Some new media critics really need to make up their minds. It’s either a Do Nothing Congress or a Do Something Awful Congress. If you ask the folks at Talking Points Memo, we’ll be leaning toward the latter because the House was getting busy taking care of business before half of the new members had located the bathrooms. A minor rules change was put in place which modifies the way tax revenues are occasionally shuffled between the Social Security trust fund and the Social Security disability program. There’s a reason for this, as we’ll get to below, but to hear some of the folks on the Left describe it, Paul Ryan had finally succeeded in pushing granny’s wheelchair off that cliff.
With a little-noticed proposal, Republicans took aim at Social Security on the very first day of the 114th Congress.
The incoming GOP majority approved late Tuesday a new rule that experts say could provoke an unprecedented crisis that conservatives could use as leverage in upcoming debates over entitlement reform…
House Democrats are sounding the alarm. In a memo circulated to their allies Tuesday, Democratic staffers said that that would mean “either new revenues or benefit cuts for current or future beneficiaries.” New revenues are highly unlikely to be approved by the deeply tax-averse Republican-led Congress, leaving benefit cuts as the obvious alternative.
All that’s missing is a catchy graphic of a skeletal figure riding a pale horse with the letters GOP printed on his robes.
So, all anti-conservative hysteria aside, what’s really going on here? The rules change will still allow for a transfer of funds from the retirement fund to the disability program if required (which it will be by 2016 under current conditions) but only if it improves the overall financial health of the combined Social Security Trust Funds.
Scary stuff, I know. I’ll give you all a moment to make it back from your fainting couches.
So it doesn’t actually mandate any cuts or taxes, but far more likely will shine some daylight on one of the many known issues with these programs… fraud. The Left has been repeating a now discredited mantra for a long time now, namely that fraud is almost non-existent in the disability program, which has ballooned out of control since massive numbers of workers have dropped out of the labor market during the “Obama recovery.” The reality, of course, is far different.
The Office of the Inspector General released a report just this past September providing details of one single set of arrests in Puerto Rico where nearly 100 people were found to be bilking the system for millions. A more comprehensive study from the same month detailed multiple investigations in the mainland United States, including a single individual in New York who had defrauded the disability system for more than $400,000.00 just between him and his wife. This prompted Congressman Sam Johnson to say:
“This program cannot afford more fraud… all taxpayers and beneficiaries will shoulder the burden of this crime wave.”
There are plenty of places where improvements can be made in the system, and some of them will eventually involve some serious restructuring if the intestinal fortitude to do it can be found in Congress. But at this stage of the game, a modest start to the process could be made by simply insisting that the government do a better job in policing the program, rooting out as much of the fraud as can be identified, and saving that money for the legitimate beneficiaries who count on it. Unfortunately, any effort to save the system from eventually imploding will be fought tooth and claw by liberals in Congress and in the media, depicting it as “yet another” attempt by the GOP to throw seniors off the cliff.