Joni: You Make Us Squeal With Laughter

Image (1) joni-ernst-the-perfect-Koch-investment.jpg for post 27491

Senator Ernst is out with another attempt to divert attention from the real issues of the day and possibly act as a stalking horse for the next issue Republicans want to make into the NEXT BIG ISSUE.

It looks like Ernst’s role in the Republican Party is sort of that of a clown jester. She is supposed to send out these VERY SERIOUS sounding newsletters that are supposed to serve to notify you that your government stinks and should be cut down to size. But mostly what these newsletters do is make Sen. Ernst into more of a laughing stock than she already is.

Funny thing, after posting a comment about her newsletter last month (that was the one about incorrect uniforms for troops in Afghanistan, as if the Army had never made a mistake before) I seemed to have been left off the email list for this month’s edition of things that proves our government doesn’t work, better known as “Make ‘Em Squeal.”

Here is the text of her posting:   

Squeal Award: Duplicate Social Security Benefits

Think you can’t take your money to the grave – and then some? Think again.

new audit report released by the Office of the Inspector General at the Social Security Administration (SSA) found that the agency has issued approximately $171 million in incorrect payments as of 2015.

So why exactly is this happening? According to the report, there are nearly 5 million people with more than one Social Security Number. Many of these individuals have two numbers as a result of being victims of identity theft or fraud, however, they should not receive Social Security benefits under both numbers.

Unfortunately, in more than 5,000 instances, the SSA issued payments to folks under both of their Social Security Numbers. To make matters worse, the Office of the Inspector General estimated the SSA issued approximately $115.4 million in incorrect payments to around 930 deceased beneficiaries.

If the SSA fails to fix these issues, the Office of Inspector General estimated that the SSA will continue to incorrectly issue approximately $21.2 million in payments over the next year!

Due to the astonishing recklessness on display when it comes to taxpayer dollars’, I hereby present this month’s Squeal Award to the Social Security Administration.

What is interesting to note right off the bat is that there is a date when the study was ended, but no date that I can find for the beginning of the study. I could be wrong and I admit these days that I skim much more than I used to, but from what I can tell this is from inception to 2015. Not in 2015 but “as of 2015.” So as far as we know this is from 1937 or some 80 years back. Later in her text she notes that the SSA could “incorrectly issue approximately $21.2 million in payments over the next year!”

What Ernst doesn’t mention is just how many transactions and how much money is the SSA handling in a year. Funny she should leave that out. That is why she is the court jester, I guess.

So I took a look to see what kind of volume we are doing here. From the SSA Fact Sheet we have this opening line

“In 2017, over 62 million Americans will receive approximately $955 billion in Social Security benefits.”  Go to the link and see some of the other huge numbers that the SSA deals with.

Doing a little math (21X10^6 / 955×10^9) we get .000021989 or in percentage about .002%. Most businesses in America would be bragging about such a low error rate. And the SSA is a low cost operation. Plus if you have ever dealt with them they are very, very good at what they do.

My guess is that Ernst is using this as a stalking horse for two things:

 First – privatize the administration of Social Security. Based on what has happened in Iowa we can say without a doubt after our ongoing Medicaid Debacle that privatizing the administration of that has cost Iowa got hemorrhage money to the administrators while drastically lower services to the patients and providers. So that is a really bad idea.

Second – ending Social Security has been the wet dream of the oligarchs that are now in control of this country. Two people that have wanted to end Social Security in the worst way are Charles and David Koch. Ernst is merely being used as a messenger by the Kochs and the oligarchs to “catapult the propaganda” (as W would say) with such misleading stats. She is being used as a fool by her owners.

Her “Squeal” newsletter also makes it look like she is doing something while actually doing nothing. It also hides the harmful things she doesn’t want the public to know about such as continuing to push hard for “repeal and replace.” In a letter to Senate leader McConnell dated Tuesday she pushes hard for McConnell to bring it back up even though some 600,000 Iowans stand to be gravely hurt by repeal.

In contrast to her joke of an attack on Social Security, make no doubt she would be among the first to vote to close the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans claim it hurts business. But just to show that the government can be effective all we need to do is look at what the CFPB has saved consumers in just five years:

 The record shows that the CFPB’s track record with consumers is undeniably positive. Its work has returned $11.7 billion to consumers wronged by companies in the financial marketplace. Of this amount, $3.6 billion was in the form of direct restitution, while $7.7 billion was in the form of principal reductions, canceled debt, and other types of relief. Since, according to CAP analysis, the CFPB’s budget totals $2.3 billion to date in transfers from the Federal Reserve, this reflects approximately fivefold returns.

Yet these numbers are only part of the overall picture. The CFPB has also processed nearly 1 million consumer complaints, ensuring that the bureau recognizes and responds to problems that arise with a bank. And its regulations have ensured a national marketplace that is both fair and competitive, in which financial products are structured to help consumers succeed rather than fail. Between 2011 and 2014, credit card reform alone saved American families $16 billion in hidden, deceptive, or unreasonable fees, while largely keeping responsible credit available. The CFPB’s recently proposed rules on payday lending and arbitration clauses also address troubling practices in the financial sector, where advocates have long sought reform.

Get your priorities straight Senator Ernst. Work for Iowa, not the oligarchs!

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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