Government spending…too much of: budget cuts…not enough of: tax breaks…to many of!!! These words or phrases are all hot topics on the minds of all Americans right now as we continue to face these economic hardships. Look on the Internet, watch the news, read a newspaper or a “blog” and there are as many stories as there are opinions on what to do about the crisis. Even last night Sept. 8, as the President addressed Congress and the nation, he made several references to his plan for fixing the problem. Furthermore, demanding that Congress do its part to follow suite and stop with the internal bickering and set America back to being a World dominant power.
Now for those of you who did catch the speech, or like me only listened to bits and pieces of it, what President Obama had to say (to the untrained ear) sounded great. However, I hope like me, many of you were not fooled by his charisma and understand that he is not only trying to save his current job but path the road for re-election. Honestly though this post is not to criticize the President’s speech or Congress for that matter, though I think they could both stand a pay cut…I mean after all aren’t they supposed to be working for us…not getting rich off of us???
What I would like to talk about is a small idea about how to help make some adjustments to how SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients earn their benefits (and so that you understand, currently they don’t earn them, our government gives benefits to them). Though this benefit is administered by the Social Security Department, it is not paid for by our direct tax dollars, but through other general revenues. By contrast SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) is paid for through and by workers and their tax payments while working. As I mentioned I just want to address the issue of the SSI specifically and hopefully show some progress in cutting or at least showing how the $46 billion (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/dec/14/tom-coburn/tom-coburn-says-one-every-19-americans-gets-ssdi-o/) appropriated in 2010, could pay for it-self by the recipients.
To help further put the plan I’m going to propose into perspective, let me give you some statistics for the 2011 year, more specifically a snapshot of July of this year. According to the SSA (http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/#table3) benefits paid out to recipients (using the working age) between the ages of 18 – 64 (474,100) was roughly $2.7 million. Additionally, on the ssa.gov website, they estimate that in 2011 a combined $727 billion will be paid out to 55 million beneficiaries. Instead of completely stopping benefits or a total restructuring of the programs, what if we ran a test program on let’s say 50 thousand recipients? And if successful, then perhaps more programs can be developed and implemented.
I’m sure by now you are saying, “dang I wish this guy would get on with it”…well here goes! Supplemental Security Benefits are paid out to those who are disabled or blind. (Ah, there’s the hook…the “blind” imagine why this is of interest for me?) Though amounts vary from state to state, most people receiving SSI enjoy a check of $674 dollars a month for doing nothing but being disabled (and supposedly unable to work) or for being blind (again supposedly not able to work…NOT). Using our test subjects of 50 thousand, and the $674 amount paid, we get a total of $33.7 million per month. Let’s further identify this test group as “blind only” persons, who live in the Southeastern region of the U.S. Well being blind myself…I can share this secret with you; it’s not that blind people are unable to work because of lack of sight, no it’s because most of them are lazy…and they want those of us that do work to pay their way. Here’s a little more information about me, you may or may not have wanted to know; I’m a 43 year old blind individual that grew up primarily in a small rural town in Southern GA who has worked since the age of 14. And at the age of 39 I decided being a professional chef was not going to get me to retirement with a tidy little nest egg, and decided to change careers. However, in spite of not working for the past three years…my previously paid in tax dollars and Obama’s generosity has helped to fund this endeavor…oh yeah and a few well-earned scholarships!
In each state there are federal agencies, government offices, and even parks, museums etc…, so why doesn’t the federal government implement a program that emulates what some local and state governments are already doing? In order to continue receiving benefits of SSI a recipient must work 80 hours each month ($674/80 = $8.43 per hour) by doing some type of labor; office work, switch-board operator, cleaning federal buildings, even some forestry work could be accomplished. This lowers the cost to the feds in paying for so much direct labor, eliminates the need for any over time, and most importantly they are compensated for the funds they are already paying out.
So let’s recap…the feds pay out just on 50 thousands persons $33.7 million per month in benefits (by the way these estimates do not include the monies it takes to pay Medicare benefits to these same recipients who automatically receive Medicare when receiving SSI). Those beneficiaries receive (on average) $674 individually and do nothing at this time to “EARN” it. It is a win-win situation, individuals get the opportunity to feel like they are contributing to the own well-being earning almost a $1 per hour more than minimum wage, the government gets compensated for what they are already spending; furthermore the government has the potential to save on other unexpected expenditures. Although I am aware this is just a brief overview to a big problem and only a small attempt at a solution, I do believe it is something which could become a great policy to guide our government to better fiscal responsibility. Not sure about you…but it makes sense to me!!!