Author Topic: Thievery: How Congress Keeps Stealing From Our Retirement Benefits and Social Safety Net Military pensions, unemployment, disability and Social Security are all targets.  (Read 319 times)

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Offline Rapunzel

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http://www.alternet.org/economy/congress-keeps-nickle-and-diming-earned-social-insurance-payments


Thievery: How Congress Keeps Stealing From Our Retirement Benefits and Social Safety Net
Military pensions, unemployment, disability and Social Security are all targets.


January 19, 2014  | 
 

Congress has a nasty habit that’s not going away. It has been stealing a few billion here and a few billion there from earned retirement and safety net payments, overlooking whether those benefits have been promised or are even sufficient.

As the House and Senate passed its $1.012 trillion 2014 budget last week, veterans were blindsided when they learned that Congress had cut cost-of-living increases for retiree pensions by 1 percent. A master sergeant who served 20 years could lose $80,000 in his lifetime, said Col. Mike Barron of the Military Officers Association of America.

The cuts will affect 1.1 million retirees, 400,000 of whom retired after 9/11, and save an estimated $6 billion. “It’s deferred compensation,” Barron said. “You are changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game. It’s very unfair. It’s a clear breach of faith with us.”

But it’s not just military retirees who are prey to Congress’s petty thievery. In the Senate, there are competing Democratic and Republican proposals to extend unemployment insurance (UI) for 1.3 million longterm jobless people. Unemployment is another earned benefit that people pay into from years of work. The UI extension would be funded by taking money that now goes to Social Security disability recipients, so someone could not receive both unemployment and disability.

The GOP plan, proposed by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, cuts off all disability benefits—so there is no so-called double-dipping. The Democratic plan, from Majority Leader Harry Reid, cuts back disability payments dollar for dollar, deducting whatever amount is received in unemployment. Eleven million Americans received disability benefits in December.

This Hunger Games mentality of playing off groups of deserving people against each other for earned social insurance is part of Congress’ nasty habit. The other nasty piece is what Congress has been doing since the 1980s with Social Security cost-of-living formulas: chipping away at yearly increases.

Going after promised pensions, or shaving back retirement benefits, or tinkering with cost-of-living formulas is hardly confined to Congress. It’s become a budget-balancing tactic that shadows government employees nationwide, and has equivalents in the private sector as workers pay more for their benefits.

In terms of magnitude, the several billion dollars involved in the military pensions and disability cuts pale compared to what’s at stake when tinkering with Social Security’s inflation formula.

When President Obama presents his 2015 federal budget next month, one of the biggest questions is will he again propose using a stingy cost-of-living increase formula for future Social Security payments, known as the chained CPI (consumer price index). That tool would shave off about a third of a percent a year from annual cost-of-living increases. Like the military pensions cuts, it adds up over time—think of it as the magic of compounded interest in reverse.

The National Women’s Law Center analyzed the impact of chained CPI and found that it would result in a 6.5 percent cut in Social Security benefits paid over 20 years, and a 9.2 percent cut over 30 years. For an 85-year-old single woman receiving a $1,100 monthly check, NWLC estimated that would translate to 16 weeks of “food lost."

Senate Democrats seem to be taking different stances when different benefit cuts are on the table. On Social Security and the chained CPI, there’s a campaign to push Obama to drop the idea in his 2015 budget. But all the Democrats voted yes for the 2014 budget that cut military retiree pensions. Since that vote, more than a dozen new bills have been introduced to reverse the pension cut. 
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves.” G Washington July 2, 1776

Offline Once-Ler

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In the Senate, there are competing Democratic and Republican proposals to extend unemployment insurance (UI) for 1.3 million longterm jobless people. Unemployment is another earned benefit that people pay into from years of work. The UI extension would be funded by taking money that now goes to Social Security disability recipients, so someone could not receive both unemployment and disability.

The GOP plan, proposed by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, cuts off all disability benefits—so there is no so-called double-dipping. The Democratic plan, from Majority Leader Harry Reid, cuts back disability payments dollar for dollar, deducting whatever amount is received in unemployment. Eleven million Americans received disability benefits in December.

Big ups to the GOP for putting the squeeze on double dippers. If only there was the political will to turn those burdens into productive soylent green:vote:  We will have to wait for a strong man of principles to lead us to salvation, but every little chip at the big government benefit trough is a welcome one to me.  I understand they're disabled but it's money that doesn't go to my child tax cut, or SS, or UI, or government kickback for making environmentally friendly potpourri.


A frog trapped in a well does not understand the sea.

Online EC

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Big ups to the GOP for putting the squeeze on double dippers. If only there was the political will to turn those burdens into productive soylent green:vote:  We will have to wait for a strong man of principles to lead us to salvation, but every little chip at the big government benefit trough is a welcome one to me.  I understand they're disabled but it's money that doesn't go to my child tax cut, or SS, or UI, or government kickback for making environmentally friendly potpourri.

Bit harsh, mate. Sounds an awful lot like culling the herd. Not saying your wrong, just saying that it "looks" wrong put like that.
In these days of massive databases and powerful computers, I don't understand how double dipping and fraud is even possible. Recalling the story from a couple of months ago - how is it no one noticed 40 or 50 checks were being cut to the same address every month? Unless it's a transients hotel, that should have been flagged automatically.
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Offline Once-Ler

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Bit harsh, mate. Sounds an awful lot like culling the herd. Not saying your wrong, just saying that it "looks" wrong put like that.
In these days of massive databases and powerful computers, I don't understand how double dipping and fraud is even possible. Recalling the story from a couple of months ago - how is it no one noticed 40 or 50 checks were being cut to the same address every month? Unless it's a transients hotel, that should have been flagged automatically.
I'm kidding about culling the herd.  I am by no means a utilitarian.  I think society has a duty to help those who can't help themselves.  I just think the social safety net is too big and too ineffective.  I understand the point of view that some have, that unproductive people serve no purpose.  Those people scare the heck out of me.  I thought the sarcasm was obvious, but you English insist that words have meaning outside of what I mean when write the words. 

Double dipping is possible because, until the new law goes into effect, it is legal to receive a benefit for losing your job and another benefit for being unable to hold down a job because you had a stroke or insanity.  Both benefits are supposedly paid for by a tax on the worker and the business of course the business tax just becomes a cost of business and the employee is paid that much less.

The disability benefit can transfer to your beneficiaries under some circumstances and is indefinite often lasting till death, subject to review but rarely reviewed. 

The unemployment benefit varies from state to state.  It is currently 72 weeks in WI.  The first 28 weeks of benefits are paid by the state taxpayers and the remaining weeks by federal taxpayers.  It is also subject to review but rarely reviewed.

Our entire system is based on the concept that people will obey the law with a fractional show of enforcement.  The IRS, SSA, and DHHS doesn't have the resources to crack down on fraud and persecute the Tea Party at the same time.  Some of the the reason fraud works is because the government workers are protected by unions and they are not required to do their jobs.  Nobody is held accountable because the government is too huge to manage.  It is a Borg of mismanagement.  Unfortunately the American voters prefer the monstrously corrupt and ineffective state and federal bureaucracy over no safety net.

Congrats on the Lord Rennard scandal.
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Online EC

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 :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: :beer:

Words are my playthings  :laugh: I know you were kidding, but it set the tone wrong, like deliberately tuning a guitar down half an octave. Gets attention, but doesn't sound right.  :laugh:

I too approve of a safety net. It takes a particularly harsh mind to leave someone to the wolves because they are unable to work through no fault of their own, or through bad luck (a single fallen leaf on a roof can leave a guy with a broken back, and some idiot blowing through a red light at 2 AM can leave you in a wheelchair or worse).

If the net gets too big though - it catches everything. Think of tuna nets. Miles long, a hundred feet deep and they catch everything. Tuna, sea bass, mackerel all get hoisted in. Along with several drowned dolphins that had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Regarding Lord Rennard - we don't often do scandals, but when we do we do them properly! :patriot:
« Last Edit: January 21, 2014, 05:23:57 AM by EC »
Anyone who tells you you can't buy happiness has never been in a book store or an animal shelter.

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