Caduceus, 2022. Copal, artist’s Social Security Disability Application, Work History Report, EBT card, Medicaid card, LED light panels, mattress.

Disabled mind-bodies are seldom given access to the distinction of worker. They are cast as economic drains despite discriminatory hiring practices and ADA accommodation law that favor employers. Unable to work, disabled subjects turn to social services for their needs. The United States has devised those services to reclaim this population as a site of financial reproduction. This is actualized through the allocation of public funding through the projection of “beds.” Beds or the number of bodies that can be housed and treated within hospitals, prisons, and extended care homes are capital stock and drive the amount of money contractors receive from the government. 1

By creating a forced dependency on welfare systems, private and for-profit institutions and businesses produce value for the private sector through policy driven contracts using public funds. This ensures that while the disabled mind-bodies cannot be exploited for their labor, value can still be extracted from them in other ways. Disabled populations are imagined as beds with the capacity to generate capital.

Under these carceral welfare systems (SSI in particular) disabled people are foreclosed from the ability to get married and cannot have more than $2,000 in total assets. This is coupled with sustained State surveillance through the constant disclosure of financial documents.

The US Army Medical Corps chose the caduceus, a staff entwined with two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings, for the national symbol of medicine in 1902. In actuality it is symbolic of trade, liars and thieves. Most for-profit medical providers still use the caduceus as part of their marketing.

1 See Marta Russel’s Money Model of Disability