Cuts proposed by House Republicans to programs designed to weed out waste and abuse within Social Security could end up costing taxpayers more in the long run than the spending cuts themselves are designed to save, according to the program’s chief actuary.
An appropriations bill that last week cleared a GOP-led subcommittee slashes 2013 funding for disability reviews and eligibility redeterminations, which seek to ensure that seniors and other eligible beneficiaries don’t receive more funds than they are entitled to. The proposed cuts would shave this specific budget item from the $1.024 billion agreed upon in the debt limit law last year to $272 million, saving nearly $800 million.
In a Thursday letter responding to inquiring House Democrats, Social Security’s chief actuary Stephen C. Goss concludes that cuts will cost taxpayers “between $5 billion and $6 billion more over the lifetime of those who would not be reassessed due to the reduced funding.”
The projection assumes the funding cuts are only for 2013 and restored thereafter. The actuary’s report does not address the impact on taxpayers in later years, but an aide to Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), who requested the report, argued that “it’s safe to say a similar cut in future years would cause additional taxpayer losses of the same magnitude.”
In other words, House Republicans are seeking to eliminate safeguards within the Social Security system that are proven to save taxpayers far more money that they cost. It’s an assessment that Democrats opposed to the cuts were quick to highlight.
“First they voted to end Medicare. Now they have proposed slashing almost $800 million from Social Security’s operating budget,” said Becerra, a leadership member and top Democrat on the Ways & Means subcommittee on Social Security. “What’s worse, the bulk of this reckless cut would shortchange Social Security’s ability to fight waste, fraud and abuse. In the end, as much as $6 billion of the taxpayers’ money could be lost. Social Security’s money should be going towards the benefits of those who have earned it.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) piled on: ‘“No business in America would cut an investment that produces between $6 and $9 in savings for every one dollar spent, but that’s the very plan Congressional Republicans have put forward. They follow their extreme ideology even when it is clearly contradicted by common sense.”
Two Republican aides on the Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill may not get a vote on the House floor, much less become law. Leadership is increasingly inclined to pass a stopgap measure to continue government funding at existing levels when it expires Oct. 1, for fear of being seen as inciting a shutdown just weeks away from Election Day.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.