Between 1979 and 2009, the unemployment rate went up and down, but the proportion of American households receiving means-tested government benefits has risen every single year. "By 2009," Eberstadt writes, "the share of American families getting poverty-related entitlements was almost three times as high as the official poverty rate for families."
The new American appetite for the dole is reflected also in the explosion of disability claims -- and this is relevant to the fraud concerns with Obama's exchanges. Between 1960 and 2010, the percentage of economically active 18- to 65-year-olds on disability increased from .65 to 5.6 percent. In 1960, only about 455,000 Americans received disability awards. In 2011, that number had jumped to 8.6 million, an 18-fold increase. For those who are interested in such things, Eberstadt notes that most of the disability fraud seems to be committed by whites.
Nearly half of all disability claims in 2011 were for "mood disorders" or musculoskeletal complaints (read back pain), two ailments that doctors cannot readily contradict. It may be that better diagnosis accounts for some of the change since 1960, but treatment has improved, as well, and life expectancy has increased by nine years.
"Gaming and defrauding the entitlement system have emerged as a mass phenomenon in modern America, a way of life for millions ... of men and women who would no doubt unhesitatingly describe themselves as law-abiding." Eberstadt writes.
The invitation fraudulently to sign up for health exchange subsidies issued by the Obama administration this summer is not just evidence of the unworkability of Obamacare, it's one more step toward undermining the character traits that made America exceptional.