Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social Security

I arrive in the regional SS offices 10 minutes before they open and there are already a dozen people there.  And the security guard.  I used to wonder why there was one until I received the letter last week notifying me that I owed $5,000 to SS for overpayment of benefits.  I left my pitchfork and torch at home, but it was obvious that others had the same feelings of loss, powerlessness, fear, and rage at the machine.  There were the disabled trying to secure or recover benefits so that they could live without the ability to work.  There was a young mother who was an orphan, and entitled to support.  Others I could not tell, but I could sense the despair of having nowhere else to come for the safety net.  Odd that there was no one applying for a card or planning retirement, but perhaps they are serviced online.  Must be, because when I saw the counselor, she was one of only 4, and told me that staff had been cut in half in the past year since I had been there last.  As it turns out, I do have resources; able to recover tax forms and demonstrate that a Turbo Tax error (yes, watch out!) had generated too much self employment income for me in 2009.  I can file an amended return, so the cursing, tears, and heart palpitations were unnecessary though the fear was real.  Less real than it is for a lot of other folk.

So when Republicans derisively speak of cutting or reforming Social Security, as if recipients are somehow unworthy or undeserving, my rage returns again and again.  Those who would gut the New Deal and the safety net that was constructed in the 20th century are playing with human lives.  The good news is that SS is fully funded for another 20-30 years, and if Congress would keep their hands out of the till it will be good for longer still.  Remember Al Gore’s lockbox?  Shoulda done it.

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