Patterico's Pontifications

3/25/2014

More Questioning of Michael Hiltzik’s Recent “The Sky Is Falling on Social Security!” Column

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:03 am

Over the weekend I caught Michael Hiltzik falsely claiming that Republicans had taken a “meat cleaver” to the budget of the Social Security Administration. The offered proof was that (no doubt like most goverment agencies) they usually don’t get quite what they ask for. I looked at some budget documents and noted that there was an 11% increase in the SSA budget over four years (2009 to 2013) and that they typically request 8% more every year than they received in the previous year.

It’s almost as if Michael Hiltzik wasn’t being truthful with the readers of the Los Angeles Times.

Daleyrocks dug deeper and found a document that challenges some other key assumptions of Hiltzik’s column. That document, in turn, caused me to research other documents relating to the performance of the SSA, with results that (surprise, surprise!) undermine Hiltzik’s claim that the level of service has plummeted.

Hiltzik’s column, remember, was titled, Another way to harm Social Security: wreck its customer service.

Mark Miller of Reuters brings us up to date on this underhanded campaign, which involves closing field offices by the score, satellite offices by the hundreds and service staff by the thousands. “Visitors to field offices waited more than 30 percent longer in fiscal 2013 than in 2012,” Miller reports. “Busy signals on the SSA’s toll-free customer assistance line (800-772-1213) doubled in fiscal 2013 over the previous year.”

Let’s put that in perspective. In 2013 the agency reported (pdf): “Busy signals on our 800-number were the lowest ever.” The document found by daleyrocks contains this table:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 10.07.50 AM

So, despite the supposed “meat cleaver” slashing of the budget (again, an 11% increase over 4 years), the percentage of calls resulting in a busy signal has declined over time from 12% (FY 2006) to 5% (FY 2012). But then, last year (FY 2013), they supposedly doubled, right back to 10%.

What could explain this sudden change, then, from 2012 to 2013? If you look at my earlier post, you’ll see that the actual budgets for the SSA were $11.5 billion in 2012, SLASHED WITH A MEAT CLEAVER to $11.4 billion in 2013. Did this almost 1% cut in the budget mean that busy signals doubled? I tend to doubt it.

What did happen in 2013 was . . . the government shutdown. And during that period of time, the phones were apparently not being answered at anywhere near the same rate. CBS News reported in October 2013:

While Social Security checks will continue to go out after the government shutdown, some folks making calls to their Social Security office may find their calls unanswered.

Although this didn’t last long, when nobody’s calls get answered for weeks, that can skew totals greatly. Until I see data otherwise, I conclude that the government shutdown, and not a systematic “slashing” of budgets that remain mostly steady or increase.

[UPDATE: This theory is incorrect, because as a reader notes, the government shutdown took place at the beginning of fiscal year 2014, even though it was in calendar year 2013. So the alleged doubling of busy signals must have some other explanation -- although it seems very hard to believe it was due to a paltry 1% cut in the SSA budget.]

Back to Hiltzik:

What was especially fatuous was the agency’s assertion that the annual statements, which showed up in people’s mailboxes with such regularity you could almost set your watch (or at least your calendar) by them, could easily be replaced by an online service anyone could access by computer.

Of course, many people don’t have access to a computer as easily as they do to their mailbox, and fewer feel comfortable going online for private, personal information. Now Miller reports that only 10 million workers, a mere 6% of the total, have signed up to get their statements online. How predictable.

Yeah? And what percentage of the people who got this stuff in the mail actually opened it up? I bet that percentage is very small — and that is the relevant comparison point. In other words: true, Internet access to the statements doesn’t mean everyone will sign up — but mail access to the statements doesn’t mean everyone opens them up (or would much care if they stopped coming). Hiltzik’s 6% argument basically assumes everyone reads the statements, but only 6% can figure out how to get online.

Logic and numbers tell a different story.

First, logic: even if it is true that most people don’t go online to access their statements, there are plenty of reasons people might not care what their benefits are. For some, perhaps that is because they know they can’t collect Social Security. That describes me. I have paid into Social Security for the requisite number of quarters, but I won’t collect a dime because of rules relating to pensions. For others, they will technically be eligible but not care, perhaps because they are young and this is not their top priority, or because they figure the system will collapse and they will never see any money from the system. Others may already remember what their benefits were and not yet be interested in how it has all changed in the last year. Still others think they will get benefits, never knew what they were, and won’t start to worry about the specifics until they near retirement.

Hiltzik assumes 100% of recipients are critically interested in seeing this information on a regular basis. But logic says they aren’t. What’s more, the numbers say that when getting online is important to them, more and more people can figure out how tondo that.

Second, the numbers: want to know something that does matter to people? Filing their claims. And guess what? That is happening online more and more every year. According to the document located by daleyrocks (.pdf), the “Complete Performance Section” for Fiscal Year 2012, as of 2012 the number of claims filed online was steadily increasing year after year:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.28.14 AM

The document Overview of our Fiscal Year 2013 Goals and Results has the following table:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.47.46 AM

Online claim filing continues to increase every year. And these are people who are theoretically the least able to access computers of anyone: the elderly and the disabled.

The daleyrocks-located document alao claims that the SSA met goals in numerous different areas, undercutting the idea that services have been cut to the bone. Goals met include: eliminate the oldest pending hearing requests; reduce the percentage of Appeals Council cases pending 365 days or over; minimize average processing time for initial disability claims; complete the budgeted number of initial disability claims; meet target for Disability Determination Services cases production per workyear; complete the budgeted number of disability claims at the reconsideration level; achieve the target number of initial disability claims pending; achieve the target percentage of initial disability cases identified as Quick Disability Determinations or Compassionate Allowances; increase the percentage of claims filed online (discussed above; this is considered a priority goal); complete the budgeted number of retirement, survivors, and Medicare claims; achieve the target busy rate for National 800 Number calls (as discussed above); omplete the planned number of video hearings; etc. etc. etc. I got tired of cutting and pasting all the goals they met.

Of course, they fell short in some areas, too. How can you keep increasing your request by 8% a year if you don’t claim you’re underfunded somehow?

But, just as Hiltzik’s claims of drastic budget slashing don’t withstand scrutiny, his claims of a pervasive, year-after-year decline in services doesn’t hold up. A review of these documents shows the services keep getting faster, more automated, and more reliable every year — with the apparent exception of a year with a government shutdown.

So, hey, I know what let’s do: let’s cherry-pick some numbers from the government shutdown year, lie about meat cleaver slashing, and make it sound like the SSA is going to hell in a handbasket.

Par for the course from this guy.

UPDATE: In 1993, busy signals at the 800 number were sometimes between 50 and 90 percent (.pdf). Then the GOP took a meat cleaver!! to the SSA budget and the percentage skyrocketed to between 5% and 10%.

53 Responses to “More Questioning of Michael Hiltzik’s Recent “The Sky Is Falling on Social Security!” Column”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  2. How to wreck Social Security’s customer service:

    1. Hire people with no real qualifications
    2. Give them lifetime employment.
    3. Make them impossible to fire.
    4. Expose them to mind-numbing rules and regulations that make their jobs hell before they ever talk to a customer.
    5. Give them gold-plated benefits so they won’t quite even then.
    6. Decouple their advancement from their job performance.
    7. Let them take out their frustrations on their “customers.”

    Kevin M (b11279)

  3. *quit

    Kevin M (b11279)

  4. Patterico: The offered proof was that (no doubt like most goverment agencies) they usually don’t get quite what they ask for.

    No, no. They didn’t ask for money.

    Obama cut the budget.

    Obama laid off the workers.

    Obama alone, nobody in Congress forced him too.

    Read it again:

    that a meat cleaver has been taken to its administrative budget. The budget request has been pared down in 14 of the last 16 years, Miller found.

    Budget requests are doe by the President.

    The only thing here it says it was done by Clinton, Bush and Obama. It kind of avoids looking at who cut how much.

    How is this only attributed to “conservatives?” He’s going back to 1998 or 1997.

    Daleyrocks may be right that this doesn’t mean anything anyway. As Daleyrocks says this could be because a lot is now done online.

    There were two other proofs:

    1) Time to speak to an person at their help line went up. That could be an oversight in planning. When you move things to automated systems you may get more people phoning for help

    2) Social Security stopped sending out these annual reports about how much theyhad paid in and how much benefits anyone might be expected to collect.

    I said that was because Obama wants to cut (future) Social Security benefits. He wants to means test it, but only as part of a big budget deal, and he wants to lay that idea at the feet of Republicans. That would be a Republican idea he agreed to. He’s always tallking about Republican ideas he might want to adopt. That’s one of them. He put that in his budget in previous years but took it out this year.

    I will look for some more proof.

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  5. the SSA budget

    Miller was talking about the adminsitrative budget.

    Is it a lie that offices have been closed and tends of thousands of workers laid off? Because that’s the claim.

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  6. Republicans will not in this lifetime means-test Social Security. There is no upside for them, nor is there any need. Social Security is fairly sound and the Millenials are a largish generation that will rescue the demographics before the SHTF.

    MEDICARE, otoh, is a nightmare. The Republican solution WILL be to means-test it, either directly or (if Obamacare survives) by rolling it into Obamacare as a subsidized policy. The Dem solution is, of course, Medicare-for-all aka single-payer.

    Kevin M (b11279)

  7. The claim is that busy signals abruptly shot up between Fiscal 2012 and Fiscal 2013.

    Daleyrocks’ document only goes up to FY 2012.

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  8. What did happen in 2013 was . . . the government shutdown. And during that period of time, the phones were apparently not being answered at anywhere near the same rate.

    The government shutdown?

    But that took place during fiscal year 2014!

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  9. “The budget request has been pared down in 14 of the last 16 years, Miller found.”

    Sammy – Have you ever heard of learned behavior?

    If you know your budget request is going to get pared back, do you stop asking for higher amounts because you know that they will be cut back, or do you keep asking for unrealistic amounts knowing that you will be cut back to something acceptable?

    Also, under Obama, when have budget requests been relevant since the government has largely operated without regular budget order? We’ve had continuing resolutions, then sequestration, because the Senate and Obama are to cowardly to do their jobs and instead want to function by crisis.

    Social Security has not stopped sending out annual statements. They still send them out to people approaching retirement. They just don’t send them out to everybody paying into the system or who had paid into the system as they did in the past.

    Hiltzik appears to have done a lazy rip and write from an advocacy organization with no fact checking of his own, just as you are defending him with no fact checking of your own.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  10. Others may already remember what their benefits were and not yet be interested in how it has all changed in the last year

    A person might want to look at this thing only once every 5 or 6 years – but that’s not an argument for not mailing them out every year! When someone gets interested, it’ll come within a year or so.

    What is the pension rule? California only tops off Social Security – pays the difference between Social security and their pension?

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  11. “I said that was because Obama wants to cut (future) Social Security benefits.”

    Sammy – Citation please.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  12. 6. Comment by Kevin M (b11279) — 3/25/2014 @ 11:34 am

    Republicans will not in this lifetime means-test Social Security. There is no upside for them, nor is there any need. Social Security is fairly sound/..

    I know that, but Obama wants to do that to get money out of Congress for other things.

    MEDICARE, otoh, is a nightmare. The Republican solution WILL be to means-test it,

    That turns it into Medicaid.

    The problem is health care prices are too high. They have to be reduced, but not by third parties making decisions. This is what makes designing something so difficult.

    either directly or (if Obamacare survives) by rolling it into Obamacare as a subsidized policy. The Dem solution is, of course, Medicare-for-all aka single-payer.

    The Dem solution tends toward rationing by government.

    I see. Paring down is what Congress does. They never passed a budget but they did pass some appropriations bills.

    Yes, of course Hiltzik

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  13. did a lazy rip and write from an advocacy organization with no fact checking.

    I don’t think the busy signal statistic has been explained, but I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know if it is true or not that people have been laid off and offices closed. If it is not true, somebody is making some bare-faced lies. If it is true I wouldn’t assume the reason was somebody wanted Social Security not to work administratively.

    I did not know (or remember) that statements are still going out to people near retirement – I think I heard that actually. I think that would be the only thing that could mean someone wants to diminish people’s expectations or reliance on of Social Security (so that it would be easier to cut)

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  14. “I said that was because Obama wants to cut (future) Social Security benefits.”

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 3/25/2014 @ 11:42 am

    Sammy – Citation please.

    I’ll look around for that. I remember articles indicating that was in his budget documents.

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  15. “A person might want to look at this thing only once every 5 or 6 years – but that’s not an argument for not mailing them out every year!”

    Sammy – The person who is interested in looking more frequently than every 5 or 6 years can go online and look it up, because PROGRESS!

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  16. “I don’t think the busy signal statistic has been explained, but I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know if it is true or not that people have been laid off and offices closed.”

    Sammy – Hiltzik certainly didn’t address it, but try to think through it yourself. I touched on it yesterday in the other Hiltzik thread. If more than 40% of your claims have migrated online from in person, why the heck do you need so many freaking offices? Hiltzik also deceives readers by ignoring the offices run jointly by states. The SSA still has more than 1,500 touch points nationwide, while Hiltzik gives an impression it is significantly less.

    On busy signals, the frame of reference should be other government help lines. The information is there. Read a little and actually inform yourself instead of just emoting.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  17. UPDATE: In 1993, busy signals at the 800 number were sometimes between 50 and 90 percent (.pdf). Then the GOP took a meat cleaver!! to the SSA budget and the percentage skyrocketed to between 5% and 10%.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  18. The claim is that busy signals abruptly shot up between Fiscal 2012 and Fiscal 2013.

    Daleyrocks’ document only goes up to FY 2012.

    I know, Sammy. Read the post again. It went to 5% per daleyrocks’ document, and then doubled, apparently back to 10%.

    On the other hand, I think you are right about the government shutdown being in FY 2014. I will update.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  19. Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 3/25/2014 @ 12:07 pm

    If more than 40% of your claims have migrated online from in person, why the heck do you need so many freaking offices? Hiltzik also deceives readers by ignoring the offices run jointly by states. The SSA still has more than 1,500 touch points nationwide, while Hiltzik gives an impression it is significantly less.

    This makes sense, except that, if offices have been closed, wouldn’t there indeed be a budget cut?

    And you say there wasn’t, and it went up.

    I don’t say closing offices is a reduction in service, like Hiltzik’s source claims, although it would be a cut in dues paying union jobs, which of course they would like to mischaracterize as a reduction of service even f it wasn’t.

    On busy signals, the frame of reference should be other government help lines. The information is there.

    Could there be an alternate telephone number?

    I think one possible explanation is that prior to Fiscal 2013 people called local numbers, but later, at some point around October 1, 2012, many may have been re-directed to the national line, which became busy. It can’t be the government shutdown, unless the statistic for Fiscal 2013 is really for calendar year 2013, or was there more than one shutdown?

    Read a little and actually inform yourself instead of just emoting.

    It would be nice to find out the facts.

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  20. [UPDATE: This theory is incorrect, because as a reader notes, the government shutdown took place at the beginning of fiscal year 2014, even though it was in calendar year 2013. So the alleged doubling of busy signals must have some other explanation -- although it seems very hard to believe it was due to a paltry 1% cut in the SSA budget.]

    Patterico (c29bec)

  21. I need my social security I don’t need republicans. Get rid of republicans not social security!

    social security soon (39b7ee)

  22. Even 10% is historically very low.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  23. I believe there may be a performance summary for Fiscal 2013, but I did not link it.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  24. ==So the alleged doubling of busy signals must have some other explanation —

    was Mary Landrieu involved?

    elissa (27f83f)

  25. “It would be nice to find out the facts.”

    Sammy – I think you should try that instead of throwing out unfounded speculation.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  26. “This makes sense, except that, if offices have been closed, wouldn’t there indeed be a budget cut?”

    Sammy – One, have you ever seen government departments voluntarily surrender funding?

    Two, does the cost of automating operations offset reducing physical presence?

    Why don’t you check out the claim of drastic reductions in headcount?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  27. In federal employ, customer service will be cut far before travel budgets, art purchases, conventions, bonuses, and awards.

    This is because the Civil Service Act has given us a permanent bureaucracy which serves no one (although it will shake itself to action to defend its Democratic parents or attack Republicans who dare speak of reform) but itself and its own objectives. The People have no say at all in it.

    The old spoils system of patronage may have been unwieldy at times, but at least when the phones weren’t answered at SSA or IRS, it was the President’s people who did it and he who could be called to account. Today, no one is accountable.

    And no one reads the LAT seriously anymore, thanks in part to the efforts of Mr Frey over the years. So Hiltzik is preaching to the choir, the details are irrelevant. The agencies and numbers and arguments are 100% interchangeable, just leave the GOP as the evildoers and the article is fine by LAT standards.

    Estragon (ada867)

  28. Interesting bar chart on SSA employment and miscellaneous other info at the link.

    http://bestplacestowork.org/BPTW/rankings/detail/SZ00

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  29. … I have paid into Social Security for the requisite number of quarters, but I won’t collect a dime because of rules relating to pensions. …

    This seems unlikely. If you are talking about the windfall elimination provision that just reduces your benefit it doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

    James B. Shearer (9233b4)

  30. Yeah? And what percentage of the people who got this stuff in the mail actually opened it up? I bet that percentage is very small — and that is the relevant comparison point. In other words: true, Internet access to the statements doesn’t mean everyone will sign up — but mail access to the statements doesn’t mean everyone opens them up (or would much care if they stopped coming). Hiltzik’s 6% argument basically assumes everyone reads the statements, but only 6% can figure out how to get online.

    I always opened mine, why wouldn’t you? Although it took me a while to notice, I found it mildly annoying when the government stopped sending these statements. Signing up for a online statement isn’t too difficult but it will be more than some people can manage.

    James B. Shearer (9233b4)

  31. 29

    Or do you have another pension which is coordinated with social security in such a way that the total amount you receive doesn’t depend on how much the social security portion is?

    James B. Shearer (9233b4)

  32. This seems unlikely. If you are talking about the windfall elimination provision that just reduces your benefit it doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

    Oh, well I guess you know better than I, don’t you.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  33. Or do you have another pension which is coordinated with social security in such a way that the total amount you receive doesn’t depend on how much the social security portion is?

    I thought you already determined I will be getting Social Security. Are you backtracking?

    Patterico (c29bec)

  34. I always opened mine, why wouldn’t you? Although it took me a while to notice, I found it mildly annoying when the government stopped sending these statements. Signing up for a online statement isn’t too difficult but it will be more than some people can manage.

    I opened mine a couple of times; almost never. When I did, I figured out that I wouldn’t be getting a dime, and totally lost interest. They kept sending them though. What a horrible shame they stopped.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  35. I thought you already determined I will be getting Social Security. Are you backtracking

    You would still be getting social security but the exact amount wouldn’t be important to you.

    James B. Shearer (9233b4)

  36. Or do you have another pension which is coordinated with social security in such a way that the total amount you receive doesn’t depend on how much the social security portion is?

    I don’t consider it to be “coordinated with Social Security.” That said, the amount I will receive has zero to do with whether I get Social Security or not. You consider that to be “coordinated” with Social Security?

    Also, in my current job, I don’t pay into Social Security. When I worked outside of government, I did. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. I will never see a penny of that — that would be a “windfall” don’t you know.

    God I miss those statements!

    Patterico (c29bec)

  37. I will say: I have not conducted a detailed analysis of this. I got one of those statements, saw the bit about the Windfall Provision, did a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and decided I would not get a dime. Maybe I was wrong. If you’re telling me I’m wrong based on the idea that this could never happen, then I won’t quarrel with you; I just got miffed that (I thought) you were pretending to know my unique situation. But I’m not an expert on this crap and maybe it’s impossible for the Windfall Reduction thing to wipe out my earnings entirely.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  38. I still could not care less about seeing those statements. It does not mean a thing to me right now.

    Patterico (c29bec)

  39. “I always opened mine, why wouldn’t you? Although it took me a while to notice, I found it mildly annoying when the government stopped sending these statements.”

    James B. Shearer – I took 30 seconds to look at them when they came, but before the first Hiltzik post I had no idea they had stopped coming. They were just that important.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  40. Regarding the Windfall Elimination Provision, the SSA explanation is not a model of clarity but it appears to me that the maximum possible reduction is 56% so you will receive at least 44% of the benefit you would otherwise be entitled to.

    From the link above:

    … For those who reach 62 or became disabled in 1990 or later, the 90 percent factor is reduced to 40 percent.

    The effect is that this part of your benefit is reduced by 5/9 (56%). The other parts (if applicable) are unaffected so the maximum possible reduction will be 56%.

    James B. Shearer (9233b4)

  41. 36

    … You consider that to be “coordinated” with Social Security?

    Some private pension plans take the amount of social security benefits you will receive into account in some way when computing the amount of your private pension benefit. This is different from the Windfall Elimination Provision.

    James B. Shearer (9233b4)

  42. And yet, “the government” can somehow find the cash to send millions of glossy oversized color postcards to women and latinos. Cards urging them–almost begging them– to think about whether they might possibly have, just maybe could have, and probably did (if they just think about it hard enough and hire a lawyer) face discrimination when applying for a farm loan sometime in the past. The part about having ever applied for a farm loan seemed rather unimportant, loosey goosey and vague– but the purpose of the mailing, “you may be entitled to free money” without much or any documentation and “government phone banks are standing by to help” (you commit fraud)– was not.

    Pigford all over again.

    elissa (1aca9b)

  43. Comment by elissa (1aca9b) — 3/26/2014 @ 8:12 am

    Pigford all over again.

    This is not Pigford all over again. This is a continuation of Pigford. Pigford number 4 or 5.

    This is Hispanic Pigford.

    There is Pigford, Post-deadline Pigford, Indian Pigford, Hispanic Pigford. and Pigford for women.

    Apparently, you are saying, claims are still open in Hispanic Pigford.

    Sammy Finkelman (d6ef88)

  44. Sammy – Have you managed to assemble any facts yet regarding Hiltzik’s claims regarding Social Security?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  45. Sammy, The cards were sent late last year. I am not Hispanic or native American.

    elissa (1aca9b)

  46. And Sammy, I was talking about the Pigford fraud. Not the name of the program. The government learned nothing from the earlier cases. Well, except that they can easily redistribute wealth to target groups using our tax dollars this way, and the media couldn’t care less.

    elissa (1aca9b)

  47. Sammy,

    Why is it so difficult for you to accept that there is corruption by government officials ?

    Elephant Stone (6a6f37)

  48. “I am not Hispanic or native American.”

    Damn, there go some of my fantasies.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  49. I suppose I could pretend, daley, but I think one Fauxcahontas is enough. I did in fact receive a glossy card, though. Let’s see if Sammy can figure it out.

    elissa (1aca9b)

  50. “I suppose I could pretend, daley”

    elissa – I appreciate the thought. :)

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  51. 44. Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 3/26/2014 @ 12:48 pm

    Sammy – Have you managed to assemble any facts yet regarding Hiltzik’s claims regarding Social Security?

    I thought I have to look for something related to my claim – that President Obama wants to means test Social Security (but characterize it as a Republican idea that he’s adopted in the spirit of compromise)

    Hiltzik claimed that conservatives were forcing cuts in the Social Security budget, (which maybe seems not to be true, so That has to be looked at
    and the cuts were causing the closing of offices (which may be true even if there are no net budget cuts, and if true, may not indicate any decline in services, and if there is a decline in customer service, would not mean that someone despises Social Security)

    And that the Social Security 800 number suddenly became more busy from Fiscal 2012 to Fiscal 2013 (which might be true, but might have a quite different explanation, or might be anillustration of how to lie with statistics)

    And that they stopped sending out these annual notice of Social Security benefits (which was a decision by the Obama Adminsitration, not Congress – and that’s where I said Obama does not want people to anticipate benefits because he wants to cut them)

    And I heard they actually are sent close to retirement, and the excuse for not sending them to everybody who worked that year is that it can be accessed online, which was not the case when they started in 1989 – except that people won’t know about that, and that while people might mostly ignore it, if they didn’t read one year they’d read another year and maybe get interested in finding out how it was calculated and so on.

    Sammy Finkelman (2c707f)

  52. 47. Comment by Elephant Stone (6a6f37) — 3/26/2014 @ 1:21 pm

    Sammy,

    Why is it so difficult for you to accept that there is corruption by government officials ?

    There is corruption. But we may not understand what is going on. It’s not always the simplest thing.

    In he case of Yee, it’s either a much bigger story than what is being amd out (a connection to Phillipine terrorists annot be an isolated incident) or what was really going on is that Yee was trying to swindle someone who sounded extraordinarily stupid (he even told him that he intended to run awy to the Phillipines, and the FBI agent believed him, or gave no indication of not believing him.)

    Sammy Finkelman (2c707f)

  53. Comment by elissa (1aca9b) — 3/26/2014 @ 3:11 pm

    I did in fact receive a glossy card, though. Let’s see if Sammy can figure it out.

    That was Pigford for women.

    It probably came from the lawyers, seeking plaintiffs or members of a class-action.

    It means they are/were close to asettlement, and they must make good-faith efforts to find plaintiffs before they can get their money.

    The settlements probably say that any extra money goes to some non-profit group, but the judge won’t approve the settlement unles sthey tried to find people, or maybe they actually need a certain number or maybe the amount of the settlement is in doubt and the more plaintiffs tghey have, the bigger the settlement and the bogger their compensatrion.

    One thing seems prety clear: The federal government is not really fighting these cases, but it is letting the lawyers do what they want.

    Sammy Finkelman (2c707f)


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