Imagine that you owned a successful business that was gaining 10,000 new customers every single day. All the market projections said that trend would continue for
many more years. Would you be hiring new staff and opening new outlets to keep up with the demand? Or would you be cutting back on employees, reducing office hours and
closing facilities? If you were in the private sector, I guarantee you would be doing the former. But in the wacky world of government funding and operations, the latter
is the norm.
In each of the last eight years, around 10,000 people a day have been retiring and signing up for Social Security benefits. That is expected to continue for another
dozen years or more. In other words, SSA workloads are booming! But during the last four years, the Trump administration ordered a 15% across-the-board cut in government staffing, including the SSA. Between 2010 and 2016, the agency’s budget dropped by more than 10%. During that same period, its
beneficiary base went up by 12%, and its fixed costs increased by about $300 million each year.
If you also think that the SSA, just like any other government agency, has a bloated administrative budget that could stand some trimming, well, think again. Out of
every dollar collected in Social Security taxes, less than one penny goes toward running the agency that maintains earnings records for almost every American and pays
monthly benefits to one out of every six Americans. You would be very hard-pressed to find one single successful business in the private sector that works with a 1% overhead.
With reduced staff and resources, it’s all about numbers, efficiency and time management. Walking in off the street to visit a pleasant local Social Security
office to ask some questions and possibly file for benefits while having a little chat with a happy employee is a pipe dream. Today, you must call the SSA’s
toll-free number and wait on hold for a long time (some readers have told me an hour or more) to make an appointment. Then you will probably wait weeks, or even a month
or more, for that appointment. When you finally get to the office, it’s “take a number, sit down and wait until you are called.”
Of course, all the problems I’ve highlighted here about staffing cuts have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis—making it even more difficult to
get through on the phone and almost impossible to get into a local Social Security office. That crisis is going to eventually end. But the SSA’s funding crisis
will probably not end anytime soon. As long as people keep clamoring for smaller government and less government spending—well, they are just going to have to live
with the consequence. And the consequence is reduced services.
You can find the full article here.