Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul came under fire from Democrats Wednesday, after a video appeared online in which he says that some people receiving disability benefits “game the system,” and receive money they don't deserve.
Paul, who is on a tour of New Hampshire, was filmed speaking to a group believed to be Republican lawmakers from the state. In a video circulated by the Democratic National Committee, he says: “You know the thing is that all of these programs -- there's always somebody who is deserving. Everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system."
"What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn't be getting a disability check," said Paul, adding. "You know, over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn't get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a back pain."
Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, told CNN that while there was fraud in the system, Paul's assertion that over half of beneficiaries shouldn't qualify was "way out of nowhere" and a "detachment from reality."
Social Security Administration data cited by MSNBC shows that while mental disorders and musculo-skeletal and connective tissue problems account for approximately 63 percent of all disability claims, that number includes every single physical injury and mental illness disabled Americans sustain -- far more than just back pain and anxiety.
"They're arguing for fraud -- I'm arguing for eliminating fraud," said Paul, standing by his comments in an interview with the Associated Press. "I didn't think what I said was controversial, that we should eliminate fraud from a disability program.... Overall that's a judgment voters make. Do they want someone who is frank and genuine, or someone who is guarded?” he added.
Paul's comments recall remarks made by former Republican 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was captured telling supporters: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. ... Who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” Romney was widely pilloried for the comments, which were seen as contributing to his electoral defeat.
Paul is widely believed to be preparing a 2016 bid for the presidency.