Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Truth About Social Security Disability

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) warned that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is on pace to go bankrupt in four years, after the Congressional Budget Office reported that the amount of benefits provided through the program will increase about 70 percent over the next ten years.

According to Sessions, the CBO says the disability trust fund provided $119 billion to 8.3 million disabled workers and the CBO expects that number to jump to $204 billion by 2022 — an increase of 71 percent.

Republicans on the budget committee noted that disability claims have increased more quickly than job creation in the last three months. In that one brief snap-shot of time, Fox News reports that "between April and June, a total of 246,000 people enrolled in the Social Security Disability Insurance program. In the same period, just 225,000 found jobs."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the budget panel, said that since 2008 a total of 3.6 million Americans have gone on disability -- while 1.3 million lost jobs*.

* Where did Sessions get that number? In October 2009 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national unemployment rate was at 10.2% with 15.7 million Americans out of work. Catherine Rampell at the New York Times writes: "Since June 2008, when Congress first created the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, nearly 18 million Americans have at some point received federally funded extended unemployment benefits." (More here)

** As an aside: Let's not forget that over 8 million lost jobs were directly related to the Bush Recession and millions more were lost to outsourcing during the Bush administration. Politifact: Over 56,000 factories closed under Bush. But yet, the GOP is blaming Obama for the rise in food stamps, unemployment claims, and disability cases in the aftermath of the Republican-caused economic melt-down.

According to that CBO report that Republican Jeff Sessions refers to, it will take some serious budget balancing to right the program's finances. The report floated options ranging from raising taxes, (which Sessions doesn't mention), to reducing disability benefits, to changing eligibility standards, to reducing the cost-of-living adjustment tied to benefits.

The disability program provides benefits to adults who've worked in the past but are now unable to work because of a medical conditions. The fund is financed mostly by a 1.8 percent payroll tax. But there is a "cap" on what the wealthy pay - - - which is ZERO on all earnings over $110,000 a year and ZERO on all the "investment income" they receive from capital gains and dividends.

This includes money that CEOs earn through bonuses and stock options, income earned through SWAG investments (silver, wine, art, and gold), money made through big real estate deals, and income that people like Warren Buffett, Sheldon Adelson, and Bill Gates earn through their stock holdings. They pay ZERO in Social Security taxes unless their company pays them a "base salary", and only up $110,000.

Mitt Romney may not have paid ANY TAXES AT ALL, and may be worth much more than just $200 million, but might actually be a billionaire (and why he's hiding his tax returns).

See my post: $1 Trillion in Personal Income not Taxed for Social Security or Medicare. That's why the GOP hates will tax investment income for Medicare and the GOP represents the rich.

Last week on Fox News Bill O'Reilly said that since 2009, 3.2 million people have "left their jobs to go on disability", inferring that regular hard-working Americans made a conscience choice to voluntarily leave their place of gainful employment to go on the government dole. Get real Bill!

This week Arthur Delaney and Michael McAuliff at the Huffington Post point out that the same CBO report also says the rise in America's ranks of disabled stems from an aging population, a surge in women workers, changes in the law in the 1980s and a terrible economy in which disabled people can't find jobs.

What wasn't mentioned by anybody was that just by BEING long-term unemployed (ranging from 2 to 4 years, as has been during the Great Recession so far) can also CAUSE mental and physical ailments that keeps a person from being employable.

The study, cited by the Huffington Post article, found that the biggest jumps in the disabled population came from aging Baby Boomers. From 1996 through 2009 -- "the approximate period during which the baby-boom generation entered their 50s -- the share of disabled worker benefits awarded to older workers (age 45 and older) rose from 67 percent to 76 percent," the report said.

What also wasn't mentioned is that the bulk of these claims most likely originated from people who were actively engaged in intense physical manual labor all their lives, and/or being on their feet 8 hours a day, and that they weren't just sitting behind a desk all day long shuffling paper or tapping a keyboard. The Republicans want these people to work until they're 70 years old, while members of congress can retire in their 50's. (And it's mostly the rich who are living longer).

Meanwhile, during this time of aging Baby Boomers, the share of benefits going to younger workers -- between the ages of 25 to 44 -- actually fell from 31 percent to 22 percent. "Baby boomers' aging would have boosted enrollment in the [disability] program even if no other factors had changed," the CBO report said.

The average monthly benefit is $1,111 a month for 8.6 million Americans on disability who had worked all their lives making others wealthy in order to qualify for disability --- after paying Social Security taxes through their payroll taxes. The wealthy don't have to pay these payroll taxes.

The U.S. government spends $119 billion a year so that 8.3 million disabled workers can survive on what equates to below the minimum wage (poverty wages), while at the same time, spends $650 billion a year to "defend" these disabled people from their foreign enemies (not counting the billions we spend on our nuclear arsenal, which is budgeted through the Department of Energy, not the Department of Defense.)

Now, with the looming budget cuts, the GOP is using scare tactics to protect military spending, and blaming disabled workers for "gaming the system" to collect a government hand-out.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Social Security administrators need to do a better job of distinguishing between "proper and improper disability claims." I think we should cut $174,000-a-year congressional salaries for those people whose only work is part-time behind a desk in an air-conditioned office talking to lobbyists in the defense industry.

Social Security Disability - Last Resort for the Unemployed

Republicans versus Social Security

Save Social Security from the Robber Barons

1 comment:

  1. No federal program can go "bankrupt." That's because the federal government controls the currency. The govt can simply print up more money. These wingers don't believe in the social contract, so they use any kind of lies to undercut public support.