by E. Sebastian Arduengo
NPR recently aired a sobering account of the state of Social Security Disability Insurance (Disability) a government program that provides 14 million Americans with a sustenance income,while providing them no real means of addressing their physical or mental affliction or economic poverty. In fact, less than one percent of people ever transition from Disability into the world of work with all of its attendant benefits, like raises, meaningfulness, social contact, etc., meager as those may be with some jobs. Most people simply die while on Disability or lurch onto regular Social Security, the government social insurance program that provides benefits to the elderly.
In the severely depressed labor market of the Great Recession, which itself greatly favors information-centric skills, many older workers with little education who have been laid off from manufacturing jobs feel that going on to disability is a better choice for making it to retirement than spending their last few years in a menial job where they have to stand all day. But, it’s not just former blue collar workers in the Mississippi valley and Pacific Northwest that are going on disability. In cities across the country, entire families subsist off of the disability check they receive because they have a child with a learning disability.
It’s a system that is riddled with perverse incentives. If a child on disability starts to succeed in school that actually threatens the family’s livelihood. So, it’s actually in the best interests of the family financially if a child continues to struggle in school. Unlike Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), if a beneficiary starts to work, they aren’t eased off of the program – they face a real risk of immediately losing all of their benefits.