Social Security unionists see threats to the program from the inside, in some ways more subtle than benefit cuts, but just as insidious over the long run.
Jim Campana is an officer in the Government Employees (AFGE) union representing Social Security workers in Lansing, Michigan. He says that after President George W. Bush lost his bid to privatize the program in 2005, “the first thing he did was destroy the security part of Social Security. It used to be that people knew it would be there for them. Now a lot of people have lost that confidence.”
Dana Duggins, a vice president of AFGE Council 220, said administrators have been on a mission “to strip away the reasons why the public rejected privatization.”
Management is making the program less efficient and less user-friendly, and enforcing methods that wrongly lower benefits, while nurturing the seed of doubt that Social Security can last.
Michael Astrue, the Social Security Administration (SSA) commissioner appointed by Bush, went full throttle with an internet claims system. Those seeking retirement or disability benefits are encouraged to fill out forms online.
But with I-claims, Duggins says, “85 percent of the time the person is disadvantaging themselves. They complete the information based on what their neighbor told them. They’re guessing.”
The commissioner, who will be in office until January 2013, has insisted that employees not question information on the applications. “He says everybody these days has their own financial advisor,” Duggins said. “This is the elitist attitude he works from.”I think the AFGE might have some antipathy for Michael Astrue.