The Social Security Act (Act of August 14, 1935) [H. R. 7260] “An act to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health…”
Along with Medicare, to which Social Security’s success is inextricably linked, Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty measure in our country’s history.
Social Security keeps 22 million Americans out of poverty, including 15 million elderly Americans, according to research from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and pays more money to children than any other government program. In the tattered remains of the American social safety net, Social Security remains of the strongest links.
But beneath the surface of this New Deal mainstay, there is a history, and a present reality of exclusion, discrimination, and loss.
Race, Politics, and the Bogus Fight over Reallocation
Chris Jordan worked all his life. Mr. Jordan (a pseudonym) is a 52 years old African-American man and suffers from congestive heart failure. He grew up near Bread for the City’s Northwest Center and used to play basketball at the Kennedy playground, which has since become the Kennedy Recreation Center.
If you follow this blog with any regularity you’ve probably seen several posts focusing on Bread for the City’s campaign to change the third-party referral system for local food pantries. Here a ‘referral’ means a written letter from an agency/organization vouching that a client ‘deserves’ access to food, clothing, furniture, or other goods. Referrals were required as proof of a client’s eligibility – regardless of any primary proofs they could provide on their own (income statements, lease etc).
Forced Annuitization and the Grim Realities of Racial Health Disparities
“You just get out what they put in/But they never put in enough” —Stephen Merritt, The Magnetic Fields
Social Security redistributes money from African-Americans to white Americans. This claim might sound outrageous to those with prejudiced views of public benefits and those who understand the effects of Social Security’s progressive benefits formula, but it nonetheless is true, according to a 2013 paper by C Eugene Steurle, Karen E. Smith, and Caleb Quakenbush of the Urban Institute.
Bread for the City has written extensively on this blog about the 2004 Language Access Act, and most notably, the DC Department of Human Services’ (DHS) repeated failures to follow the law. Senior Supervising Attorney Allison Miles-Lee testified before the DC Council on July 1st in support of the Language Access for Education Amendment Act, and about what she is witnessing on the front lines each day.
The SSI Resource Limit and Home Ownership Exclusion
Ms. Smith, a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient, came to me with a writ of restitution. That meant that her landlord would soon show up at her door with Federal Marshalls and a moving crew to throw her and her stuff out on the street.
We schlepp a lot of food. Like, a lot. Every week, our drivers retrieve thousands of pounds of healthy, wholesome, delicious groceries from all across the city, which means our trucks get more than their fair share of wear and tear.
When it became obvious late last year that one of our two trusty box trucks wasn’t going to make it past Valentine’s Day, we reached out to our community for help covering this un-budgeted expense. And we were blown away by the response. I’m pleased to introduce our fab new truck (with lift!) in all its glory. BEHOLD!