National Public Radio recently produced a feature called Unfit for Work. It was about the startling rise in people on disability. CNSNews.com and others have been calling attention to the disturbing rise in disability benefits for some time. What was new in the NPR piece was the fact that states have been making a concerted effort in this direction for some time.
They told the story of PCG, Public Consulting Group. This is a private company that states having been paying to sift through their welfare rolls and shift as many people as possible from welfare to disability. Why? Well, it’s always about the money, now isn’t it? States have to pay a certain percentage for each person on welfare. If that same person moves to disability, instead, then it’s the federal government that picks up the entire tab.
Of course, we the taxpayers are getting screwed either way but there has been an astounding shift from welfare to disability over the last 20 years. Bill Clinton vetoed the Republicans’ welfare reform twice before finally signing it in 1996. What’s interesting is what happened after that. The number of families on welfare began to drop dramatically. What no one was paying attention to was the number of new disability claims. If you overlay the welfare chart on the disability chart you see the number of people on public assistance remained essentially the same. They just started collecting disability.
What’s also interesting is what they’re claiming disability for. In 1961 the number of disabled workers claiming back troubles was 8.3 percent. That number today is 33.8 percent. Have we had an epidemic of back trouble over the last 50 years? I don’t think so.
I did my own research on a hunch. I took the top 10 states for disability claims and ran a comparison to the top 10 states for obesity. Guess what? Six of the top 10 states for obesity were also in the top 10 for disability. Imagine that.
So, what am I saying? I’m saying that obviously there are states that don’t have an obesity problem and there are states that do. I don’t think it’s the climate so it must have something to do with personal choices. That should be considered when we dole out tax dollars. Are you doing everything you can possibly do to remedy your situation? If not, you don’t get a dime.
The number of people on disability also obscures the true number of unemployed. Those people, although they’re of working age, don’t show up in that highly-touted unemployment number from the Labor Department. The more people who go on disability the better that number looks. The percentage of workforce age people on disability in 1985 was 2.2 percent. In 2005 it was 4.1 percent. By 2011 it was 5.4 percent of the workforce.
In typical NPR fashion, they managed to find an excuse for the explosion of disability claims rather than the glaringly obvious reason of too many lazy people. “There are now millions of Americans who do not have the skills or education to make it in this country,” they stated. Wait a minute. A guy with a second-grade education can sneak across the border from Mexico and find a skilled job laying bricks and you’re telling me too many Americans don’t have the skills or education to make it in this country?
There are truly those who are too disabled to work but certainly not triple what it was in the ‘80s. In the process we’ve robbed millions of their dignity and that’s something they may never get back.