Okay, let me get this straight: President Obama announced today that if a deal on the deb
t ceiling is not reached he cannot guarantee that seniors’ Social Security checks will go out on August 3. Thus, in the world of political posturing, some 70 million Social Security and Veterans benefit checks that go out would be replaced with letters explaining that Social Security benefits cannot be paid because some evildoers in Congress want to prevent the federal government from making good on its obligations.
Let’s get real here. First of all, from August 3 to August 31, cash receipts to the treasury are expected to be around $172 billion. Suppose this money is used for paying mandatory budget expenses: This includes interest on the debt at $29 billion, Medicare and Medicaid at $50 billion, and Social Security benefits at $49 billion. Of course, entitlement programs are not chump change, but estimated revenues will cover them with more than $40 billion left over. This is not to say that there is no room for entitlement reform, but to threaten punishment of senior citizens because Congress cannot come to an agreement falls short of stealing somebody’s wheelchair. Those on the left criticize the right for balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable, yet the President is threatening to do just that.
And the cost of withholding Social Security checks? If letters of “default” are mailed instead, some 70 million would have to be mailed: say the cost of paper and printing is about 4 cents a page, the bulk mailing rate is 15 cents per letter, and a few staffers would administer them at $25 an hour for 40 total man hours. The cost to taxpayers of informing them that their taxpayer-funded benefits will come to a halt? About $13.3 million. Can we stop the insanity?