WASHINGTON -- A Republican push to cut Social Security integrity efforts by $750 million could end up costing $6 billion in increased waste and fraud, according to the independent official who monitors the program.
The House Republican budget appropriation for Social Security proposes to spend $272 million on "program integrity" -- a huge cut from the more than $1.024 billion that Congress agreed last year to spend combating waste in Social Security disability.
That was part of the Budget Control Act, and at the time Republicans touted the $12 billion in savings that the beefed up integrity effort was expected to produce over 10 years.
But the new appropriation guts that initiative.
"With this reduction in funding for 2013 of about $752 million, assuming that the funding levels assumed in all other years in our baseline estimates are unaffected, we would expect program benefit/payments to be between $5 billion and $6 billion more," Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss estimated in a letter to Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) Thursday.
The funding goes toward what are called Social Security income redeterminations and continuing disability reviews. Redeterminations ensure no one is overpaid, while the latter makes sure someone is medically eligible for disability payments.
Becerra hammered Republicans for the planned cuts in a statement.
“First they voted to end Medicare. Now they have proposed slashing almost $800 million from Social Security’s operating budget,” said Becerra, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee's Social Security panel. “What’s worse, the bulk of this reckless cut would shortchange Social Security’s ability to fight waste, fraud and abuse. In the end, as much as $6 billion of the taxpayers’ money could be lost. Social Security’s money should be going towards the benefits of those who have earned it.”
The proposed cut is particularly ironic because a growing chorus of Republicans have alleged that the disability system is increasingly bloated by fraudulent claimants. Disability rolls have indeed swelled with the aging of the Baby Boom and an economy that makes it harder for the disabled to find work.
But the increased integrity efforts were supposed to help trim costs. According to the actuary, each dollar spent on disability reviews saves $6, and each $1 spent on SSI redeterminations saves $9.
“No business in America would cut an investment that produces between $6 and $9 in savings for every one dollar spent, but that’s the very plan Congressional Republicans have put forward,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee's human resources panel. “They follow their extreme ideology even when it is clearly contradicted by common sense.”
A spokesman for Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that produced the Social Security budget, did not immediately answer a request for comment.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
John Shadegg Wields A Baby
In this past weekend's health care debate, Arizona Republican John Shadegg bravely opened a new frontier by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/10/jon-stewart-mocks-use-of_n_351911.html">using a live baby as a visual aid</a> to complain about health care reform. The infant, Maddie, was introduced as Shadegg's grand-daughter, which Shadegg quickly corrected, saying, "I wish this <i>was</i> my granddaughter." I wish most Congresspersons demonstrated Maddie's level of cognitive development, but no!
Alan Grayson Warns We Will All Die Slowly
Florida Democrat Alan Grayson made headlines when he took to the well of the House of Representatives<a href="http://airamerica.com/politics/10-27-2009/grayson/"> to warn that the GOP health care plan</a> was for all of the nation's uninsured to DIE QUICKLY! But not so quick that you miss all of the manufactured suspense as Grayson flipped through his poster boards.
Tom Latham Regifts The Chinese
Iowa Republican Tom Latham hates him some cap and trade. So much that he <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/politics_nation/2009/06/latham_brings_props_to_house_f.html">decided to box up a hard hat</a> with the words "American Jobs" written on it and send it to China, as a gift. How thoughtful! And all we've gotten in return is a mess of poisonous toys.
Peter Roskam's Into Bondage
Illinois Republican Peter Roskam took a look at the health care bill and saw handcuffs. And "not figurative handcuffs," <a href="http://hotair.com/archives/2009/11/09/video-if-obamacare-is-so-good/">Roskam said</a>, "actual criminal penalties." So, you <i>do</i> mean figurative handcuffs? Anyway, it's a good thing David Vitter sits in the U.S. Senate, because he would have probably been a little inappropriately interested in this presentation.
Michele Bachmann Get's Lei'd
Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann made the acquaintance of some hula dancing Teabaggers from Hawaii, and they brought her a lei, which Bachmann herself could obtain at the airport in Hawaii, were it not for the fact that she believes planes cannot fly over water without the use of witchcraft. Anyway, <a href="http://minnesotaindependent.com/49288/bachmann-lei-health-care-steve-israel-holocaust">she told Congress</a>, "I’m reminded that the one who created this lei also created our freedom. Are we so insensible to the high cost our forebearers paid to purchase our freedom?" So, the Hawaiian Bureau of Tourism created our freedom? I guess this is not supposed to make much sense.
Chuck Grassley, Dragon Slayer
<a href="http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-august-4-2009/chuck-grassley-s-debt-and-deficit-dragon">CLASSIC CHUCK GRASSLEY</a> (R-Iowa) here, as the Iowan mixed all the metaphors he had at his disposal to inveigh against health care reform: Sir Lancelot! Dragons! Painful weapons! Golden egg-laying geese! The whole thing was like having a Pear Of Anguish inserted into your brain. Unless, of course, you were Maddie -- John Shadegg's not-granddaughter -- who probably likes the pretty pictures!
Chuck Grassley Saw A Bill Murray Movie
More from Charles Grassley: "We should not legislate in a hasty manner and place ourselves in an infinite loop," says Grassley, apparently <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/anneschroeder/0608/Chuck_Grassley_is_a_Bill_Murray_fan.html">drawing the wrong lesson from Bill Murray's GROUNDHOG DAY</a>, in which said "infinite loop" allowed Bill Murray's character the chance to experience personal growth, so that he was no longer the sort of preening dick who'd waste the time of serious people with comparisons to movies he saw one night on Comedy Central.
Orrin Hatch Hates Robin Hood
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch LOVES HIM some children's tales, too, it seems. Thankfully, he kept his stories straight, <a href="http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2009/04/orrin-hatch-quotes-from-disneys-robin-hood.html">citing Robin Hood</a> as a way of discussing Obama's infernal plan to redistribute wealth in America. It's not clear that Hatch quite understands who would be the Sheriff of Nottingham in this metaphor. But look, just be thankful Hatch didn't burst into an impromptu performance of Bryan Adams's "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." Hatch, we remind you, fancies himself to be quite the singer.
Frank Lautenberg Is Sick Of These Star Wars
New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg <a href="http://rawstory.com/exclusives/byrne/lautenberg_judges_star_wars_519">compared then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's threat</a> to eliminate the Senate filibuster to Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine's efforts to destroy galactic freedom, murder the Jedi and crush "terrorism" with the Death Star. Flash forward to today, and suddenly the elimination of the Senate filibuster doesn't seem like such a bad idea, eh, Senate Democrats?
George Voinovich: Prop Master
When it comes to Congressional visual aids, the master of the form is Ohio Republican George Voinovich, who was the Jean-Michel Basquiat of poster-board-based metaphorical imagery. Check out all that elaborate work! The lovingly rendered "Emperor's New Clothes," the detailed Wheel of Fortune, the G4 Channel courting Pac Man nonsense...<a href="http://www.politico.com/click/stories/0911/charting_the_course.html">we're going to miss the senator when he retires</a>. But you know who won't miss him? The poor interns who had to build this crap.