Making a Working Program Not Work The New Republican Strategy to Kill Social Security

As they watched crowds build in Madison, Wisconsin this past week, and in support, weekend gatherings all around the country, it appears the GOP has lost its nerve on the big federal government shutdown they’ve been promising for this coming Friday.

Democrats warming to GOP proposed cuts that agree with cuts detailed in the White House’s proposed 2012 budget also helped tone down the shutdown rhetoric. Obama again made it easier for Republicans to get their way, bipartisan-ly agreeing to cut many Department of Education programs along with cuts to Pell Grants, Department of Energy scientific research projects, health resources and special education.

There’s a tentative deal up for debate on Tuesday. The deal keeps the government going for 2 weeks with about $4 billion in spending cuts. Republicans, as risk of sounding like ransom note writers, say they will insist on $2 billion more in cuts for each additional week the shutdown is avoided.

The deal will put pressure on Democrats to deem more cuts acceptable over the next several weeks, and undoubtedly, they will (because they always do).

Rhetoric on cutting Social Security benefits appears to have died down, at least for now, but Republicans have other tools in their chest for damaging the otherwise longtime successful program. They continue to press for cuts to federal employees, including those working in the Social Security Administration. The House budget bill on which the Republican’s “negotiation” demands will be based, H.R. 1 passed by House Republicans on February 19, 2011, cuts $1.7 billion from the agency.

On Friday, the Strengthen Social Security Campaign released a report prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Ways and Means Committee. The report is based on an analysis prepared by the SSA and the National Council of Social Security Management Association. The report consists of a state by state analysis of the projected impact of H.R. 1 cuts on SSA.

The H.R. 1 cuts are expected to result in up to 4 weeks of furloughs for SSA employees. The impact in Illinois, according to the report include delays in processing of 21, 023 original applications and 7,712 disability post-denial fair hearings. Lots of newborns will not receive timely social security numbers and when applicants and beneficiaries go to an office for help, or call, they will find no one there to help them.

That might seem like nothing more than an inconvenience to those of you who do not yet need Social Security, but if you’re elderly and disabled, denial of needed help is a big deal and running down to the Social Security office to find nobody there is a very big deal.

Of consequence to all Illinoisans, even those not on Social Security, are the losses to the general economy. The report estimates an economic loss to the state of $5.2 million.

Of consequence to all taxpayers, are the lost safeguards, those measures that ensure Social Security recipients are paid the correct amount and are not given benefits to which they are not entitled under the law. The report estimates that 1,058 fewer disability cases will be reviewed for medical improvement and 6,020 fewer SSI cases will be reviewed to determine that recipients are not over income limits.

Over the long term, these cuts will make the Social Security program less workable, and that’s the idea. People like Social Security, so it’s hard to cut it. By ensuring less service and more fraud and waste, Republicans hope to make Americans like the program a lot less so it will be easier to cut.

I’m writing a series of posts as a blogging fellow for the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of more than 270 national and state organizations.

Comments