The Death of Horatio Alger

January 3rd, 2004

To the Editor,

Mr. Krugman’s brilliant column omits one detail: the title should be taken literally. The CDC tells us 20 percent of adults under 65 suffer chronic illness or disability, not counting institutionalized adults, disabled military and high numbers of developmentally disabled children. The SSA tells us three out of ten new workers will become disabled before retirement. Many more will be inefficient workers with deteriorating health, who join the ranks of welfare recipients and the homeless.

Now unemployed, Horatio’s bosses return his unused benefits package to a ‘locked box’ where executive bonuses are kept. Now Horatio is a burden on the taxpayer and they can hire a cheaper replacement worker or demand higher productivity from remaining workers without paying overtime.

Pollution in occupational and residential settings ensured that Horatio’s savings were spent on medical care that rarely recognizes ailments related to fine particulate pollution or which are chemically induced from pesticides, solvents and emissions from cheap building materials/furnishings. It is illegal for doctors to accept fees from injured workers so Horatio’s ailments went undocumented by physicians uneducated in toxicology and fearful of involvement in insurance battles. Obvious cases of work related disability are unimportant since workers may not sue employers for negligence. Applicants for workers compensation benefits are treated as malingerers with recipients receiving only a fraction of their former wages. WC costs are painlessly spread across the many employers in that system.

Maybe our country does need to elect a doctor instead of a politician…

Barbara Rubin

Categories: The Nation

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