In a column today in the Los Angeles Times, Jonah Goldberg details how Social Security disability payments are taking the place of traditional state provided welfare. Goldberg notes that the percentage of Americans claiming Social Security disability payments has increased dramatically since 1960 and partially attributes this increase to citizens gaming the system. In particular, Goldberg states:
In 1960, 134 Americans were working for every officially recognized disabled worker. Five decades later that ratio fell to roughly 16 to 1.
Some defenders of the status quo say these numbers can be explained by the entry of women into the U.S. workforce, the aging of baby boomers and the short-term spike in need that came with the recession.
No doubt those are significant factors. But not nearly so significant as to explain why the number of people on disability has been doubling every 15 years (while the average age of recipients has gone down) or why such a huge proportion of claim injuries can't be corroborated by a doctor.In addition, Goldberg discusses the case of one rural doctor who routinely signs off on disability claims for patients who are uneducated and have bleak job prospects. Goldberg notes that such instances are changing the landscape government redistribution:
That points to the even bigger parts of the story. As the nature of the economy changes, disability programs are sometimes taking the place of welfare for those who feel locked out of the workforce — and state governments are loving it. States pay for welfare, the feds pay for disabilities.
There are those who are quick to argue that this is all bogus, there's nothing amiss with the disability system that greater funding and a better economy won't fix. Maybe they're right. One way to find out would be to ask every recipient to get a thorough examination, just as they did in Britain. Maybe the results here in the United States would be interesting too.Tweet us what you think about Jonah Goldberg's article @nyujll.