President Biden is going to have a press conference this afternoon, and I wish someone would ask him why around 30,000,000 people on Social Security, disability, veterans, and railroad pensions haven’t gotten their stimulus payments yet. Furthermore, why hasn’t he fired two Trump holdovers at the Social Security Administration who are holding up the payments and who are trying to destroy Social Security?
Social Security hasn’t handed over payment information that the Internal Revenue Service needs to send the coronavirus relief checks to nearly 30 million people receiving retirement or disability benefits, Democrats said.
“We understand that these beneficiaries are waiting because the Social Security Administration has not sent the necessary payment files to the Internal Revenue Service,” House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
Several Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), had previously urged President Joe Biden to fire Saul, a Donald Trump appointee whose term doesn’t expire until 2025. Biden has hesitated to do so even though he’s fired other Trump holdovers in other agencies before their terms have ended.
The IRS has sent more than 127 million payments so far. Neal and other members of his committee earlier this week asked Social Security and the IRS to explain the delayed payments to Social Security beneficiaries.
In Wednesday’s letter, Democrats said they became “aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021” ― and that Social Security still hasn’t provided the information.
People in these categories are the poorest of the poor, including Social Security recipients who don’t have enough income to file tax returns.
We are giving the trump-appointed heads of the Social Security Admin **24 Hours** to get off their backsides and stop delaying sending stimulus checks to 30,000,000 Americans. pic.twitter.com/zsx7t9vKvC
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) March 24, 2021
President Biden is facing increasing pressure to remove two Social Security Administration officials appointed by his Republican predecessor, a standoff that could test the limits of his ability to undo Donald Trump’s legacy.
The brewing controversy surrounds Andrew Saul and David Black, the agency’s commissioner and deputy commissioner, whom Trump appointed to fixed-term positions that don’t end until 2025. As term appointees, they can’t be removed by Biden except for cause, but unions and Capitol Hill alike are demanding that Biden find a way to remove them, accusing them of creating a toxic work environment, contributing to low morale due to staff cuts, and sidelining the agency’s administrative law judges.
The continued presence of the Trump appointees underscores the difficulties the Biden administration faces when trying to roll back some of the previous administration’s efforts to reshape the federal government. While traditional political appointees must resign or face being fired when a new administration comes in, presidents are also able to install fixed-term employees to boards and other government positions that can outlast their administration.
Saul, a New York businessman and Republican donor, and Black, a former Bush administration staffer, have been in their positions since 2019. According to critics, the two officials have engaged in “no-holds-barred union busting” and eliminated the agency’s pre-pandemic telework program, forcing over 10,000 employees to commute to work — a rule change that continues despite the onset of COVID-19. (That did not apply to Saul, who reportedly continued to work from home as thousands of his employees commuted during the onset of the pandemic.)
There’s more at the Yahoo News link.
Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and his Deputy David Black "are sabotaging the Biden administration by delaying relief checks."
— SocialSecurityWorks (@SSWorks) March 25, 2021
Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul & his deputy David Black have illegally pressured judges to deny disability claims.
— SocialSecurityWorks (@SSWorks) March 25, 2021
As we all know, there’s another Trump holdover working as quickly as he can to destroy the Post Office.
The Washington Post: USPS chief DeJoy cuts post office hours, lengthens delivery times in new 10-year plan.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday unveiled the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation, part of a 10-year plan that includes longer first-class delivery windows, reduced post office hours and higher postage prices.
DeJoy presented his long-awaited strategic vision for the U.S. Postal Service during a Tuesday webinar. Portions of the initiative already made public have raised alarms from postal advocates, who say they could further erode agency performance. Mailing industry officials warn that substantial service cuts could drive away business and worsen its already battered finances.
But DeJoy has cited the need for austerity to ensure more consistent delivery and rein in losses. The agency is weighed down by $188.4 billion in liabilities, and DeJoy told a House panel last month that he expects the Postal Service to lose $160 billion over the next 10 years. Without the plan, Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Ron Bloom said, the agency’s future was “profoundly threatened.”
DeJoy’s plan to make up that projected shortfall largely depends on Congress repealing a retiree health care pre-funding mandate and allowing postal workers to enroll in Medicare. The agency also will ask President Biden to order a review of how much the Postal Service should have paid into its pension funds, and credit the mail agency with any overpayments.
DeJoy projected these steps would save the agency $58 billion over the next decade, and the agency could make up the rest through postage rate increases ($44 billion in new revenue), “self-help” cost cutting in mail processing, transportation and administrative efficiencies ($34 billion), and revenue from package volume and price increases ($24 billion).
Fire the USPS board. Fire dejoy. Save the Post Office. https://t.co/rFXd0aSip1
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) March 25, 2021
USA Today has an interesting piece on Biden by Paul Brandus: Biden is using FDR as his role model. He’s made the no-drama Obama era look wild.
Presidents get to decorate the Oval Office any way they want, and it’s usually telling. Joe Biden for example, requested that five portraits be hung around the fireplace. There’s George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and one of the greatest Americans who never became president: Alexander Hamilton.
And in the middle of this esteemed group is a fifth portrait in a place of honor over the fireplace: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Biden, who will be the last president who lived during FDR’s momentous era, deeply admires our 32nd president, and it shows in both his style and way of governing.
No president since Roosevelt inherited the kind of mess that confronted Biden, and he has responded as FDR did: By throwing big money at problems. The ink on the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan is barely dry, and now the White House is set to unveil a $3 trillion infrastructure plan.
There’s also talk of reforming the biggest federal program of all: Social Security, which Roosevelt launched in 1935, and which is now paying out more cash than it’s bringing in. In Washington, the word “reform” is usually a code word for more spending.
Hmmm….I hope that will involve lifting the cap on the payroll tax so that rich people have to contribute more to Social Security and Medicare.
Biden’s style — specifically how he communicates with the American people — is also a page from the FDR playbook. Two months into his presidency, he has been surprisingly disciplined and economical with his words and appearances. The verbal gaffes that dogged him throughout his long career in Washington are nowhere to be seen. I’m sure he’ll make a boo-boo eventually (he’s Joe Biden, after all) but after four years of a president who lied about everything, a gaffe on Biden’s part these days will be seen as an honest mistake, humanizing, even charming to a certain degree.
Roosevelt is remembered for his famous Fireside Chats. Forgotten, however, is how infrequently he gave them. During his 12 years in office — bookended by America’s greatest 20th century crises, the Great Depression and World War II — he took to the airwaves just 30 times. Just two or three times a year. The rarity of his appearances amped up the drama and attention when he did speak.
But, unlike Biden so far, FDR gave lots of press conferences, Brandus writes. He recommends that Biden make his first formal appearance before the D.C. press corps as boring as possible.
The news media is trying to gin up the drama for this, and Biden will certainly be asked about tough issues that already are challenging his smooth operation — including immigration problems at the southern border and the mass shootings in the Atlanta area and Boulder, Colorado. But he knows this and will be prepared.
If Biden’s lucky, his first news conference will be a dull affair. It will also likely be a rare one. Why? Here’s the deal. With platforms like Twitter, Facebook and all the rest at their fingertips, modern-day presidents need reporters and the press less than ever. We saw this during the campaign, when Biden gave individual interviews but rarely held news conferences. The pandemic was a good excuse to pull back even further.
In other news, There’s been an attempted copycat supermarket shooting in Georgia; fortunately it was short-circuited.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Man took 6 guns, body armor into Publix at Atlantic Station, cops say.
Just two days after a mass shooting left 10 people dead at a Colorado supermarket, Atlanta police arrested a 22-year-old man who walked into a Publix at Atlantic Station with six guns and body armor.
Police were called to the grocery store on Atlantic Drive just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and met with a manager who told them a man came in with a rifle and headed straight toward a bathroom, authorities said.
Police identified the man as Rico Marley. He was booked into the Fulton County Jail on multiple charges of criminal attempt to commit a felony and weapons possession. Marley is scheduled for a first appearance before a judge Thursday morning.
The witness who saw 22 y/o Rico Marley in the bathroom with the AR-15 told us tonight he may have helped prevent a mass shooting. Charles Russell says the tragedy in Boulder was definitely on his mind. https://t.co/gMZBvbwWT8 pic.twitter.com/3fdUm4u7Om
— Matt Johnson (@MattWSB) March 25, 2021
Remember the elderly Asian woman who fought back against her attacker in San Francisco? She’s in the news again.
Xiao Zhen Xie, the 75-year-old woman who was punched by a white man in San Francisco — and then fought back by smacking him with a board — will not keep the nearly $1 million that has been donated for her medical expenses. Her grandson says Xie insists on donating the money to help defuse racism against the Asian American community.
“She insists on making this decision saying this issue is bigger than Her,” John Chen wrote in an update on the fundraising site GoFundMe.
Xie was attacked on San Francisco’s Market Street last Wednesday, the morning after six women of Asian descent were killed in a shooting rampage in the Atlanta area — the worst incident in a broader spike in incidents that have targeted the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Xie, who is originally from China, had been waiting to cross the street when she was suddenly hit in the face. San Francisco Police say the suspect, Steven Jenkins, punched Xie minutes after he assaulted an 83-year-old Asian man. The suspect was being chased by a security guard when he hit Xie.
In the moment, her instinct was to fight back, her family told TV station KPIX. They said that Xie, while badly hurt, responded by grabbing a wooden board and hitting the man.
Jenkins, 39, was left with a bloody mouth and is facing charges of assault and elder abuse.
I’ll end with this argument that violence against women is a hate crime. Click the link to read the article at The Atlantic.
Many are outraged that officials appear hesitant to classify the Atlanta shootings as a hate crime. But the call for hate-crime prosecution would be better served by an understanding that such designations are often purely symbolic, @saigrundy writes: https://t.co/kx84Rqosnh
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) March 25, 2021
As always, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind today?