Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits in Penobscot County, Maine, rose from 4,475 to 7,955. That’s right, nearly one in every 12 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in that county is now collecting Social Security disability benefits. How depressing it must be to live in a county where one out of every 12 adults is disabled.

But let’s not pick on some poor little county in Maine. Nationally, the number of workers receiving disability benefits rose from about 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. In addition, 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive disability benefits.

What this means, at least mathematically, is that the program’s “trust fund” will be broke by 2016. I presume you are familiar with the government’s trust-fund scam, so I won’t even go into that. But, trust me (no pun intended), the disability program will run out of money long before 2016.

If you have joint pain (for crying out loud, who over 40 doesn’t have joint pain?), a “mental disorder” (which includes a whole bunch of people I have to interact with on a regular basis), a heart problem (which can mean almost anything), not to worry. The Social Security disability program will pay you not to work.

And who funds the Social Security disability program? The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, that’s who. And when they have no more money to “give,” still no problem. The criminal class in Washington just cranks up the printing presses and creates more counterfeit money.

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When President Eisenhower signed the Social Security disability program into law in 1956, it was envisioned as a safety net for people ages 50 to 64 who could not continue working because of long-term medical problems. However, changes in eligibility requirements in 1984 made it easier to qualify for the program with such vague conditions as pain and depression. (How many people do you know who are never in pain and never depressed?)

Now, it’s become both a (bad) joke and a fraud. Recently, the Government Accountability Office found that the program made $1.3 billion in “potentially improper payments” to people who had jobs when they were supposedly disabled. That’s right, drawing a paycheck and receiving money from those who work for a living!

But fraud, while despicable, isn’t the only problem with the disability program. Even worse, the criteria used to qualify someone for disability payments is totally subjective. More than half the money paid out goes to applicants who claim “musculoskeletal disorders” or “mental impairments” – conditions that are almost impossible to document definitively.

Tens of millions of people work with back pain for years. But many, when they lose jobs, suddenly conclude that their back pain is a disability. That’s right, the pain is manageable when they work, but it disables them when they don’t work. Logic and morality are not part of the Marxist ideology.

The truth be known, disability payments are really nothing more than permanent unemployment compensation. While unemployment benefits can last no longer than 99 weeks, disability payments can, and usually do, last a lifetime.

The Social Security disability program, funded primarily by the Social Security payroll tax, paid out $135 billion in 2012, and it has spent more money than it has collected in payroll taxes every year since 2009. People on disability can also receive Medicare after two years, regardless of age, which adds another $80 billion to the taxpayers’ tab. And, of course, there’s always food stamps – now being received by nearly 50 million people – for good measure.

But here’s the real kicker: As the number of people receiving disability payments has increased, surveys show that workers report being healthier than ever. In addition, workers are less likely to have physically demanding jobs than in the past.

Of course, the official number-crunchers blame the increase in disability payments on the weak economy, but the truth is that even while Obama continues with his efforts to collapse the U.S. financially, entrepreneurship is so powerful that there are tens of millions of jobs actually going unfilled.

The crux of the unemployment problem is the insane notion of people being “underemployed.” All that is meant by this term is that millions of people believe they are capable of doing much higher level work than they are now doing.

But one’s subjective view of his own abilities and value has nothing to do with the realities of the marketplace. An underemployed person is just someone who refuses to work at jobs that he believes are beneath his skill or education level, so he opts for a free ride paid for, involuntarily, by his neighbors.

In fairness, I do believe that a large percentage of people receiving disability payments would much rather be working. But there are two things that are stopping them from doing so: government handouts (beginning with disability payments, Medicare, unemployment benefits and food stamps) and unconstitutional minimum-wage laws.

Remove these two factors from the equation, and unemployment would virtually disappear overnight. And so would the absurd notion of people “dropping out of the labor force.” How could someone drop out of the labor force if he needed money to eat and keep a roof over his head?

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally sympathetic to people who have serious health issues – blindness, muscular dystrophy, quadriplegia, etc. And while no one is morally or constitutionally obligated to pay the medical costs and living expenses of such people, Americans have proven, time and again, that they are a compassionate and generous people.

Which is why helping those who are truly in need would not be a problem if the worst among us – elected officials – would simply get out of the way and do what they’re supposed to do: spend their time protecting our lives, our property and our rights. With that accomplished, a free people could take care of the disabled much better than government hacks could ever hope to.

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