Social Security Questions, Comments, and Accusations at the Big Flats Town Hall Meeting

 A 2014 CBS News Poll asked the following question: “Overall, do you think the benefits from Social Security are worth the cost of the program for taxpayers, or are they not worth the cost?”

Worth it–73%      Not worth it–21%     Unsure/No answer–6%

Social Security is a classic Hot-Botton topic. It fits right in with Fracking and The Safe Act. SocSecCardsThe difference is that Social Security is not as divisive as the other two; it has an overwhelming approval rate.  Sure people have proposed tweaking the details, but a large majority of Americans feel the nearly 80 year old program is worth the cost.

That feeling was evident at Rep. Tom Reed’s Town Hall Meeting in Big Flats, NY (Chemung County) on Tuesday, May 26. Rep. Reed is the architect of the current House of Representatives’ movement to block Social Security from adjusting how our pay-roll deductions are divided between the “Social Security Retirement (Old-Age and Survivors Insurance–OASI) Fund” and the “Social Security Disability Fund.”

Congressman Reed, in answering the question “How can you justify a 20 percent cut in Social Security Disability if there is adequate funding in the Retirement Fund,” began by blaming Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for not being concerned about the approaching 20 percent cut in Disability benefits. You can hear the question and his response here:

You heard Rep. Reed explained how he “hammered” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to explained why there were no mention of  Social Security Disability in his testimony or in the budget. Finally, Reed explained, he got Lew to admit that the only plan was to “to take from retirees from social security and move over $260 billion to the Disability Trust Fund to take care of the disability recipients.” He then said it was like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

He uses the “robbing Peter (Retirement Fund) to pay Paul (Disability Fund)” metaphor a lot. We, the workers who pay into Social Security, are BOTH Peter AND Paul. We are hoping to be Paul (retired) and not Peter (disabled) but that is not guaranteed. We have paid into both funds and if we  unfortunately qualify for disability benefits then we should get them. The money in both funds belongs to all you contributed. If we don’t get the full earned disability benefits, the government in effect  robbing Paul (disabled) to pay Peter (retirees). When disabled workers qualify for retirement, they stop being paid by the Disability Fund and start being paid by the Retirement Fund.

Please note that the Disability Trusts Funds grew steadily from 1993 to 2008. The income received in 2009 was lower than in 2008. The Bush recession really took hold and, with fewer people working, the Trust Funds received less revenue. That should have surprised no one, especially our elected officials.

I have also heard the Jack Lew story many times. The following is  Rep. Reed’s three and a half minute questioning time (not the 5 minutes that he stated) with Secretary Lew. Listen to it, ask yourself if Reed really ‘Hammered” Lew, and check out the amount of money mentioned that needs to be moved from the Retirement Fund to the Disability Fund. Also note why Lew said that the “reallocation” of funds is necessary.

Remember that  Rep. Reed told the Big Flats audience that he got Secretary Lew to admit that “the official White House position is that they were going to take from retirees of Social Security and move over $260 billion into the Disability Trust Fund.” That is not what Lew admitted to. In the C-Span video that figure was $35 billion! There is quite a difference between $260 billion and $35 billion. I have not been able to find either figure. The fact is that both Reed and Lew spoke of $35 billion, not $260 billion.

It doesn’t sound to me that the White House didn’t see this crisis coming. Lew spoke that the technicians had studied the situation and realized that only short term solution –reallocate the money between the Trust Funds–can alleviate the I think my favorite line was that “Long term policies take a long time to have an effect.” Lew also said more than once that he was looking forward to work with Congress to strengthen Social Security.

Is Rep. Reed looking forward to work with the Congress? I don’t think so.

Later in the Big Flats Meeting, a woman, who had never been to a Town Hall Meeting before, and hadn’t planned to speak, rose and politely lambasted Rep. Reed for his part in cutting the meager Disability benefits by creating a “False Crisis”.

For someone who whose speech was impromptu she was right on the money. She had was off on some minor details. There are about 37,000 New York 23rders on Disability, but the 20 thousand something was a good guess.

I need to point out that when she said that the reallocation has been done many times before, Rep. Reed was quick to point out at it has been done 11 times. He made sure he  added that it money had gone both ways, from the Retirees to the Disabled AND the other way around. I find that interesting that he pointed that fact out, since in a press release this year  indicated that it the Retirement Fund bailed out the Disability Fund all eleven times:

“Finally, I heard nothing tonight about how to protect the Social Security Retirement Fund from the impending insolvency of the disability fund. It isn’t fair to raid the retirement fund yet again for what would be a twelfth time. I want to be part of finding a long-term solution that protects retirees, the disabled, and our seniors.”

He also, near the end of the video clip, denounces the concept of eliminating the payroll deduction cap. He uses the example of a person making a ” Hundred Trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000)”, and there is no payroll cap. First the only money that goes to Social Security is based on a person’s action pay–from American companies–not money he gets from investments or from foreign countries.  Second, Reed is saying that the Trillionaire  would be getting benefits that would negate payments made into the funds and would not help Social Security at all. Sounds logical, but his statement is contradicted by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, in an AARP article , has said:

If millionaires pay Social Security taxes on all of their salary income, the maximum annual benefit payment could reach over $150,000 a year. This development would not bankrupt the program.

The issue of eliminating the Payroll Cap is not new. People have different opinions of eliminating it or raise it to, as some on the recoding said to “$250,000”. Both ideas have been kicked around, and that will probably be a way to enhance Social Security if congress every gets around discussing the “Crisis’ with the executive branch.

You may have heard in the second video  someone suggest reading the book “Social Security Works”, which you can buy at most book outlets. “Social Security Works” has a well researched website on  the history of our Social  Security system, and ideas strengthen it.

Social Security is important to many. This blog has many articles about it affect the people and the economy of our congressional district. It has also chronicled Rep. Reed’s comments about disability, and some were not as caring as he sounded at the Town Hall. Look at Rep. Reed’s voting record on other programs helping the people in his district, including the SNAP program, WIC, and unemployment insurance. Those votes indicates that Rep. Reed is not sympathetic for those going through difficult financial times.

The two videos above did not show the whole Big Flats conversation on Social Security. The following one show the whole the whole 9 plus minutes of Social Security discussion.

About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
This entry was posted in 2016, Constituents, Economics, Ethics, Reed's Views, Rights, Seniors, Town Hall Meeting and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Social Security Questions, Comments, and Accusations at the Big Flats Town Hall Meeting

  1. Deb Meeker says:

    Thank you for this report!

    Too many members of Congress have forgotten where they came from, and with whose assistance they were raised.
    It must be so difficult to keep numbers and stories straight when mendacity rules the ‘logic’. It’s a good thing we have video tapes of statements with which to check, since Rep Tom Reed can’t seem to remember previous falsehoods.

    I will soon be retired. The Social Security I paid into all my working life is important – not only to peace of mind – but it is our right, not any politician’s to decide just how and for whom retirees’ and disabled worker’s money should be spent.


  2. whungerford says:

    Wow, watch Reed wring his hands as he tries to deflect legitimate criticism. I don’t think he ever proposed a solution, rather he found fault, falsely, with every suggestion. Here is all he had to say about this meeting:

    Thank you to everyone who attended our town hall meeting last night. I appreciated the enthusiastic discussion and I look forward to continuing this conversation about the issues that impact our district.


  3. Marcia Johnson says:

    When we had the town hall meeting in Brocton we had almost a 45 minute discussion on this issue. I believe you have a posting about it. Funny how he keeps using the rob Peter to pay Paul story even though he knows it’s a crock. Just like with the singers at the Big Flats meeting, he says we will have to just disagree on that.


  4. whungerford says:

    Here is Cath Kestler’s report on the Brocton meeting:


  5. josephurban says:

    Good point about the “Peter-Paul” nonsense. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” is simply untrue. There is only Peter. One trust fund, with two allocations. Those allocations have been altered 11 times in the past, sometimes in favor of the Disability program, some times in favor of the Old Age program. Both parties agreed to do what was needed to keep each program solvent. UNTIL NOW. Sometimes when we had a Dem POTUS (LBJ, Carter, Clinton) and other times when we had a GOP POTUS (Nixon,Reagan). The problem today is that we have a Mr Obama as POTUS and just about anything he wants to do is rejected by the GOP, no matter what the effect on American citizens.


  6. Kriegar says:

    The flagrant absence of any mention of the government itself raiding Social Security funds is what floors me. Then there is the use of the term “entitlement”, couched in an inference of ‘handout’. What Mr. Reed, and his type forget, is that this money belongs to those who paid it in, not to the Congressman. The battering ram of the right-wing zealot never tires, in it’s attempt to batter the people, it would seem. I should think that, as voters, we have spoken loudly enough, repeatedly, that these people would get it through their thick skulls. Far from it, it would seem.

    In times of financial hardship, as now, it becomes de rigeur to assault those who seem defenseless, and as our society matures, it seems more and more crass. Those people, like Mr. Reed, fail to take into account what the loss of SNAP benefits, and/or a 20% reduction in disability or retirement income, would have on local businessmen, and the local economy. All of that money, SNAP, disability, and retirement, I presume to be poured directly into those local economies, and I would equally presume that such losses would be felt.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. pystew says:

    Using the two New NY23rd articles listed below, our congressional districts receives over $224 million a month from Social Security and SNAP. (These figures are based on 2013 numbers). That’s $210 million from Social Security and $14 million from SNAP. Bob, Yates County alone gets $7 million from Social Security and over $300,000 from SNAP. Remember we get what we personally sow from Social Security. SNAP is an agricultural program, and that is helping the farmers by not having their food go to waste. The sites breaks thing down into bite size details that makes things interesting.


  8. BOB McGILLl says:

    AH, Bush didn’t cause the recession, CLINTON DID 🙂


  9. BOB McGILLl says:

    According to the institute’s data, a two-earner couple receiving an average wage — $44,600 per spouse in 2012 dollars — and turning 65 in 2010 would have paid $722,000 into Social Security and Medicare and can be expected to take out $966,000 in benefits. So, this couple will be paid about one-third more in benefits than they paid in taxes.

    If a similar couple had retired in 1980, they would have gotten back almost three times what they put in. And if they had retired in 1960, they would have gotten back more than eight times what they paid in. The bigger discrepancies common decades ago can be traced in part to the fact that some of these individuals’ working lives came before Social Security taxes were collected beginning in 1937.


  10. josephurban says:

    Reed thinks that everyone on SS Disability puts their money in Cayman Islands accounts and invests it in unregulated Chinese child labor factories. It works for his friends!


  11. pystew says:

    I don’t believe you.

    Economic Downturn and Legacy of Bush Policies Continue to Drive Large Deficits



  12. pystew says:

    So you are saying….?


  13. josephurban says:

    Bob is simply pointing out that the disastrous trickle down policies initiated in the 1980s by the Reagan-Bush administration lead to the current discrepancy in incomes. As a result, the SS system has been starved due to less money going in because of the relatively lower wages for most Americans. The attacks on unions and public employees , coupled with the declining minimum wage (in relation to inflation), have devastated the buying power of the middle and working classes, and the SS fund.
    Bob is also correct that much of the problem dates to the Clinton years. Remember, Clinton had a GOP Congress , not a Democratic one, much like Mr Obama. And only Congress can act to restore SS stability no matter who sits in the White House. I don’t often agree with Bob, but he is on the mark this time. It will take years to undue the damage caused to American workers by trickle-down and unfair “free trade” agreements.


  14. whungerford says:

    Bob neglects the fact that SS contributions are invested and expected to grow with compound interest.


  15. Anne says:

    Bob neglects any facts, really.


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