Wouldn’t it be nice if the people in charge bothered to research issues before opining on them? Barack Obama had another “acted stupidly” moment last week, this time on the topic of government shutdowns. The President warned Social Security recipients that a government shutdown would cut off their monthly checks:
And I think people should be careful about being too loose in terms of talking about a government shutdown, because this has — this is not an abstraction. People don’t get their Social Security checks. They don’t get their veterans payments.
Really? Er … apparently not. CNN Money did the legwork that Obama should have done before displaying his level of understanding regarding budgets and mandatory spending:
During the last major shutdown, which lasted about a month starting in late 1995, the Social Security Administration mailed checks throughout the crisis, and a close reading of established law makes clear the agency has the legal authority to do so again.
“I am absolutely sure the checks would be sent out,” said John F. Cooney, a partner at law firm Venable who designed shutdown plans for the government while employed at the Office of Management and Budget.
Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, backed that view, saying claims that benefits won’t be paid are “not true.”
CNN Money goes into the history of Social Security payments during the last shutdown, but the simple answer is this: Congress doesn’t need to approve funds for mandatory spending, because existing law makes it, well, mandatory. Social Security benefits are paid through the trust fund, which has the implied authority to keep paying its staff because it is legally required to keep cutting the checks. The Clinton administration made it clear that SSA had to continue operations, and so it did — and so it will if we hit another government shutdown this year.
If Obama wants to talk about the effects of a government shutdown, is it too much to ask that the purported Constitutional scholar learn about them first?
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