President Bush’s new budget that is under a lot of pressure contains another lightning rod, but one that makes a lot of sense.
If President Bush gets his way, the venerable $255 Social Security death benefit will fade into history. And 16- and 17-year-old high school dropouts will lose their monthly survivor payments.Not, however, if Democrats get their way.”The Republican Congress has given a whole new meaning to the term ‘women and children first,'” Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee, said Tuesday.
“There they go again,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads the party’s Senate campaign effort. “They can’t resist trying to cut Social Security, and to cut a survivor, a widow or widower’s benefits, it just shows how warped the priorities are in this budget.”
White House officials defended the proposals, included in the budget that Bush submitted to Congress on Tuesday and estimated to trim costs by $3.4 billion over the next decade.
“Children who have lost a parent need every assistance and encouragement we can provide, and everything the federal government can do to encourage them to stay in school and get an education makes it that much more likely that they can succeed,” said Scott Milburn, a spokesman at the Office of Management and Budget.
“Linking benefits to school attendance provides that encouragement and is, in fact, currently the rule for 19-year-olds. We think more children can be helped by lowering that age to 16,” he said.
Congressional aides said Jo Anne Barnhart, the Social Security Commissioner, had told them during a closed-door briefing on Monday that the $255 one-time death benefit has become an administrative burden, since it is not paid in all cases.
Mark Lassiter, a spokesman at the Social Security Administration, said the benefit “bears no relation to what a person’s funeral expenses are or to any of workers’ earnings levels. We believe that eliminating it is not going to cause an appreciable financial hardship to a survivor.”
I’ve personally observed a situation where a family lost their dad, and the youngest daughter milked the system dry by continuing to pretend she was going to go to school, only to drop out soon after. The girl has finally started to hold down a full time job, but not before going through many different jobs, and living off of my paycheck through taxes.
While I don’t have any problem giving people help, we should be teaching them how to live and how to get by after a loved one is gone, not just handing them money. There should be some kind of accountability for the money we give, and we should expect them to finish school (which is probably what their parent would have expected).