Yesterday my trainer made a comment that we the attendees are trying to better ourselves, as opposed to those “sitting home on welfare.” It is interesting that so many people who consider themselves very egalitarian, who would never dream of insulting someone because of their skin color, will regularly bash the poor. I spoke to the trainer after the comment. I do not… know if it made a difference. There was also a comment made that our clients “get SSI for their kids when the kids aren’t really disabled.”
I’d like to give some information about this. Overpayments in the SSI program between 2008 and 2010 were $3.3 million. Underpayments–where people do not get what they are legally eligible to get– were $1.2 million. The trainer was not at all upset about the underpayments.
SSI is a poverty reduction tool. All nations are SUPPOSED to have poverty reduction tools in the form of actual cash to citizens who cannot otherwise earn income. The idea that SSI and other cash transfer programs are some kind of gift is an idea drilled into society through the corporate owned media to keep everyone searching for paid jobs that do not exist.
To put the “overpayments” in perspective–NYC alone spent $2 million in the same time period to needlessly fingerprint its Food Stamp recipients. The new Yankee Stadium in NYC has cost taxpayers $4 BILLION in lost tax revenue that the developers got from NY state without you being consulted. And the Federal Reserve in nearly the same time period gave $7.7 trillion to the big banks at bargain interest rates that no bank will ever give you. But the only thing that human services trainers (paid for with tax money) are upset about is the poor getting $3.3 million more than they are scheduled to. Food Bank for NYC (human services people really love food pantries) ended 2008 with profits of $8 million.
The phenomenon of ineligible children and adults getting SSI exists. The solution is very simple if you understand the reason for it. The program available to families without disabled children, TANF or “welfare” does not provide enough cash to reach to even 50% of the poverty line in any state. Humans are driven by self preservation. Any intelligent human will attempt to apply for a more reasonably generous public program if they cannot survive on TANF. If you want to eliminate “overpayments” in SSI, ask your federal legislator to finally dismantle TANF and replace it with a decent income transfer program. At minimum, the payments in TANF have to be raised to the poverty line and the work requirements have to be eliminated (the work requirements cost taxpayers more than the benefit itself).
It really is about time that we stop blaming Americans for their descent below the poverty line when we are already aware of how the powerful and well connected have run the economy into the ground to grab more for themselves.