Excerpts from the Friday January 25, Wall Street Journal
Some facts and figures for your consideration:
Today, entitlement programs account for nearly two-thirds of federal spending. In other words, welfare spending is nearly twice as much as defense, justice and everything else Washington does—combined.
Nearly half (49%) of Americans today live in homes receiving one or more government transfer benefits.
About 35% of Americans (well over 100 million people) are accepting money, goods or services from "means-tested" government programs-that is, benefits intended for the poor, such as Medicaid and food stamps. This percentage is twice as high as in the early 1980s. A third of all Americans receiving government entitlement transfers are seniors on Social Security and Medicare.
Got that? 1/3 of us are on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps and 1/3 are on Social Security. That leaves 1/3 of us to pay the bill.
It gets worse.
In December 2012, more than 8.8 million working-age men and women took disability payments from the government—nearly three times as many as in December 1990. That's more than the total number of employees in the manufacturing sector of the economy.
Yes, more are on disability than work in manufacturing.
The biggest increases in disability claims have been for "musculoskeletal" problems and mental disorders (including mood disorders). But as a practical matter, it is impossible for a health professional to ascertain conclusively whether or not a patient is suffering from back pains or sad feelings. However lawyers can determine if a person is eligible for disability. In fact, a cottage industry has grown up with lawyers and doctor's certifying the person is disabled. And the person never needs to even see the doctor.
Mr. Eberstadt is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic" (Templeton, 2012).