Fact-checking Rand Paul’s disability claims

“Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” said Paul, who is an ophthalmologist. “Everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system.”

In full 2016 mode, Rand Paul starts New Hampshire blitz

Those are some pretty hefty accusations that feed into the standard conservative line that social security is another mismanaged, abused and bloated government program. And of course, Democrats didn’t skip a beat in going after him for the comments.

But let’s dig into Paul’s claims.

This is unlikely to be something that would hurt Paul in the primary since Republicans are largely in agreement when it comes to the need to reform government programs like Social Security, but it could be used against Paul in the general.

Romney knocked 47% of the American population who, according to him, “are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims” and who feel “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it.”

That was a hugely damaging comment in 2012, but Paul’s comment about the half of Americans on disability likely won’t have the same effect.

About 8.8 million Americans receive disability checks. Lump in their roughly 2 million dependents and you’ve still got less than 4% of the population. But the real reason Romney’s remark hurt him was because it reinforced a narrative voters already had about Romney — that he was a rich guy out of touch with the struggle of middle Americans. Paul doesn’t have a heartless reputation with voters and his comments fit with his reputation as a small government conservative.