Friday, April 20, 2012

Disability Numbers Going Up

The April 20, 2012 Investors Business Daily reports on the dramatic increase in Americans who are applying for, and receiving disability payments.

A record 5.4 million workers and their dependents have signed up to collect federal disability checks since President Obama took office, according to the latest official government data, as discouraged workers increasingly give up looking for jobs and take advantage of the federal program.
This is straining already-stretched government finances while posing a long-term economic threat by creating an ever-growing pool of permanently dependent working-age Americans.
The article points out that this has multiple causes.  Much of it, of course, is workers who run through unemployment benefits and can't find jobs.  The graph shows a similar increase at the close of the Ford Administration and during the Carter Administration.  Some of it is an aging population and an increase in the number of women in the workforce in the last thirty years.  (There was a time, amazingly enough, when many women were stay-at-home moms and never worked outside the home.)

I would not be surprised if a big chunk of this is related to addiction problems.  I have one relative who has spent most of his life in an alcohol and marijuana haze, dependent on finding women he could impregnate so that they could collect welfare.  (The reforming of AFDC in the mid-1990s put a serious crimp in his lifestyle.)  Now, he collects disability, even though mostly, he suffers from a moral and character disability.  Another person I know has spent most of his life lost in an alcohol fog, which makes it hard to hold even the lowest level jobs.  He's trying to get on disability, too.

But at the core, the problem is a lot of people either can't find jobs, or because they had high paying jobs before, disability is more attractive than working at McDonald's.  I'm not happy about this, but I can understand why the person who used to make $60,000 a year, with benefits, and now has the prospect of making $20,000 a year without health insurance, would find disability payments tempting--comparable pay, without the demanding hours and stress of work.

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