The experiment is noteworthy because it's structured around principles that could be applied more broadly in addressing both income inequality issues and the weight of entitlements, which now consume nearly 80% of federal revenue.
SSDI recipients have worked in the past - and contributed to the
In general, it's time-consuming and difficult to qualify for SSDI benefits. And the payments aren't huge, ranging from
In 2011, the SSA began testing a program called the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND). In 10 areas around the country, some SSDI recipients were assigned to the program, and others were invited to participate. Those in the BOND program don't lose their benefits all at once if they earn more than the
The idea is that people are more likely to return to work if they can proceed on a "ramp" back into the labor force rather than facing a "cliff" at the
The BOND program is ongoing, and final results won't be known until 2022 - reflecting in part how complicated the rules governing SSDI are.
But the principle of ramps vs. cliffs in structuring benefits is one that's coming into discussion more broadly, and from some unlikely sources.
Like SSDI, many of those programs have "cliffs" built into them as well. A single mother with two children earning minimum wage, for example, loses eligibility for
Collectively, the various benefits cliffs mean that the single parent making minimum wage doesn't break even until she hits
That structure creates powerful disincentives for people to try to move up in the world. Part of the answer to income inequality, the chamber argues, is to allow low-income people who move up the economic ladder to retain some of their benefits - or at least lose them gradually - as they earn more.
Such an approach doesn't sit well with hardheads who see anyone who gets any kind of government help as a freeloader - as long as you're not talking about
And it doesn't sit well with all the bureaucrats and non-profits that administer those myriad programs, since restructuring the benefits system in a simpler, fairer way will mean many fewer programs and many fewer bureaucrats.
Already, some on both the left and right have broached the idea of a guaranteed national income - a grant, distributed monthly, that would go to every American over age 21 and replace all other transfer payments and their bureaucracies. Conservative thinker
Given the constituencies involved, it's very hard to imagine how something like that would ever come about in the
And if we can't find some ramps out of the entitlements morass, there will be a cliff, for all of us.