May 7, 2015

‘We Promise to Stop’

Nothing makes a congressperson or a senator madder than to learn that a government agency has wronged his or her constituents.

Mad for public consumption, that is.

Internally it makes lawmakers very happy, because it affirms their belief that they are needed by the voters, to rectify abuses of laws they themselves passed.

Thus, a few days ago lawmakers from both parties blasted the Social Security Administration for its continued targeting of taxpayers to collect on their parents' decades-old debts, a practice that the agency promised to stop several months ago.

SSA thus joins the IRS in the growing list of government agencies whose mantra is: “We have not been doing those bad things, but if we had been, we promise to stop.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) summed up the issue nicely when she said: “It is just plain wrong to hold these Americans responsible for decades-old mistakes made by the Social Security Administration or members of their family.”

Boxer and other critics of the Social Security Administration were shy about remarking on whether Congress should be held responsible for its role in making the abuses possible.

(Nay, perhaps encouraging them.)

Buchanan skirted mentioning any blame that could be attributed to Congress when he said, in a letter to SSA, “Penalizing people for the government’s failure to correctly calculate their parents’ benefits is outrageous.”

Buchanan didn’t say if he felt Congress played any role in “penalizing people.”

Notwithstanding the outcry from lawmakers and their supporters in the mainstream media, the practice of government taking steps to get back overpayments is not totally wrong.

To not do so is to tacitly agree that governments don’t make mistakes.

Or that Congress made mistakes when it enacted legislation containing language making abuse possible, and then compounded its mistakes by turning writing laws’ rules and regulations over to lobbyists, lawyers and bureaucrats; and then further compounded that by shirking its duty to oversee the agencies charged with administering the laws.

In actuality, does the responsibility of Congress go beyond enacting vague legislation?

Does Congress purposely frame laws to allow abuses?

Or, for example, is it a mere coincidence that laws enacted by Congress permit able-bodied and able-minded people to avoid having to work because they are receiving Social Security benefits?

They vote, you know, even if they don’t pay taxes.

Or that more lawyers are able to add themselves to the list of millionaires by representing people who are now having to work but who want to join the millions able to fish, hunt and engage in other recreational activities, without having to work?

Lawyers not only vote, they are involved in huge donations to political campaigns.

And, able-bodied and able-minded people are more likely to vote than other folks, since by election day they are ready for a much deserved rest from shooting wild turkeys (most of whom are so tame that they creep closer to a concealed hunter to get a better look) and Bambi’s papa.

L.E. Brown, Jr. is a columnist based in Magnolia, N.C. Email him at [email protected].

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