Here is one of several paradoxes that get pointed out in the podcast. When the DI portion of SSDI was written, it basically defined “disability” as an inability to work. Benefits therefore were to be paid out to people who have been demonstrated that some disability prevents them from being gainfully employed. Of course, the disability does NOT have to have been obtained from the job itself – so when I go hiking this summer and fall and knock my head on a boulder I can claim disability benefits when it prevents me from teaching next year. Please listen to the podcast for a discussion of the eligibility criteria.
However, the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and it has quite a different take on disability. The point of the act was to help people who have disabilities reclaim their dignity and autonomy by helping them remain employed or to seek new gainful employment. The paradox is illiustrated nicely by Autor:
Guest: So the ADA says: Disability does not mean inability to work. It simply means impairments that may stand in the way of self-sufficiency; but our goal is to help you be self-sufficient. So, the irony is that the disability program essentially can’t help you until you prove that you are incapable on your own. So, it essentially says: You want benefits? Well, prove it to me by don’t being in the labor force. Don’t be making a decent income. You have to prove it by making it clear you are deserving of help. And then we’ll help you, but not if you start working again on any serious level, because then you are not disabled, and then you are not qualified. The ADA, on the other hand, says people with a work level should be given support to allow them to maintain economic self-sufficiency and enjoy the dignity and other benefits of work. Unfortunately, since the ADA was passed, the employment rate of the disabled has only gone dowRemember what Bastiat said in his Selected Essays on Political Economy:
The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.