From the Clocktower – Leaders should make government work for those who can’t

A newspaper published just north of Lockhart embraces this spirit during the holiday season with a series they call the “Season for Caring,” which spotlights families and individuals in need, who are nominated to the program by non-profit organizations; the “Season for Caring” series asks readers to fulfill Christmas wishes for those families and individuals, many of whom have – through no fault of their own – slammed up against circumstances that would shake the faith of even the strongest folks out there.

One of the stories made me physically ill.

It spotlights the plight of Curtis Dorrell, a 48-year-old father of two, suffering with congestive heart failure, who lives in his pickup truck in a North Austin parking lot. After losing his job working in mold remediation – thanks in large part to repeated cases of pneumonia – he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. His luck spiraled from there, and he finally wound up living in his broken-down truck in the parking lot.

The Social Security Administration has repeatedly denied his applications for disability.

Stories like this shake me to the core, and usually make me stop and think.

I used to office down the hall from an attorney who handled almost nothing except Social Security disability claims. He once told me that the government rarely, if ever, approves disability benefits after the first request is filed. I gathered from his elevator rantings that the “system” is structured in such a manner that people pay into it their entire lives for the “promise” of assistance, and then wind up having to fight like dogs – very, very sick dogs – to hold the government’s feet to the fire on that promise.

Meanwhile, the same “system” bends over backwards to help those who have never paid a cent into it. People pillage the system without flinching, and the government sits back and allows it to happen. That, coupled with the loans Congress has approved out of the Social Security trust fund… No wonder the system is going broke.

The government punishes people who can’t work, and rewards people who prefer not to. We pay tax refunds to people who don’t pay taxes. And we deny claims to folks who have worked hard all their lives and fall on hard times.

If that’s the American Dream, I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s turned into a nightmare.

We all know that things are tough out there, for everyone. The present state of the economy isn’t what anyone would call friendly, and now, during the Lame Duck session, and after the first of the year when the newly-elected Congress reconvenes, our leaders have a lot of work to do.

Balancing the budget is high on that list.

One can hardly turn on the news or pick up a paper without seeing and hearing lipservice on both sides of the aisle about tax cuts, spending, and making things better for America’s working class.

What about men and women like Mr. Dorrell? Who’s focused on making his life better – or at the very least livable? Didn’t he, and probably thousands like him, spend a lifetime paying into “the system,” only to find himself shut out of “security” now, when he needs it most?

If our leadership wants to help, they need to start focusing on the breaks in the system – not by throwing more money at them, but by plugging the gaps, closing the loopholes, and making the government work, for a change.
kathibliss@post-register.com

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