New Orleans We visited with an old comrade from the earliest days of ACORN between 1970-73. She had been one of the first VISTA volunteers that I was able to repurpose as organizers on our first organizing drives. She reminded me that she had also opened up the Fort Smith office and launched their successful bus campaign in that period as well. A native of a small community near Rochester, New York, who over the years has lived all around the country it seems, she now lives in Florida. It was good to see her, even though I had just gotten off the plane from Nairobi with stops in Frankfurt and Chicago, so I probably wasn’t at my 100% best.
She got my fullest attention when somehow the conversation drifted to rents. She was curious about the rents in New Orleans and in Bywater where we lived. She shared the story of where she was renting and the 25% increase over the three years of her tenancy, which was fairly ridiculous. From there it was a very short hop to talking about Social Security and the fact that for people of a certain age, like our age, as it happens, even what the Republican caucus sees as a too generous cost-of-living increase, just can’t keep up with rents that are out of control. I mentioned that I had gotten my letter last week on the benefit levels for 2024, but, surprisingly, she had not and was on the edge of her chair about whether she could stave off a rent increase.
All of which got me thinking about Social Security and the mass access to benefits coming as the boomers increasingly age into the system. It also made me read more closely an article on the challenges the system is facing in “customer service” because of the Congressional attacks on its budget and its very existence. This is a Republican paradox. Their political base continues to be older, white, rural people who are Social Security beneficiaries, yet the Republican caucus is trying to starve the system. The Biden Administration requested a $1.3 billion increase in their service budget, but the House conservative Republican caucus has proposed a $250 million cut. A status quo budget would still hammer support, because the agencies own fixed costs for staff and rent increase by more than half-a-billion every year.
Wait times are reportedly averaging more than 36-minutes a call now. I don’t need to remind anyone that this constituency is not in the list of generations that are internet natives, so getting on the blower is a must. It gets even worse, and more tragic for disability applicants, as the article noted:
There is a backlog of more than one-million people waiting an average of seven months for initial decisions … a process that has been slowed by staffing issues at the agency and in state governments, which receive SSA funding to determine eligibility.
These are people desperate for resources and living on the edge. Waiting seven months would put them in the poor house, if we still had them, so in reality it puts them trying to make rent and survive. Note as well, that’s seven-months to “initial decisions,” so we’re not talking about actual receipt of funds, or how long an appeal for a denial might take.
It’s worth remembering – and reminding – the Congressional mossbacks, that these are benefits in lieu of earnings that workers and employers contributed for decades so that they could live decently when they couldn’t work. To infect Social Security with their anti-welfare and anti-entitlement animus is just wrong, and there should be a political price they pay. They all claim to be loving their elderly voters when they are on the hustings, probably assuming they are too old and senile to know that while they hear platitudes to their face, they are butchering the program behind that same voter’s back.
Too bad there’s not an autodial program that could start calling those same Congressmen to complain during the 36-minute or 7-month wait for relief and service. How about an app for that?