The other day work brought me into contact with a woman getting welfare because, in her words, "high blood pressure and depression" prevent her from getting a job. Another contact was a young black man for whom "a bad back" entitled him to Social Security disability. "Attention deficit disorder" was another that got my attention... (so wouldn't you be good at multi-tasking?)
And recently, somewhat to my chagrin, I found out that a relative of mine has qualified for Social Security disability because of claimed mental problems.
Keep in mind that these folks aren't claiming simply that they can't find a job... they're claiming they can't work a job, thus entitling them to a completely different kind of welfare—and a presumably much more permanent kind.
One problem is that once a society creates an entitlement for disability, a good deal of moral hazard is introduced: some claims will be legitimate, of course, others will be feigned. But in our no-condition-goes-undiagnosed society, we've imported dozens of varieties of "disability" that would have been unheard of just a few decades ago. It was bad enough when they had to be physical—you could still claim that bad back—but now that they include mental disabilities, it's hard to conceive of any living human being who couldn't qualify for disability payments, so long as they have a willing doctor to sign off on their depression or anxiety. And those doctors are everywhere, backed up by networks of mutually reinforcing "disability" industries: pharmaceutical companies, social workers, etc.
In other words, once something has ensconced itself as a going concern in the great bureaucratic maw, it never gets questioned. Getting lifetime federal benefits because you have "attention deficit disorder" becomes as uncontroversial as qualifying because you lost both legs in a construction accident. (Interestingly, in the worker's comp arena, I did once see an amputation victim who actually went back to work a few weeks later, because "he really just wanted to work", revealing for me that the individual will to work is far stronger than any of the raft of conditions the lazy concoct.)
Next, add the elements of an American population grown too big and too ethnically diverse, and the problem really starts to get out of hand.
By Eduardo Porter
New York Times, April 29, 2007
Many Americans are skeptical about government spending on social programs, and they cite a litany of familiar reasons: big government programs aren’t effective, they are vulnerable to waste and abuse, and they run counter to the libertarian, self-reliant spirit of the nation’s founders.
But a growing body of research suggests that America’s antipathy toward big government has another, less-often-acknowledged underpinning: the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity.
Recent studies by economists and other social scientists have found that this mix tends to undermine support for government spending on “public goods” of all types, whether health care, roads or welfare programs for the disadvantaged.
Some of these studies suggest that America’s rich diversity — not only ethnic and racial but also religious and linguistic — goes a long way toward explaining why government spending on social welfare programs is much lower than it is in the more homogeneous nations of Europe. Other studies have found that within the United States, local support for various types of public spending falls as diversity rises. [More]
The illegal alien in Virginia scamming for disability payments does not care that a white schoolteacher in North Carolina is footing the bill. And the inherently lesser abilities of blacks and Hispanics make it only more likely that they're going to claim a disability—though whites certainly aren't immune from this, as the example of my relative shows.
Is anyone tracking these costs? In the current budget debate, you'd think it would come up, but I haven't heard it. The Republican candidates propose eliminating certain federal agencies (great), but I'd love to see one say, "I'd throw anyone claiming 'depression' off the disability dole."
It's all just another symptom of an empire headed for collapse.