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Sen. Mike Lee Feigns Outrage That Social Security May Delay Checks He Thinks Are Unconstitutional

By Ian Millhiser on July 15, 2011 at 9:50 am

"Sen. Mike Lee Feigns Outrage That Social Security May Delay Checks He Thinks Are Unconstitutional"

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Tenther U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)

Earlier this week, President Obama made the objectively true statement that, without a debt ceiling hike, he “cannot guarantee” that Social Security checks will go out when they are scheduled to be mailed on Aug. 3 “because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.” In a Fox News interview yesterday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) pretended to care that Social Security would temporarily shut down:

My plan would address the debt limit, and it would continue to allow government to continue to operate, for Social Security checks to continue to be sent out. That’s why I find so insulting the president’s unwillingness to go along with this plan. [...] The president dismissed it out of hand, and the very next day said, let’s go ahead and just cut all the Social Security checks going out to current retirees, without any explanation as to why they would be the first on the chopping block.

I mean, look, when we’re bringing it about $200 billion a month, and our interest payments are less than 10 percent of that, and Social Security payments are about $50 billion, why on earth would you cut Social Security checks first? That doesn’t make any sense to me and I think it’s insulting to America’s retirees.

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First of all, there is literally no one on the planet who has less credibility to present themselves as the great defender of Social Security and America’s seniors than Mike Lee. In a lengthy speech on the Constitution, Lee attacked President Franklin Roosevelt for calling for the federal government to provide “a decent retirement plan” and “health care” because “the Constitution doesn’t give Congress any of those powers.” So Lee doesn’t even think that Social Security (or Medicare, for that matter) should even exist because it violates his tenther understanding of the Constitution.

Nor does Lee understand the federal accounting process any more than he understands the Constitution. Unless the debt ceiling is raised, America is no longer able to borrow more money, and our bank account runs dry on Aug. 2. On Aug. 3, the federal government is supposed to mail out about $23 billion in Social Security benefits, but it will only take in about $12 billion in taxes — leaving an $11 billion shortfall. It won’t matter whether the government will eventually collect the “$200 billion a month” that Lee refers to, because only a fraction of that money will actually be in our bank account when Social Security’s bill comes due.

So the truth is that Obama’s statement is unambiguously correct, and Lee’s statement reveals his utter ignorance of how the federal government works. Moreover, Lee’s claim that he cares one bit about whether seniors receive their Social Security checks doesn’t even approach plausibility given his previous claim that Social Security violates the Constitution.

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