The Kochs and the Waltons have their patrimonial dynasties.
The Bushes and the Clintons have their political dynasties.
And just so we won't feel left out, we regular folk have been gifted with our very own debtor dynasties.
Now that the deficit hawks and the plutocrats who own them have been at least temporarily rebuffed in their quest to trim (Democrats) and slash (Republicans) the safety net, the poobahs have decreed that we are now responsible for our ancestors' alleged Social Security overpayments, even if they date back to the last century.
So, if you were hoping for an income tax refund this year and you were orphaned as long ago as the 60s, and your surviving parent or guardian had collected survivor benefits to feed and clothe you, the government just might try to claw some of that money back. They don't even have to supply you with any proof of overpayment. They don't have to obey the various laws exempting children from the debts of their deceased parents. They just keep the money you were counting on to feed and clothe yourself and your own children.
Marc Fisher of the Washington Post has the whole unbelievable story:
A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.
When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.
Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.All told, writes Fisher, almost $2 billion in refunds have been intercepted by the Treasury this year alone. Very old alleged debts account for $75 million of the confiscated money. And it's all the result of a sneaky little rider tucked into the Farm Bill three years ago. You remember the Farm Bill, the latest version of which cut several billion dollars from the food stamp budget? And which President Obama glowingly touted as shrinking the deficit? (along with shrinking millions of stomachs from lack of food.)
According to the Post, not one government official was willing to take credit for confiscating tax refunds from those hard-working Americans. Obama, though, loves to praise people for their "grit and resilience," for having no choice but to accept those euphemistic hard choices. I hope somebody asks him about this, newly fresh as he is from his Texas speech where he praised himself as the human culmination of LBJ's Civil Rights legislation. I would like to hear about the discrepancy between his civil rights and those of Ms. Grice (she is black) and thousands like her.
Ironically, she works for the federal government (Food and Drug Administration), so this is pretty much a quadruple whammy for her. First, Obama froze her pay. Then, Obama instituted the Insider Threat program requiring her co-workers to turn her in if she has personal or financial problems. Third, she was furloughed last year when the government shut down. And now, the government is taking back nearly $3,000 of her hard-earned money in order to satisfy a debt that may or may not be valid. Luckily, she has a lawyer to sue on her behalf. Whether she is now considered a threat for talking to the press is another story.
Update: Ms. Grice's senator is shocked, shocked at this travesty she knew nothing about, and has hastened to write a strongly-worded letter to the Social Security Administration requesting that their conscience be their guide in future generational thefts.
Update 2: The Social Security Administration dug deep and located the remnants of its moral compass. I say remnants because due to popular outcry, it will only "suspend" clawing back from survivors alleged over-payments to deceased relatives pending a more thorough review, and only for alleged debts less than 10 years old. So your parent or guardian received payments on your behalf after 2003, you're still on the hook if the government says you are. It's a good thing this is an election year -- that miraculous time when congress critters get all interested in doing stuff for their constituents, and clamoring for press time to brag about same.