But there is another federal program for people with disabilities that has had an unhappier effect. This is the disability insurance (DI) program, which is part of Social Security.
The idea is to provide income for those whose health makes them unable to work. For many years, it was a small and inexpensive program that few people or politicians paid much attention to.
In his recent book, “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic, ” my American Enterprise Institute colleague Nicholas Eberstadt has shown how DI has grown in recent years.
In 1960, some 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments. In 2011, the number was 8,600,000. In 1960, the percentage of the economically active 18-to-64 population receiving disability benefits was 0.65%. In 2010, it was 5.6%…..
Consider the plight of someone who at some level knows he can work but decides to collect disability payments instead. That person is not likely to ever seek work again, especially if the sluggish recovery turns out to be the new normal.
He may be gleeful that he was able to game the system or just grimly determined to get what he can in a tough situation. But he will not be able to get the satisfaction of earned success from honest work that contributes something to society and the economy.
I use the masculine pronoun intentionally, because an increasing number of American men have dropped out of the workforce altogether. In 1948, 89% of men age 20 and over were in the workforce.
In 2011, 73% were.
Social Security Disability and food stamps are the few areas where men can get benefits. Most WIC, much welfare, and even much of the Earned income credit goes to women with children. No, it’s not good for men to game the system, but the system, in some sense has “gamed them.” Our country now rewards those who do not help themselves; those who try to be successful are often punished. Some men have caught on to the game, and others simply are not able to play. There is no or little incentive to work, this combined with a sluggish economy leaves some men “going Galt.” It is not good for society, though for the individual, it may make sense.