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(With apologies to Pete Seeger)

Where have all the workers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the workers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the workers gone?
Governments have hid them every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

What’s wrong with this picture?

For the last three years, under an Obama administration, the unemployment rate has been stuck in the 8 percent range. During that time, the U.S. population has grown by some 8 million people. However, the labor force participation rate – the number of people who have jobs or are actively looking for one, compared with the total working-age population – has now shrunk to 63.8 percent. That’s the lowest level in 30 years.

Thirty years ago, many women chose to stay at home and raise their children. As tax rates increased, more and more mothers where forced to enter the workforce to make ends meet and pay for the ever-expanding “nanny state.” Before the 2008 recession, the labor force participation rate was going up. Now, there are fewer people working or looking for work. Where have all those people gone?

They can be found among the growing ranks of “disabled workers” now living on the public dole. In fact, since Obama took office, the disability ranks have outpaced job growth!

You would think that after decades of advances in medical treatment and rehabilitative technology, along with a trend away from physically demanding work, the number of disabled workers would be going down, not up. What gives?

Since 2007, some 3.4 million non elderly Americans have been added to the list of those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, as it is called. Social Security was supposed to be a retirement safety net. In addition to a monthly check, SSDI also makes these people eligible for Medicare. Clearly, Social Security and Medicare have become catchalls. It is little wonder these programs are unsustainable.

Today, some 10.6 million Americans are receiving SSDI benefits and (surprise, surprise) many of these new claimants ran out of unemployment benefits before they applied for SSDI.

The Obama administration has done the appropriate amount of hand-wringing, while privately breathing a sigh of relief over this sleight-of-hand that helps hide the extent of our unemployment problem. In true Washington fashion, it kicked the can down the road by ordering a new study.

It was another needless expense. In 2006, economists David Autor at MIT and Mark Duggan at the University of Pennsylvania’s Warton School of Philadelphia produced an exhaustive study, “The Growth in the Social Security Disability Rolls: A Fiscal Crisis Unfolding,” that tells us everything we need to know about SSDI. Essentially the problems with this program, which was initially designed for the “totally” and “permanently” disabled, are these:

  • In the five-plus decades since its inception, Congress has expanded SSDI to the point that it is unrecognizable.
  • Its mission is now ill-defined.
  • The screening procedure now hinges more on an applicant’s employability instead of an undeniable disabling medical event.
  • As a result, the program now functions much like a long-term unemployment program for the unemployable.

Never underestimate the ability of Congress to expand programs in order to increase the number of its beholden constitutes.

Never underestimate the power of executives in government to rework or relax the standards in order to increase the size of their personal fiefdoms.

Never underestimate the power of administrations to bend the rules in order to make the economic numbers, which play an integral part in presidential elections, look better than they actually are.

All you have to do is go to the Social Security Disability website to see how easy it is to apply for and receive these benefits. If you try to leave the website without signing up, there will be prompts to encourage you to apply. There you will discover that, should your claim be turned down, the government employs lawyers that will take your case, free of charge. Furthermore, if you are willing to follow through, most of these claims will be approved.

Have a headache? A little back pain? Arthritis? Are you depressed? Get the doctor you are paying to agree, and the government will write you a check every month and give you free health insurance for, in most cases, the rest of your life.

What a country!

Where have all the workers gone?
Gone on welfare every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

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