As the British government struggles to keep pace with the expenses involved in providing a safety net for its citizens, some government programs are being phased out and combined with other programs. One of the programs under scrutiny is the sickness benefit program.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary. is attempting to combine dozens of different out-of-work benefits into a single payment with the aim of ensuring an individual is always better off working than collecting benefits. As part of that process, there is an assessment of the people on the sickness benefit program to determine whether or not they are fit to work. Some 878,300 people on that program decided to come off the program rather than submit to the assessment. We need to learn from this experience.
The article at Real Clear Politics looks at disability payments in America:
In 1960, when vastly more Americans were involved in physical labor of some kind, 0.65% of workforce participants between the ages of 18 and 64 were receiving Social Security disability insurance payments. Fifty years later, in a much healthier America that number has grown to 5.6%.
In 1960, 134 Americans were working for every officially recognized disabled worker. Five decades later that ratio fell to roughly 16 to 1.
I am sure that in most cases disability payments are warranted. In fact, I am sure that everyone who is disabled does not necessarily look disabled. I can think of one example in particular where a person received severe neck damage in a work-related car accident and on some days appears to be perfectly normal. On other days, that person can barely move. Unfortunately, there is no way of predicting which days are which. However, I do think there are people among us who would rather ride in the wagon than help pull it. The problem is that at this point we have too few people pulling the wagon and too many people sitting in the wagon.
Government workers have no incentive to cut disability payments–their jobs depend on administering these programs–if you cut the programs, you might have to cut the number of administrators. Government spending has become like the hamster on the exercise wheel–it keeps moving (and growing) but nothing is actually being accomplished.
If we are serious about ever balancing the federal (and states) budget, we need to take a serious look at who is receiving payments from that government and what the basis for those payments is. Until we are willing to help people enter the workforce instead of helping them enter generations of dependency on government, we will not solve our financial problems.