As the baby boom generation ages and a record number of Americans retire, it’s hard to imagine why Congress has chosen this time in history to continue slashing the administrative budget for the Social Security Administration. It’s a glaring example of Washington’s penny-wise and pound-foolish budget approach and its real-world impacts on the lives of millions of average Americans. It’s especially hard to understand given that the Social Security Administration isn’t funded by general revenues. As we’ve reported before, American workers’ contributions through the payroll tax support Social Security:
“In fiscal terms, there’s no earthly reason for Congress to be stingy with Social Security’s administrative budget. The money comes out of workers’ payroll taxes and the system’s other revenue, not from the general treasury. And it’s spent with painstaking care: The Social Security Administration is one of the government’s most efficient agencies, with a core administrative budget of 0.7% of benefits, devoted to upholding a decades-old reputation for superb customer service.” …Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times columnist
Today, the Washington Post reports on what the latest round of cuts proposed by Republicans in the House and Senate would mean for the Social Security Administration:
“There would be up to two weeks of furloughs for all employees,” the agency said in information obtained by The Washington Post. “During this time, our offices would be closed to the public. Additionally, a full hiring freeze would cause service degradation and long wait times and delays. As a result, many Americans may wait longer to receive the benefits they have been planning to use during their retirement, and the most vulnerable of our citizens will have to wait even longer for disability claims decisions, causing more hardship and frustration for millions of families.
It’s not like Social Security is operating in the flush now. Since 2010, its operating budget has shrunk 10 percent after inflation while the number of beneficiaries rose by 12 percent. President Obama has proposed an $11.1 billion administrative budget for fiscal year 2017, $522 million more than this year. House Republicans have proposed $772 million less than the president’s budget, according to SSA figures, while Senate Republicans would reduce agency spending by $582 million. The administrative budget is separate from the trust fund that pays benefits to recipients.”
Unfortunately, this effort is nothing new. “Starve the beast” and shrinking government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” are long-held goals for Congressional conservatives. Today’s budget cutters are continuing that decades-long campaign to diminish successful government programs which, since the vast majority of the American public of both parties supports them, can’t be killed outright.
“Cutting staff when SSA is processing historically high claims is irresponsible and a sign that the Republicans who voted for this cut are not interested in providing tax payers with good service regarding SSA,” said Witold Skwierczynski, president of the American Federation of Government Employees SSA Council. “Instead they appear to be creating a scenario that insures the collapse of the program and will enhance the push to privatize it. If the public loses trust and faith that the federal government can administer SSA, they will look to privatization proposals as an alternative.”…Washington Post, August 9, 2016
It’s August recess for Congressional Members which means they’re in their districts attending town halls, meeting constituents and in many cases running for re-election. Now’s the time to ask: Do you support Congressional budget plans to cut Social Security’s administrative funding?