Another View -- Betsy McCaughey: Our free lunch PresidentBETSY McCAUGHEY
July 29. 2014 9:58PM
ON MONDAY Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged Congress to provide more resources for the exploding number of people on permanent disability (SSI). It’s part of the Obama administration’s “give away the store” mentality, encouraging the masses to sign up for government programs at taxpayers’ expense.
The administration is doing everything it can to expand government dependence, getting people on Obamacare subsidies, food stamps, earned income tax credits and disability payments. Federal workers routinely ignore — even blatantly violate — the laws that established these programs in order to maximize giveaways.
The number of people collecting permanent disability has soared to 8.9 million, up 20 percent since Obama took office. And virtually all will stay on the program for life. As a result, the Disability Fund will run out of money by 2016. Lew wants to tap more of your payroll taxes to keep the dependence money flowing. When you and your employer send in payroll taxes, the lion’s share (5.4 percent of payroll ) goes to the Social Security Old Age Fund, but a small portion (0.9 percent of payroll ) goes to the Disability Fund. Under Lew’s proposal, Grandma and Grandpa will be the losers. The move is predicted to shorten the solvency of the Old Age Fund by at least a year.
Congress should say “no” to Lew’s proposal. And the public should demand to know why 8.9 million people are collecting disability. It’s inconceivable that so many — more than the population of New York City — are truly incapacitated.
The answer to that riddle is that the Social Security administrators encourage all comers. Stephen Goss, Social Security’s chief actuary, told Congress that “disability is by nature a very subjective concept.” He said it depends “on a myriad of issues related to a person’s residual functional capacity, past job experience, desire to work, and availability of suitable jobs.”
Ah! Desire to work. If you don‘t have that, you may qualify. No wonder disability rates are higher here than in France, Germany or Italy, countries known for their welfare culture. Get ready for even more claims now that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined pregnancy as a “disability.”
Obama health officials are working just as hard to give away your tax dollars. A General Accountability Office report disclosed last week that virtually anyone can get a taxpayer-funded subsidy for health insurance. The GAO sent out 12 investigators to enroll in health plans with fake identities. Astoundingly, 11 of the 12 applicants succeeded in enrolling — with taxpayers footing the bill. Applicants claiming they had no documents succeeded, as did applicants using fraudulent documents. Contractors employed by the Department of Health and Human Services to process enrollments passed the buck, saying they are not obliged to authenticate any paperwork presented.
HHS reports that so far about 2.6 million out of the 5.4 million federal marketplace enrollees have not had their income or immigration status verified.
Under President Obama, this “free-lunch” mentality has caused dependence on food stamps to nearly double. Once reserved for the truly poor, now almost 48 million people are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance dole.
Sadly, when it comes to conserving taxpayer money to help those truly in need, Congress doesn’t expect much. In 2010, Congress unanimously passed the Improper Payments Elimination Act. It tries to cap mistaken payments by any federal department at 10 percent. Of course, almost any business would go belly up if it sent 10 percent of its funds to the wrong customers or suppliers.
But even that low bar is too high for the Obama administration. The IRS estimates that 21-25 percent of earned income tax credits were paid out in error in fiscal 2012. How recklessly government bureaucrats spend our hard earned tax dollars. Don’t count on Washington, D.C., to fix this. Only public outrage can put a stop to it.
Betsy McCaughey is a syndicated columnist and a former lieutenant governor of New York.