Friday, February 25, 2011

TIME GOES BY | Update: Social Security and Government Shutdown

by Ronni Bennett

May I just say: Good god, I'm tired of this shit.

Congress members spend 50 percent of their time raising money from corporations for their next campaign; another 25 percent yammering inanities at media cameras; and when you subtract meal and potty breaks, maybe they work 10 or 15 percent of the time.

Okay, I'm better now.

Congress has made not one step forward in ending the impasse that would lead to a government shutdown seven days from today. The Republicans say it's the Democrats' fault, the Democrats say the reverse and they don't actually do anything.

Meanwhile, the media, punditocracy and the people wonder what happens to everyday life during a government shutdown. The concern on this blog is Social Security benefit checks.

If you do not listen to President Obama, Senate Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – all of whom have said Social Security checks will not go out during a shutdown – elsewhere the consensus is, with a reservation or two, that they will be mailed and deposited as usual.

The Christian Science Monitor reports correctly that checked were delivered on schedule during the 1996 shutdown, but further notes that
“OMB officials say they are not responding to such hypothetical questions, because they don't expect a shutdown.”
Really. And your reason for that belief is?

CNN Money rounded up a couple of reasonably well-credentialed folks who are certain they know Social Security payments are safe:
"'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.'"
AARP spokesperson, Heather Heppner, isn't so sure:
”In particular, she said, those who are dependent on Social Security checks might face delays that could be devastating depending on a person's economic situation.”
AP says unequivocally but without sourcing that “Social Security checks would go out.”

As far as I can discern from a few phone calls and way too many hours searching the web yesterday, none of these people know what they're talking about. (I just hate it when I use up an entire day looking for a fact or two and all I get out of it is a post like this one with no answers. Which may account for my crankiness in the first couple of paragraphs.)

Who are we to believe when the top three Democrats in Washington say we will not get Social Security checks but most others disagree?

What the latter are basing their opinions on is that checks were sent during the 1996 shutdown, but there is no federal law requiring that to be so as there is for the military, FBI, security services and others to remain functioning.

Because 54 million people depend on Social Security, many for their entire income, you would think someone in government would step forward with a definitive answer. I mean, we're not talking movie money here; it's food and rent and heating and medicine. It is crucial to elders' planning to know if they can count on their Social Security benefit.

Earlier this week, I arranged for a transfer of some cash to my checking account and if my benefit check arrives, I can return it. But as some of you noted in Monday's comments, many people don't have that option.
Like I said above: god, I'm tired of this shit.

TIME GOES BY | Update: Social Security and Government Shutdown
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