Mike Kueber's Blog

October 22, 2012


Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:29 pm
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A few days ago, I blogged about America’s safety net by listing the 13 most significant federal programs dealing with poverty.  Number 6 on the list is Supplemental Security Income (or SSI), with a cost of $43.7 billion a year and 8.1 million beneficiaries.  Yesterday, the New York Times contained an interesting article that examined SSI, not from a bean-counter perspective, but rather from a personal perspective. 

The article, titled “The Disability Trap” by Julie Turkewitz and Juliet Linderman, describes the life of a supposedly typical SSI beneficiary and complains about perverse incentives that prevent the beneficiary from attempting to wean himself from government dependency:

  • The very program that is supposed to be their safety net is actually the source of the problem, experts say. S.S.I. traps many disabled people by limiting their income to levels just above the poverty line, and taking away their cash benefits if they achieve any level of security….  [Brad Crelia] now receives a monthly check for $506 through the S.S.I. program, and he is allowed to earn $85 more. (He also receives some assistance toward his rent and food expenses.) Once he surpasses the $85, his benefit check will be reduced by $1 for every $2 he earns. And if his income reaches $1,097 a month, he will no longer be eligible for any cash S.S.I. benefits at all. So he must be poor or he must give up all government support. Mr. Crelia is never permitted to have more than $2,000 in the bank, a restriction that places the trappings of a middle-class life — a car, a modest home, a family — far out of reach. “I’ve been kept financially sort of in this cage,” Mr. Crelia said. “Just basic things that people rely upon, having a normal life, aren’t things that are really accessible. And won’t be.”

Since when is a welfare beneficiary entitled to “the trappings of a middle-class life”?  Nothing frustrates taxpayers more than seeing a food-stamp recipient buying coke and steak with food stamps, buying beer and cigarette with cash, and carting them out to their 4×4 pickup.  America may eventually develop into a welfare state where the vast majority of people are entitled to a panoply of government handouts, but for now the American objective is individual independence.

Furthermore, the NY Times article mischaracterizes SSI as a program “created in 1974 to help blind, aged and disabled people meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.”  As noted in the quote above, the beneficiary Crelia receives separate governmental assistance for food and shelter.  And it fails to note that Medicaid would take care of his medical needs. 

The 1974 inception date is not a misprint.  Although SSI seems like an LBJ – Great Society type of program, it was actually the brainchild of the original RINO Richard Nixon.  As described in Wikipedia, there is a striking contrast between Nixon’s SSI and Paul Ryan’s proposal to cure Medicaid with block grants to the states:

  • The legislation creating the program was a result of President Nixon’s effort to reform the nation’s welfare programs. At that time, each state had similar programs under the Aid to the Blind, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled, and Aid to the Elderly. The Nixon Administration thought these programs should be federalized and run by the Social Security Administration. Thus, SSI was created to eliminate the differences between the states including different disability standards and income and resources requirements, which many perceived as irrational or unfair. President Richard Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972 on October 30, 1972 which created the SSI Program. The SSI program officially began operations in January 1974 by federalizing states’ programs, designating the Social Security Administration (SSA) to administer the SSI program. SSA was selected because it had been administering a nationwide disability program under the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) program since 1956 under the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs associated with FICA payroll taxes.

Funny how few really new innovations there are.  If you are old enough, you have probably already experienced the failure of what the management gurus are touting as their latest panacea. 




1 Comment »

  1. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article!
    It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Comment by Read bastahemorroides.com — April 10, 2013 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

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