Looking for someone to investigate theft and questionable spending in government programs? Think twice about hiring Rachel Maddow. The earnest MSNBC polemicist has deemed such a thing impossible, at least when it comes to Social Security.
Reacting with the reptilian defensiveness of liberals whenever conservatives suggest Social Security is unsustainable, Maddow made this whopper of a claim on her show Sept. 1 in response to former senator Alan Simpson's pithy criticism of the FDR-created sacred cow --
MADDOW: Here's the broader context, what he said, it was in an email, what he wrote in that email, in which that quote, from which that quote was taken. This is what he said -- 'yes, I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million [tits]', thing that starts with T that rhymes with bits.
If you can avoid being distracted by the metaphor, consider what Sen. Simpson's broader point is here -- people on Social Security, milking it to the last degree, the same with any system in America. You know what, this is worth saying -- there is no milking of the Social Security system, to any degree. Social Security is a payroll deduction, it's taken out of your paycheck. Every single time you are paid there's a line in your paystub showing that your money has been taken out of your paycheck now while you're working. That's you earning your Social Security benefits. The idea being, you will get that money back someday, you fund to the program now for today's retirees and then when you retire the money will be paid back to you by the next generation of workers.
When later in life you get paid the benefits you've earned, that is not milking it. That's getting paid your due. It is a social contract. You did your part. You get something for that. The real issue is not that a cranky retired senator uses distractingly funny metaphors to talk about how much he hates that social contract. The real issue is that he's got that hate. This isn't a tea party, this is the country. Whose idea was it to let Alan Simpson anywhere near Social Security?
Along the same lines, whose idea was it to let Maddow anywhere near analysis of Social Security? One must travel back to the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union to hear such strenuous gushing about a government diktat, in the manner of an agricultural apparatchik extolling yet another record harvest.
Seeing how MSNBC's answer to Inspector Clouseau has ruled out even the possibility of malfeasance in Social Security, the office of inspector general within that mammoth agency is clearly redundant and can be eliminated, the savings redounding to the benefit of other equally pure government programs (which also, at risk of stating the obvious, do not need inspector generals, what with these programs being worker- and taxpayer-funded).
But before the office of inspector general of Social Security is consigned to the dustbin, let's look at its recent work to get a better sense of how any "milking" of this government entity taking in hundreds of billions of dollars annually is clearly impossible.
From the executive summary of the inspector general's semi-annual report to Congress for the first half of fiscal year 2010 --
During this reporting period, we received more than 75,000 allegations from SSA employees, Congress, the public, law enforcement agencies and other sources. Our agents closed more than 3,700 criminal investigations, resulting in over 300 arrests, over 400 indictments and informations, 794 criminal convictions (including pretrial diversions) and 69 civil judgments/civil monetary penalty (CMP) assessments. During this reporting period, our agents also secured 6 indictments and 8 convictions of fraudulent activity related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and they continue to work with law enforcement agencies to arrest subjects identified through the Fugitive Felon Program. ...
During this reporting period, our auditors identified more than $1.3 billion is questioned costs and about $2.06 billion in Federal Funds that could be put to better use. Highlighted audits include the financial impact of conducting fewer full medical continuing disability reviews (CDRs), and identifying Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who were potentially eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.
In the first half of FY 2010, we are reporting over $173 million in monetary accomplishments, with over $29.5 million in SSA recoveries, restitution, fines, settlements, and judgments; and over $143.5 million in projected savings from investigations resulting in the suspension or termination of benefits. In addition, we participated in multi-agency investigations that resulted in over $25 million in savings, restitution, and recoveries for other agencies. Highlighted investigations in this section relate to representative payee fraud and concealment of work activity in order to collect disability benefits.
Our Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Program continues to be one of our most successful initiatives, contributing to the integrity of SSA's disability programs. The efforts of our CDI Units during this reporting period resulted in more than $117 million in SSA program savings.
During this reporting period, our attorneys initiated 74 CMP actions (Section 1129 cases) that involved false statements, representations, or omissions made in connection with obtaining or retaining benefits or payments under Titles II (Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Benefits) and XVI (Supplemental Security Income) of the Social Security Act (the Act). Included in our investigative accomplishments above is nearly $2 million in penalties and assessments that our attorneys imposed through our CMP program.
But hey, why cry over massive amounts of spilled milk when it's only workers feeding the cow?