ELDER MUSIC: Delbert McClinton
Having No Children – Regrets?

The Social Security Attack

category_bug_politics.gif I know, I know – that headline is hardly news. But the zeal with which tea partiers and many other Republicans in Congress are attacking it means you and I need to be thoroughly informed. Let's start with the immediate danger.

BACKGROUND
The House budget for fiscal year 2011, passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, calls for about a $1.7 billion cut to Social Security. But wait.

If you have been following Time Goes By posts about the program over the years, you know that Social Security is self-funded, including administrative costs. So what gives? How come Congress can cut those administrative costs?

Here is how: Social Security and SSI benefits are mandatory spending, meaning they are authorized by permanent law. They can be changed under certain circumstances, but that is not what is at risk right now.

Administrative costs, which have remained at about one percent of revenue for many years while providing excellent service, are discretionary spending. This means they are subject to the annual appropriations process (the budget) and Congress can change the amount every year affecting the number of employees and therefore, level of service.

Right now, because the government has lacked a budget for FY2011, administrative costs are frozen at 2010 levels - $11.5 billion - and the House budget cut of $1.7 billion, passed over the weekend, would leave only $9.8 billion.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), in a 18 February letter to Congress, pointed out what this cut means to the program:

“It means having to wait longer to get an appointment to file for benefits. It means not receiving a decision in a timely manner. It means getting a busy signal when you call an office or the Agency's toll-free 800 number telephone service.

“It means not having your change of address or direct deposit information processed in a timely fashion.

“And finally, it means significant employee furloughs or even office closures, resulting in even greater degradations of service to America's seniors.”

Having made a move across country last year, I know how well the Social Security Administration has handled that bank deposit change in the past and how difficult it would have been to my finances if the switch to a new bank had been delayed for even one month – something likely to become common if the budget cut is enacted.

CURRENT EVENTS
Regarding the “furloughs” mentioned by the NCPPSM, on the day before that letter, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to the employees' union requesting the start of negotiations on furloughs that would be required under the proposed cut.

Should the cut to Social Security administrative costs remain in the final bill and should President Obama sign it, the furloughs and all they mean to Social Security beneficiaries will go into effect.

Congress is cutting the time for the budget bill close. The House has sent it to the Senate, but the Senate is not in session this week returning on 28 February, just five days before 4 March.

And what is the significance of that date?

Because a budget for FY2011 could not be agreed upon last year, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that will end on 4 March. That is the day that many fear the government will shut down because they can't spend any money if a new budget has not been signed by the president before then.

WHAT'S NEXT
Given the draconian cuts to virtually every federal agency (including Social Security) the House budget contains, many of which will be disputed in the Senate (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised no cuts to Social Security), what do YOU think the chances are of having a signed budget by 4 March?

Yesterday on CNN, Republican Senator Richard Luger of Indiana told host Candy Crowley:

”I would not support the entirety of the House bill, but I think the basic problem presently is there's very little time. There is the imminence of a government shutdown.”

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said on the same program that “Speaker Boehner seems to be on a course that would inevitably lead to a shutdown,” and from what I read, Republicans in general seem to be eager for it, especially those new tea partiers in Congress. Schumer suggested a stopgap budget to forestall a shutdown, but that seems a remote possibility.

If the federal government shuts down, non-essential employees cannot go to work. Last week, both the president and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Social Security checks would be delayed, and that would almost immediately affect those of us (about half of Social Security recipients) who receive our Social Security direct deposits or checks on the second Wednesday of the month (9 March).

If your monthly budget is as tight as mine, that is a disaster. Sure, I can eat, but some people won't. And depending on how long a shutdown lasted I, like many others, couldn't pay some bills on time. The 1995 “Newt Gingrich shutdown” lasted five days and Congress is much more polarized this time.

So in preparation, I'm arranging to transfer some money from elsewhere into my checking account. What about you?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kristine Scholz: Back in the Saddle


Comments

I just hate this. My check would be deposited into the bank on Mar 9 so now it is just watching each day. This is such a mess.

What you said is what we have also been thinking that we need cash available just in case they do this to show off and that is what it's about. Power trips often hurt the least powerful :(

Thank you for the heads-up warning. I hope lots of people read this who need to. I will forward it to my friends who are living from month to month as I did for many years until my ex-husband died.

I'm confused. My SS check is always deposited on the 1st day of the month. I have never had a problem, even when the government shut down. So what am I missing bkj

bkj...
If you're check arrives on the first, you won't be affected if there is a shutdown - this month.

During the 1995 shutdown, Social Security checks were sent, but there is no law or regulation requiring that, and as I mentioned above, both Pelosi and Obama have said checks would not go out.

I can't imagine that Congress would allow a shutdown to go on for more than a handful of days, but given the current political climate, who knows.

This is also of course a perfect time for political activism--it's so easy now to email our Representatives and Senators, and maybe make some donations to those of them who stand up for Social Security. Since I write about the era of the President who started it all, I'm very aware that every step of the way, Social Security has required political smarts to survive. Only wily FDR (and Frances) could have gotten it through in the first place.

I have no where else to transfer money from -- no savings, no 401K, nothing. Would lose my home within a short time and end up living in a car.
Anyone in or around Southern California got a spare room and some extra food for a 74 year old woman with no resources?

Sad to say, but a shutdown sure seems imminent.

My SS check is deposited anywhere between the 22nd and 28th of the month, so it looks I'll skin by this time if there's a shutdown that lasts only a few days.

My heart goes out to those who will truly suffer if a shutdown occurs.

BTW, will government employees get THEIR checks on time if there's a shutdown? Even if they don't, maybe it won't matter to them, as I'm sure their bank accounts are large enough to let them pass through the crisis without any pain in the pocketbook.

Those with fat bank accounts likely don't worry much about people whose accounts are slim to none. After all, it's OUR fault, isn't it, if we aren't rich, too. ("Let them eat cake!")

This is going to be beyond frightening for those whose sole income is SS.

Not only are SS retirees not going to receive checks if there is a shut down, recipients have already taken a hit with the freeze in benefits. Both parties are suddely so concerned about the deficit. Where were they in December when they gave a big tax break to the rich. Most people I know want to do their fair share but they want sacrifices to include everyone. Here in the midwest, we are watching gas, food and utilities costs rising rapidly.

According to a study from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office,since 2009, America’s most profitable companies such as ExxonMobil, General Electric, Bank of America and Citigroup all paid a grand total of $0 in federal income taxes to Uncle Sam. Tax havens alone account for up to $1 trillion in tax revenue lost every decade.

Maybe another government shutdown will wake people up and get them on their feet to demand fairness for the middle class and the poor.

The only saving grace I see in the stupidity of the Republicans is that the blame will fall on them and they will be voted out next round. It happened when Newt Gingrich shut the government down and it make take some pain to wake the voters up as to what is going on in Washington.

I'll get caught short on March 9th, too. I'm among the older adults fortunate enough to still be working P/T, and we have some money we can transfer. However, shutting down the entire U.S. government will hurt a lot of American citizens and simply should NOT be an option! The people we've elected to Congress are educated adults--at least in theory--surely they can do better than that.

I can't help but wonder how those (many of whom are older adults) who voted these slash-and-burn Republicans into office will react when it's THEIR pocketbook that's taking a hit.

Really is scary our Congresspeople can be so callous as to act so irresponsibly that people don't receive their SS checks, but guess we shouldn't be surprised.

I know of too many who will be severely impacted if they don't receive their SS check on time. I always keep a bare minimum in my checking acct. so had already decided I needed to institute some measures.

Am sure there are likely many people who won't realize the SS check delay may happen causing them to possibly ncur various penalty fees they can't afford if their check isn't deposited.

There's no hope my millionaire Rep. Representative David Dreier will do other than allow this SS ck hijack if he can't have his way.

Californians are intimately familiar with government shutdowns. IOUs were issued in 2009 and 1992. (http://thetim.es/kf8fZ) What a mess.

Adding insult to injury: Congress is on recess this week - imagine that; leaving something as critical as the federal budget in limbo on the threshold of a gov't shutdown while they go home to relax.

My mom has no other income or savings, but Social Security. She typically receives her direct deposit on March 4th (her debit card releases it early versus waiting until the 9th). She needs that money to pay her March rent, electric and pay for food. I just pray our landlord will work with us on this issue. Very concerned about delay in benefits...although I don't think 90% of the cuts the House okayed should be passed.

When Obama caved in to the Republicans and agreed on the extension of the Bush tax cuts it appeared to be some type of deal being struck. It now appears that he caved-in and got nothing in return. When you deal with the devil you can't take his word.

Yes the devil deals in bad ways, I just hope these programs survive for the good of the nation of the United States of America.

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