The huge mills along the Penobscot River in roared virtually nonstop for more than a century, turning the dense Maine forests into paper and lifting the thousands of men who did the hot and often backbreaking work into the middle class. But the mills have struggled in recent years, shedding thousands of jobs. Now this area, whose well-paying jobs provided an economic foothold for generations of blue-collar workers, has become a place where an unusually large share of the unemployed is seeking economic shelter on federal disability rolls.
The number of people in Penobscot County receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 — or nearly one in 12 of the county’s adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to Social Security statistics. The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits. The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 2016 — 20 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.
The growth of the disability rolls has accelerated since the recession hit in 2007. As the labor market tightened, workers with disabilities that employers previously accommodated on the job — painful hips, mental disorders, weak hearts — were often the first to go. Finding new work often proved difficult, causing many to turn to the disability rolls for support. The migration of so many people from work to the disability rolls is raising concern among lawmakers in Congress that the program is being stretched beyond its original intent of providing a safety net for former workers whose medical problems make them unable to work.
These numbers are expected to be duplicated or exceeded in the coal producing areas of the country. With the advent of Obamacare, it is also expected many more workers who will be “laid off” will be turning to disability, especially with the relaxed procedures for securing disability. With our real unemployment numbers exceeding those of many European countries, is this just the harbinger of things to come, or will it be a wakeup call to the fact Marxism has never worked. Obama and you other Marxist/Progressives, take a look at Venezuela and what their attack of capitalists and profits is doing to them. Their perhaps good but totally misguided intentions are bringing about tremendous economic hardship, mostly for the people they wanted to help. This is just a repeat of history.