WTF Is Causing Rising Disability
May 11, 2011, 05:01 AM
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David Brooks writes:
As my colleague David Leonhardt pointed out recently, in 1954, about 96 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today that number is around 80 percent. One-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work.
According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has a smaller share of prime age men in the work force than any other G-7 nation. The number of Americans on the permanent disability rolls, meanwhile, has steadily increased. Ten years ago, 5 million Americans collected a federal disability benefit. Now 8.2 million do. That costs taxpayers $115 billion a year, or about $1,500 per household. ...
Fortunately, Dave has a long list of suggestions about how to Win The Future:
It will probably require a broad menu of policies attacking the problem all at once: expanding community colleges and online learning; changing the corporate tax code and labor market rules to stimulate investment; adopting German-style labor market practices like apprenticeship programs, wage subsidies and programs that extend benefits to the unemployed for six months as they start small businesses.
A reader comments:
Wow, a fifth of men out of the workforce. Dave is waxing speculative about redirecting some huge tranche of resources from the welfare state as a result. What`s the one huge factor, which would have a much cheaper solution, that he dare not mention?
I don`t know ... Sunspots? Continental drift? Fluoride? I`m as baffled as Dave. What could be causing all these American guys to develop bad backs who are expected by people like me and Dave who type for a living to compete with illegal immigrants for $9 per hour jobs lifting stuff? Mercury in vaccines? It`s a complete mystery. Global warming? Yeah, it`s usually global warming.
Really, are establishment Republicans so cowed that touching the Medicare third-rail looks better than coming to Jesus on immigration and the national question?
Well, it looks like a lot of Republican politicians are developing cold feet on privatizing Medicare for under 55s. But, yeah, cowed is the right word.

Meanwhile, President Obama is crowing about the success of his plan to discourage new illegal immigration through high unemployment and how therefore the health of the economy depends upon putting illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship and voting Democratic. Or something like that. Frankly, beginning in 2001, every couple of years (e.g., 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2011) the President announces some gibberish about how it`s a national priority to amnesty illegal immigrants, so we can Win The Future.

WTF is the right acronym.