The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 25, 2013

Disability & Civics


Daily Item

---- — We cannot have government by the people and for the people if the people do not have an understanding of how government works and are gaming and defrauding the system with contrived disabilities. Pretty strong stuff, but statistics don't lie.

Until the 1960s, high school students commonly took three years of civics, creating informed citizens ready to be engaged in government. Today, with the emphasis on math, English and sometimes science, students get little civics. Under-performance in school puts the economy at risk. But failure in civics education puts our very democracy at risk.

Only one-third of Americans can name all three branches of government, another third can't name any. The United States ranks 120th out of 169 democracies in voter turnout. We cannot have "government by the people" if people do not know how to govern. We need to include civics and yes, more science in the high school curriculum.

It seems a reasonable way is to extend the school day and the school year. If we are ever going to catch up to the rest of the world, we need to get serious and make high school a real learning experience.

A lack of self respect, respect for education and government is likely one of the causes for our costly epidemic of Americans on disability. For many Americans, collecting disability has become a career. Over the past 50 years the number of Americans collecting disability benefits from the Social Security disability program, created to help Americans who are too sick to work has jumped from 455,000 to 8.6 million. Incredibly 5.6 percent of adults are getting disability checks, with a cost to taxpayers of $130 billion a year.

The cause is simple. Our government, in its sometimes stupid wisdom, has relaxed the standards. The government now accepts unverified ailments as mood disorders, depression and back, knee and joint pain. Today, almost 50 percent of disability claims go to people who claim pain or mental states that no doctor can observe or disprove. In other words many people are gaming and defrauding the system.

In 2010 and 2011 1,730,000 new jobs were created and 790,000 people went on disability. We know jobs are scarce, but try to get a job and enjoy the satisfaction of earned success from honest work. We all know or know of people who collect and perform all kinds of physical activity on the side with no problem. Also, we all know people who go to work on a daily bases with pain and emotional problems and no complaints, happy to take care of themselves with pride.

Carlyle W. Westlund,

Middleburg