Americans are very generous to people with disabilities. Since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, millions of public and private dollars have been spent on curb cuts, bus lifts, and special elevators.
The idea has been to enable people with disabilities to live and work with the same ease as others as they make their way forward in life. I feel sure the large majority of Americans are pleased that we are doing this.
But there is another federal program for people with disabilities that has had an unhappier effect. This is the disability-insurance (DI) program, which is part of Social Security.
The idea is to provide income for those whose health makes them unable to work. For many years, it was a small and inexpensive program that few people or politicians paid much attention to.
In his recent book, A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic, my American Enterprise Institute colleague Nicholas Eberstadt has shown how DI has grown in recent years.
In 1960, some 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments. In 2011, the number was 8,600,000. In 1960, the percentage of the economically active population aged 18 to 64 years old receiving disability benefits was 0.65 percent. In 2010, it was 5.6 percent.