The New York Times has an article in today's paper called "A Disability Epidemic Among a Railroad's Retirees," about how as many as 97% of employees who retire from the Long Island Railroad file for disability post-retirement and have been receiving tens of thousands of dollars a year. Pretty much unnoticed. There is no way to read this article and not come to the conclusion that this world is messed up and everyone involved in keeping it not messed up is stupid. There is no way to read this article and not come to the conclusion that most people in this world are either incompetent or crooked, and in some cases both. Not that anyone would necessarily be harboring any illusions, post-Katrina, post-Enron, post-this past week of financial whatever it is that's going on, but this article asks us to accept something absurd: virtually everyone who retires from the Long Island Railroad almost immediately files for disability, gets accepted, gets thousands of dollars in payments -- and nobody has noticed. The number of people filing for disability while employed is tiny. The number of work accidents is tiny. But because of a clause in their union contracts, they're able to file for disability after retirement, and because of some number of corrupt doctors who are in on this scheme, they all somehow find a way to qualify as disabled, and then they all get disability payments and go play golf -- for free, because of some city rule that allows disabled workers to use sports facilities for free. The article also talks about some other absurd LIRR union rules, allowing workers to get paid up to four times for one day of work if they're asked to do multiple jobs on the same day, but those rules merely seem like stupid union rules that particularly savvy workers can abuse and manipulate and I don't feel a tremendous amount of outrage reading about that except that somehow no one has put a stop to it after fifty years of people getting paid tens of thousands of dollars for no particular reason. It's the disability thing that's the baffling part. Because no one would think to file for disability unless they knew everyone else was, and everyone was sharing the names of the doctors to go to and the forms to fill out... for 97% of people in a population to do anything, someone is making it very easy for them. So at the very least it must be an open secret that this is what you do after you retire. And so for no one at a supervisory level, with some amount of power, to step in and say no, this is nonsense, this is corrupt, and we should figure out a way to fix it -- it's outrageous. And I'm sure the LIRR is not the only place where things like this are going on. And I'm sure this New York Times article won't bring about any real change in their system. And I'm not sure why reading this piece got me quite so worked up. Maybe it's coupled with the realization this past week that we could kinda have another depression, and there's not necessarily anything anyone can really do to stop it (although I guess this $700 billion bailout of whatever they're bailing out seems to be making people feel better, at least as reflected in the stock market), and there's really no reason to expect that things necessarily always work out and make sense. In any case, read the article? It's more interesting than the headline made it sound, for sure.