Truly poor depend on national fix

Former repairman Bill Ricker lives in Hartford in an aging trailer. His annual income is $12,036 in Social Security benefits, which is the average amount paid to Maine’s elders.

He heats his home with kerosene, and last year spent $3,200 to stay warm. At last year’s prices, that’s more than 860 gallons of kerosene.

Even with $1,000 in heating assistance funds, the cost to heat Ricker’s home is more than a sixth of his annual income.

That is astonishing, but he has no choice.

He is entirely dependent on his Social Security benefits, and if the nation's social insurance fund collapses, he is ruined.

Ricker bought his trailer in the early 1980s for $7,000 after he became disabled at work, and he can’t afford to move or do much in the way of home repairs. He is too sick to work for extra cash, and his Social Security benefits are consumed by heating costs, rent for the lot where his trailer sits and basic costs of living, including prescription medicines.

He is the kind of American for whom this nation’s social insurance program was signed into law, but his life is one of daily struggle.

Especially when it’s cold outside.

Ricker, like so many other Mainers living in poverty, suffers from a variety of ailments that make getting around hard, and to think that this 74-year-old lugs 860 gallons of fuel from doorstep to heater — about 4 gallons a day — over the course of the heating season is just depressing.

In 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, he acknowledged “we can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life.”

But, he said, “We have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”

That was the admirable aim of Social Security, and the continued mission of that administration is to “deliver Social Security services that meet the changing needs of the public.”

But does it do that?

The federal agency administers the Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program, and Social Security retirement programs.

SSI is a need-based cash program for the disabled and blind; Social Security is essentially a retirement plan paid into by workers who then draw benefits upon retirement.

It would be nice to think that everyone who ever cashed an SSI check is deserving of the benefit, drawn on the payroll tax-funded Social Security Fund.

Nice, but naive.

SSI is designed for people with limited income and assets, and most people who apply for benefits are truly in need.

Too many, however, are not.

Go to any Maine Superior Court on a general plea hearing day and you’ll witness a line of defendants who are fined for their crimes but who cannot, they say, afford to pay the fine because they’re “on disability.”

So their fines are waived. Punishments erased.

These are people with enough ingenuity to get drugs and alcohol, and enough skill and time to break into our homes and steal our possessions, but they’re too disabled to work? Instead, they’re collecting SSI checks and pleading poverty.

So, while Bill Ricker — a former pastor — is living in genuine poverty, there is a constant parade of crooks and thieves moving through our courtrooms, existing on a social insurance program that they have not contributed to.

Talk about a scam.

We hear so much about saving Social Security. Maybe we should talk a little more about fixing it.

People like Bill Ricker depend on it.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Frank Lambert's picture

Truly poor depend on national fix

What people do not understand is Social Security was never meant to be the only retirement befit for retirement. Individuals were supposed to invest in IRA’s and other saving endeavors to supplement retirement. I work hard every day to put food on the table and make sure my bills are paid. I invest in a Roth IRA and a TSP. I do not think I will see and Social Security benefits because the system is broke. There needs to be a fix and both Republicans and Democrats need to come together for a fix instead of the parties fight for the idiotic ideals and put the people of America first. We cannot become socialist nation were the government pays for everything. People need to stand up pay their own way through life instead expecting hand out from the government.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If SSI is a program for the

If SSI is a program for the disabled and blind it is an absolute farce. You just have to look around to see that it's been turned into a welfare program for slackers, fakers, addicts and drunkards. What a shameful sham.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

No, and no..It's because I

No, and no..It's because I pay taxes and I recognize fraud and abuse when I witness them. It's all around us; you're not blind, are you?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

When I see a guy who's openly

When I see a guy who's openly on SSI disability hauling a pack of roofing shingles up a ladder onto his roof, I see a faker.
When I see a guy who smokes more pot than the average zombie, blames his inability to work on his "addiction", and is allowed to collect SSI disability, I see a slacker. No particular expertise. You're not blind and neither am I. I look and I see. You look and refuse to see.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I didn't ask you to. We're

I didn't ask you to. We're here to share opinions, information, and perhaps comraderie, remember? None of us expects to always be right OR wrong, and there is nothing wrong with either. There is nothing judgemental about eye-witnessing people abusing a system being paid for by taxpayers. Some would call it awareness. The parrot calls it fraud, and he's a liberal, as you know.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Truly poor depend on national fix

. . Claire and Gary ,
Practice a little compassionate conservatism why don'ja and go and volunteer some where , any where
for http://www.aspca.org h t h <3 Steve Dosh R P C V Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Micro ' 78 http://www.peacecorps.gov 13:22 hst • Tuesday

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

How about a little thinking?

It's all well and good to vent some spleen about these folks but what does that solve? So there are folks in this country who are too stupid, crazy, lazy and addicted to go out and get a job. Or any job they could get would not earn enough to pay for food or rent. So what do we do? The usual conservative solutions involve jail. Feels good but not terribly smart given the cost of incarceration. Keep in mind a lot of these guys cannot get a job because they have been incarcerated. Sometimes preaching works but rarely. Are we recommending chain gangs? Starvation? Not very constitutional. So how about some solutions?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Truly poor depend on national fix

. . Good editorial ?  Even the r i c h receive social security . Thank goodness it wasn't privatized by the Bush administration . Imagine if this poor soul had no social security whatsoever ? At least veterans ( M/F ) can go to Togus if things get really , r e a l l y bad , most of 'em any way . We used to find frozen ones in the spring during the thaw . .if their pets hadn't eaten them first
This is what social workers at Togus VA do for a living
We have a tight community fabric here in Hawai'i for these issues , plus , it never gets cold . Every Friday they , the older folks , meet at the local Catholic church for their free food , haircuts , and comraderie
Today i had a chat with one guy at the barbershop about his medical condition . He is a WW II veteran by the name of Bernie . He fought for the Germans . My son Larry gets US$10/hr. to help a Henry Klein ( another WW II vet - US ) with his house in the jungle . This is a Hawai'i state funded program . It seems that the Eastern cultures ( read : Japanese Americans ) care more about their elders than a lot of the rest of the U S
Hawai'i has the longest longevity rate of any state in our blessed union
Thanks for the insight in to Maine , the way life ought to be
Thank goodness our President fixed the medical sysetem , got Osama Bin forgotten , got us out of one war ( Iraq ) , and has laid his cards on the table with the various intransigent Republicans
/s, Steve Dosh , Pahoa , ode to the common man --> http://www.ketzle.com/frost/deathire.htm

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

..."Thank goodness it wasn't

..."Thank goodness it wasn't privatized by the Bush Administration"..."Thank goodness our President fixed the medical system"...

Steve, the Pirate, bottle of rum in hand, would love to have a sitdown with you and discuss these two issues. Thank goodness it probably won't happen.

 's picture

He did what?

If it isn't repealed, Obamacare will destroy the best medical system on the planet, and every time he mentions health care, the likelihood of repeal increases. He got us out of Iraq, sort of, and into Libya, where he seems eager to welcome an Al Qaeda government. The cards he has put on the table are all jokers and he has more intransigence than he can handle from his own party.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Amen, to that, Brother.

Amen, to that, Brother.

RONALD RIML's picture

And just 'How'

Do we have the best medical system on the planet there, Frostproof?? Perhaps the most expensive.

But as you have ridiculed my books as being only for the 'well to do' and 'elite' - how much different is the American Health Care system for those who cannot afford it???

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If America's system, though

If America's system, though admittedly in need of serious tweaking,isn't the best sytem in the world,why do so many Canadians and Europeans come to America for serious healthcare?

RONALD RIML's picture

Just how many Canadians come to America??

Just how many Canadians come to America for their health care? A 2002 study by Katz, Cardiff, et al., reported the number of Canadians using U.S. services to be "barely detectible relative to the use of care by Canadians at home" and that the results "do not support the widespread perception that Canadian residents seek care extensively in the United States. See Phantoms In The Snow: Canadians’ Use Of Health Care Services In The United States

That border does work two ways. I've had friends go north to have laser eye surgery to correct nearsightedness. A procedure which routinely costs well over $1,000 and not covered by insurance here in the States is well under $500 in Canada.

Many Americans also flock to foreign countries for procedures - both necessary and elective - which are much less expensive and preformed just as well as here. Google "Medical Tourism" for details. Knee replacement surgery costing $50,000 here in the States may be performed for $10,000 in India - $15,000 in Thailand, and $12,000 in Singapore. And these countries are far from being '3rd world' providers any longer.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yes, but cost

Yes, but cost notwithstanding, where would you go for YOUR knee replacement? I said America's system was the best; I never said it was cheap-ER. That $50 grand you quote for a knee replacement sounds pretty high. I'd be very surprised if a person couldn't get a knee replacement for under $20 grand right here in L/A.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Are you nuts?

A one hour procedure to repair a small hernia at CMMC costs $18,000. I can't even imagine the cost for a knee replacement!

RONALD RIML's picture

?????

What do you base your opinion that "America's system was the best?"

For efficacy of health care delivery, we decidedly are not.

Or are you discussing 'profits?'

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If our system is so bad, why

If our system is so bad, why are you still here taking advantage of it? (ha ha)

RONALD RIML's picture

The availability is it's worst attribute.

Luckily it's available to me as I made some wise decisions.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Can't disagree with that.

Can't disagree with that. Pity those who have made the wise decisions are also burdened with carrying those who have not been so wise. No, Tron, I'm net referring to the misfortunate ones.

 's picture

I didn't say ...

... your books were for the 'well to do' and 'elite'. You did. If that's "ridicule", blame yourself.

Indeed, our medical system is very expensive. When you have a medical issue of some magnitude, which country do you head for? Right, you stay right here because you know you'll get the best care and someone else will take care of most or all the expense. Do you use the VA? Or is the better deal the insurance paid by the good people of Kankakee?

Currently the people who can't afford health care get it free of charge. The biggest single danger to that cushy deal is Obamacare.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

The health care mandate . . .

. . . in Obamacare, and Romneycare, was a Republican idea hashed out by GOP think tanks -- then disavowed by the GOP because . . . well, for no good reason at all.

You last sentence is utter rubbish. The "free" health care people without insurance get is big bucks -- hundreds of billions upon billions -- which gets passed to . . . those with insurance, through higher rates. Duh.

Why an earth do you need insurance to get a car, but not for your life? Everyone should have to have health insurance, like it or not. It is called common sense. And it shouldn't be linked to one's employer -- too many folks are shackled to jobs they hate simply because they can't risk looking for a better job that has less or no health benefits. And employers rightfully loathe having to be in the health care loop -- too expensive and hurtful to job growth.

And Obamacare hasn't even been inacted yet. Yet the sky is falling. Don't worry, the Roberts' Court will almost certainly rule it unconstutional in 2012, even though the mandate has been affirmed by the courts so far.

Incidentally, here's a look at the four types of health care systems in the workd today: http://www.pnhp.org/single_payer_resources/health_care_systems_four_basi...

 's picture

It's free to those who receive it.

Kris, hold on a second ... 2..3..4.. OK, I'm calmer now. Of course, Kris, you and I are paying for all that free care through our hiked premiums. I didn't believe I needed to state in print something so obvious. Duh.

After that nonsense, I pretty much agree with what you said. However, if Obamacare is so great, why does it allow the "young" to weasel out and pay a slap-on-the-wrist tax penalty if they don't buy insurance? Why does it do that while eviscerating Medicare at the other end of the spectrum? The answer is that the administration thinks the youth vote is the key to reelection. They need to look at the geezer polls in Florida, which went for the O in '08 and has since done a 180 and then some.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

I never wrote Obamacare was great.

I don't think even Obama himself thinks it's great. But it was the best he and the (willing parts of) Congress could come up with yet still have a chance to pass into law. It was no small feat in getting health care passed.

I will admit that his focus three years agod should have been on jobs and the economy. The Great Recession has been a bigger doozy than almost anyone would have figured a few years ago. It's easy to armchair QB the economy, though. Clearly, outisde forces -- the European debt crises, undervalued Chinese currency, the Arab Spring, two wars, the Isreali situation, et al. -- have had a major impact on the US economy. And I doubt a McCain presidency would've done much better, if not worse, although that's purely a hypothetical.

However, if we can fund wars of choice like Iraq, we certainly can, through reasonable taxing and closed loop holes, pay for health insurance for all Americans.

Finally, he biggest problem with health care is that there is too much money involved. Where's there's huges somes of money to be made, there's rampant fraud and abuse. (See: Wall St.)

Oh, and we live too damn long anymore. Living to 85-90 takes away limited resources from the younger generations that haven't even lived their lives yet. (And the AARP has the politicians by the cojones.)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You're referring to the

You're referring to the health insurance plan that had to be passed so we could find out what was in the bill, right?

RONALD RIML's picture

What one was that???

The "Affordable Health Care for America Act" was available on http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php

RONALD RIML's picture

Look at what we spend on 'Healthcare"

The U.S. spends the largest percentage of it's GDP of all countries on 'Healthcare' - 14.6% - see Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (most recent) by country

No surprise there - we're one of the few countries where health care is run as a 'For Profit' rather than a 'For Service' entity. Another reason why - though we consider ourselves a leading 1st world country, we have a relatively high infant mortality rate - A report published...by WHO said babies born in the U.S. have a higher risk of dying within the first month of life than babies born in 40 other countries. See - http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/206534/20110831/infant-mortality-newborn...

And note that our lifespan is nothing to brag about either, being 50th out of 221 countries - see https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/21...

Obviously we're not getting a return on our spending in health - though I'll be investors are seeing a return in their portfolio.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

How much of that 14.6% do you

How much of that 14.6% do you suppose those who have no health insurance (everyone gets healthCARE regardless of insurance coverage) are responsible for, but it gets tacked onto the premiums and costs of those who are paying for coverage whether they be employers or employees?

RONALD RIML's picture

Hello;

I'm Guido from the Mob... And I'm here to collect your Health Insurance Premium

Because that's what all 'Insurance' is - because if we are all going to get 'healthcare' (not really) one way or another as you claim - then the Insurance Industry is nothing more than a 'Non-Value Added' Cost appended to the system.

Imagine what could be done with those resources if Guido and Lucrezia found some other 'Gig' which actually produced a Value-added product.

RONALD RIML's picture

Again

You prove your ignorance..... (But what else is new)

Read my profile - retired from the military; I've earned 'Tri-Care' But if you're curious as to whether or not Kankakee offers it's retirees paid medical - give them a call and ask. They'll laugh at you like the crazy/uninformed man you are.

Sadly - we rank fairly low for the effectiveness of our health care system; many Americans avail themselves of what's known as "Medical Tourism" - Google that and familiarize yourself with an entirely new facet of medical consumerism that neither Fox nor Rush aren't talking about.

So what's your choice of plans???

 's picture

My plan?

I have a high deductible policy because it's what I can afford ($850/mo), courtesy of decades of Democrat incompetence. Thankfully, the current governor and legislature have begun to unravel it. I may actually be able to afford comprehensive insurance again, for a little while - until Obamacare once again hikes costs out of sight. I wish you luck with your tax-payer funded health care. Just be advised that John Baldacci's new job is at the Pentagon, screwing up military health insurance, based on his vast experience here.

I have read your profile, a load of self-serving horn tooting from someone with a severe case of delusions of grandeur.

RONALD RIML's picture

So what is it, Lad

Your silence is deafening, FrostProof.

After criticizing my profile - answer this.

Do you have any military service to put up on yours?? Don't be shy - you can brag.

 's picture

Your whining is normally loud.

Sorry, Rimmie, I had better things to do yesterday than read your whining, pestering demands. If your memory wasn't so shot, you would know that I have already answered that question and I thanked you for your service. But I'll try again - maybe you can retain it for more than 20 minutes.

No, Rimmie, I have never served in any branch of the military. While you were floating around south-east Asia like a fuzzy cork, I was in college first with a deferment and then with a high lottery number. In '70 I "deployed" overseas as a civilian contractor, beginning a 40+ year career of paying high taxes to cover benefits for ungrateful braggarts. You should thank me - don't be shy. I'll pause now until pigs fly and sing arias.

RONALD RIML's picture

I'll thank you

for your obvious graciousness exceeded only by your utter arrogance.

So draft-dodging paid high dividends as a tax liability. There is Justice in the Tomato Patch.

 's picture

Did you enlist, Rimmie?

Or did the Democrat draft catch you?

When I was working overseas, I took full advantage of the expatriate tax "loopholes" (much better now) to reduce my tax liability to zero. Only after I came home did my taxes go through the roof.

So now you're in "business", without employees, of course, selling books to the elite. I assume you collect sales tax and send it on to Augusta. If I'm wrong, you MRS lurkers should pay attention. Do you take all the deductions you're "entitled" to on your income tax? If so, you're not paying your "fair share", but I'll bet you'll absolve yourself. If you're looking for justice, you'll never find it under the rules that allow you to ride while others pull.

RONALD RIML's picture

I imagine

You save quite a bit of $$ on fertilizer with all BS and Vitriol you drip around the tomato patch......

Do you have acid proof boots??

 's picture

To quote you from yesterday ...

... your silence is deafening. Couldn't find Canada?

RONALD RIML's picture

Old cop tactic...

You can't reason with drunks and crazy people.....

RONALD RIML's picture

So tell us

When you signed on the dotted line and served your country.....

RONALD RIML's picture

So Frostproof...

Did you Serve or did you Skate.....?

 's picture

You should be ashamed of yourself, Breton, ...

... for believing the trust fund fairytale. The SS taxes we pay go directly into the general fund which pays for SS, SSI, and everything else. Most left-wing wackos understand that, although they pretend not to when in full pander mode.

 's picture

Prove it, Danny.

Call the SSA and demand a report on the current status of your "account", with principal value plus earned interest. The answer will be very polite bureaucratese that translates to: You fool! You don't have an account, never have had an account, and every penny you and your employers paid on your behalf was immediately squandered by Congress. Have a nice day.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Dan, either way you look at

Dan, either way you look at it, it's money that these folks are stealing from those that really need it because they are too lazy to take responsibility for themselves. That's what the editorial is about. Too deep for you, though, I guess.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

SSI, taxpayer funded, is

SSI, taxpayer funded, is welfare for slackers, fakers, addicts and drunkards, wherever the shoe fits.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Common sense, I guess. I

Common sense, I guess. I could go on, but why bother.

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