One of the ugliest and most dishonest tactics in Washington is for politicians to claim that “the other side” is planning to slash Social Security benefits. The goal of those claims is to frighten senior citizens and to get them to line up politically behind the politician who is making that false claim.
Most recently, the Obama administration sent out a scary letter claiming that proposed Republican budget cuts could lead to furloughs of Social Security Administration employees. Then, Democrats in Congress sent out a statement claiming that Social Security offices might be closed, and benefit payments might be delayed, if GOP spending cuts are approved.
But that’s nonsense. As The Associated Press pointed out recently, even if the current spending standoff between Democrats and Republicans led to an actual “shutdown” of the federal government, essential services would continue uninterrupted: “Social Security checks would still go out. Troops would remain at their posts. ... And virtually every essential government agency, like the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, would remain open. That’s the little-known truth about a government shutdown.”
The overwhelming majority of our nation’s 4.3 million federal employees — a figure that includes the military and postal workers — would not be idled by a “shutdown,” the AP noted. In fact, the number of federal workers who would not report to work is fewer than one in four.
And Social Security most definitely would continue operating. “The Social Security Administration would not only send out benefits but would continue to take applications,” the AP reported.
That is worth remembering as the president continues to oppose necessary spending cuts proposed by Republicans. The danger is not that Washington may cut “too much” but that it will cut far too little.