Reading this New York Times story is particularly painful because you have to do it while staring at the self-righteous mug of Senator Susan Collins, who's in high dudgeon about a policy made inevitable by members of her own party, whom she never, ever challenges:
The Social Security Administration is closing field offices and reducing services to the public even as demand for those services surges with the aging of the baby boom generation, according to a bipartisan Senate committee report....Gosh, and why would that be?
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the committee, said that despite a growing caseload, "in the past five years, Social Security has closed 64 of approximately 1,245 field offices -- the largest field office reduction in its history -- and shuttered 533 temporary mobile offices."
In testimony prepared for a committee hearing on the issue on Wednesday, Nancy A. Berryhill, a deputy commissioner at the agency, said its budget and work force had not kept pace with what she described as "a staggering 27 percent increase" in claims for retirement benefits, to 3.3 million last year, from 2.6 million in 2007.Because nobody could have foreseen that it would be a bad idea to cut funding when the agency's workload was inevitably going to increase because the baby boomers were starting to retire.
Oh, wait -- of course it was foreseen:
Representative Xavier Becerra of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, has repeatedly expressed concerns about the agency's operating budget, which was $11 billion in 2013, about 4 percent less than in 2010. "No one should be surprised that service hours have been reduced, wait times have increased and local offices have closed," Mr. Becerra said.Gee, what else happened in the fall of 2010? Oh, yeah -- we had a congressional wave election favoring the budget-cut party.
Since October 2010, the report says, the number of full-time employees in Social Security field offices has declined by 14 percent, to 25,420.
And here's where irony really seems to die:
In March, the Social Security Administration closed a field office in Gadsden County, Fla., assuming consumers could use an office in Tallahassee instead. But, the committee report said, "there is virtually no public transportation" between the two places.Really? Gadsden County has inadequate public services (and lousy Internet infrastructure)? You mean "Gadsden" as in "Gadsden flag"?
Brenda A. Holt, a Gadsden County commissioner, said the county had a high poverty rate.
"Most of the people here don't have computers, let alone reliable Internet access," she said. "It is highly unlikely that many of these seniors will be able to get to Tallahassee. We never had an opportunity to weigh in as a community to try to save our office. Social Security did not do much of anything to inform our community of the closure."
Except that, as it turns out, Gadsden County is not the sort of place that's likely to be full of Gadsden flag wavers -- it's the only predominantly African-American county in Florida.
Infuriatingly, that's one of the places where the Social Security Administration under a Democratic president decides to do budget cutting. But it's just the sort of budget cutting that Republican demands for freedom! insist that we make.