Social Security disability fund will run out of money in 2016

An excellent editorial in the Washington Examiner about the skyrocketing number of Americans enrolled in the Social Security disability insurance program.

What happens to the workers who drop out of the labor force? Some retire, some become full-time parents, some go on welfare. But here's an important answer that is often overlooked: In 2011, on average, one net person has been added to Social Security's Disability Insurance rolls (and 3.3 to its retirement program) for every five net new jobs created. Since 1970, the number receiving DI has grown sixfold (from 1.4 million to 8.8 million), and the program expenses have grown tenfold, which is unsustainable. The federal government now spends more on disability than food stamps and welfare combined. In 2009, DI began paying out more in benefits than it took in from payroll taxes. By 2016, it is set to run out of money.

Two factors are driving the program's explosive growth: first, newly liberalized eligibility standards. When President Reagan instituted a program of "continuing disability reviews" at the height of the 1981 recession, about 400,000 people lost benefits. Democrats in Congress responded by passing new standards that made it easier to qualify for DI initially and next to impossible to lose benefits. As NPR's Chana Joffe-Walt pointed out in an excellent recent piece on the topic, heart disease was the top cause of DI awards in 1961. Today, with the new eligibility standards, back pain and mental illness top the list. As a result, the share of all adults receiving DI benefits doubled from 2.3 percent in 1989 to 4.6 percent in 2009.

The second reason for the exploding disability rolls and continued record-setting is the continued weakness of President Obama's economic recovery. It has been thoroughly established that DI applications correlate not with worker health but with worker employment prospects. One classic study shows that when coal prices fall, the number of DI beneficiaries skyrockets in Appalachia. Falling coal prices don't cause back pain, but unemployment does cause more DI applications. And the applications have not slowed down at all since the "recovery" began -- at 2.8 million, the number in 2012 was almost identical to the number from 2009, and double the number from 2000.

The editorial asks that we not blame the beneficiaries but if fraud is being committed - and those bad backs can't all be legit - who else should be singled out? Just because standards are lax doesn't mean someone can fake a bad back and get disability for life.

The Obama economy: more part time jobs, more workforce dropouts, more disability claims, and fewer good paying jobs.

Tell me again how did this guy got re-elected?