Opinion: Why the elderly, disabled and poor don’t get any attention from Congress

One of many extra trite sayings concerning the occupation of journalism is that it’s speculated to “afflict the comfy” and “consolation the stricken.” 

That sounds good, however you already know who else ought to be doing that? Our flesh pressers. Isn’t it the job of these we ship to Washington to take care of their constituents—the individuals they declare to characterize? 

However this actually isn’t the way it works. Cash talks, and the highly effective and comfy, by lobbyists and massive marketing campaign contributions that always don’t need to be disclosed (appropriately, that is referred to as “darkish cash”) have a far simpler time influencing the political course of and getting the outcomes they need than those that lack this sort of clout.

One of many higher examples of this considerations the 7.8 million Individuals who obtain Supplemental Safety Earnings (SSI) every month from the federal government. This system, which dates to 1972, is designed to consolation the stricken—low-income aged and/or low-income disabled residents. 


Who do you suppose will get extra consideration in Congress? The aged and disabled poor, or the fats cats of their bespoke fits full of marketing campaign money?  

This helps clarify why federal advantages for aged, blind and disabled Individuals haven’t been up to date in years. So little consideration has been paid to SSI {that a} key Senate committee with oversight of this system simply held its first listening to on it in a quarter-century. Kudos to 2 senators—Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and Oregon’s Ron Wyden (each Democrats) for reviving consideration to this important federal program.  

One drawback is that not like Social Safety itself, which is funded from payroll taxes, SSI is funded from common tax revenues, and thus extra politically weak to the whims of Congress. This implies an air of uncertainty is at all times hanging over the heads of those that rely upon it.

The help they get is modest. As of August, the common month-to-month SSI profit is $585.96. However think about being, say, poor and blind, and unable to earn a good revenue and supply for the fundamentals. Just a few hundred bucks, whereas welcome, isn’t going to make a lot of a distinction in a life crammed with appreciable hardship (about 2.3 million of SSI’s recipients are additionally sufficiently old to obtain fundamental Social Safety itself, which has a mean month-to-month profit this yr of $1,555). Within the desk beneath, you may discover that advantages for youngsters are greater. That’s as a result of they sometimes haven’t any revenue of their very own. And in each case, advantages are minimize by a 3rd for beneficiaries who dwell in one other particular person’s family with out paying for shelter or meals.


Since Congress hasn’t executed something about SSI in years, Brown thinks it’s manner overdue for an overhaul. His “Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021” (S-2065), launched in June, goals to, amongst different issues, replace and develop who’s eligible for SSI. He needs to spice up advantages by almost a 3rd and allow them to develop past inflation every year (merely indexing advantages to inflation doesn’t permit them to get forward in actual phrases). 

It might additionally remove Twentieth-century guidelines that sluggish up advantages, and repealing financial savings and revenue limits for recipients. For instance, a 1989 provision says that a person SSI beneficiary can have as much as $2,000 in financial savings, and $3,000 for a pair. Brown needs that raised to $10,000 per particular person and $20,000 per couple.

Right here’s one other outdated rule Brown hopes to scrap: If a SSI recipient works they will at present hold as much as $65 of their earnings every month. Simply $65. Earnings above that threshold minimize advantages by 50 cents on the greenback. Brown’s invoice would permit them to earn as much as $399 from work. All this might, tasks the City Institute, a left-leaning Washington suppose tank, assist carry an estimated 3.3 million individuals out of poverty.

The senator, who didn’t reply to a name for remark, has referred to as SSI America’s “forgotten security web.”

Nevertheless it’s not forgotten by those that want it. Mary Johnson, Social Safety and Medicare coverage analyst for the Virginia-based Senior Residents League, an advocacy group, tells me SSI is a typical fear for the seniors she hears from.

“They don’t get sufficient,” she says. “Not sufficient to pay the lease. Not sufficient to maintain up with utilities, prescriptions and meals costs.” 

And once more: There are thousands and thousands of needy non-seniors—poor, disabled, typically unable to work—who additionally depend on this system. 

However in addition to a number of Congressional lefties, modernizing Supplemental Safety Earnings is an concept that hasn’t gained a lot traction. Past one listening to, it hasn’t gone wherever within the Senate, overshadowed by larger points like an infrastructure invoice (which has handed the Senate however slowed down within the Home) and the president’s gargantuan $3.5 trillion social spending invoice.

Why not connect S-2065 to Biden’s want checklist? It may appear logical, however the president himself acknowledges that Congress won’t ever approve $3.5 trillion in spending; he stated Friday that one thing within the neighborhood of $2 trillion could be possible. However West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin—a conservative Democrat with the ability to scuttle Biden’s agenda—has stated $1.5 trillion is extra prefer it. There merely won’t be room to spice up SSI. 

What’s humorous right here, and I’m being sarcastic, is that Manchin and one other conservative Senate Democrat, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema have already minimize a few of Biden’s company tax proposals all the way down to dimension. Is it a coincidence that each have raked in contributions from teams who need these charges lowered?

If solely the poor and disabled had that form of clout. | Opinion: Why the aged, disabled and poor don’t get any consideration from Congress


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