, however, “able-bodied” is an odd term for an era when so much work isn’t physical in nature. Today, a blind person who is categorically eligible for aid could well do work that a person with depression — and who is “able-bodied” — could not.
“And this part is most curious: While these words were explicitly cited in the legislation that established Elizabethan poor law, they barely exist in the statutes and guidelines governing American aid today.
“ … It has no basis in the law or the program,” Ms. [Cindy] Mann said. “I think it’s a political term, and I think it’s used pejoratively, and I think it’s quite intentional when it’s used.
“ It’s used, she says, to imply that the newest group of people who receive Medicaid don’t deserve it.”