I might be a bit old-fashioned, but I like to live my life with the old adage, “every cloud has a silver lining.” I am an eternal optimist who most often sees the glass as half-full, instead of half-empty. So, while many friends have complained about the current government shutdown, I am actually loudly cheering for both sides to keep the government shut down.
Think about it for a minute, at least with a government shutdown, Congress is not able to pass legislation or spend money we don’t have, for things we don’t need, for reasons most Americans will never understand. So, let me share a bit about my own life, my own recent story about the silver lining or glass half-full when it comes to my recent application for Social Security benefits.
Several weeks ago, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration putting me on notice that I would soon be eligible to apply for my Social Security benefits. Being somewhat busy, I had to wait until the following Saturday morning to visit the website and begin the application process. When I signed onto the Social Security website, I was greeted by a message that the website was not currently available, and I would have to return at a later date.
As life often goes, the following week was very busy, and I had to wait until the following Saturday to begin the application process. This time when I visited the website, I learned that I needed to set up a Social Security account before I could begin my application. Because I did not have all of the information necessary to finish setting up the account, I discovered I would have to wait until the following week to contact the Social Security 800-helpline.
The following week, I again was busy and could not call the 800-helpline number until the following Friday. When I dialed the number, I was greeted by a computer voice that explained that while my call was important and Social Security was committed to assisting me, with approximately 50 million Social Security recipients my call would be placed in a queue and it would be answered as soon as someone was available. Having only been casually listening to the recording, I immediately panicked and thought to myself did they say I was number 50 million in the queue or was the waiting time based on the thousands of others waiting to apply for Social Security that day.
Finally, after listening to the same obnoxious male voice for what seemed like hours, I was connected to a real person who quickly answered my questions which allowed me to hang up, sign on to the Social Security website, and begin the application process. I almost wanted to shout for joy as I stood at the proverbial starting line which would hopefully allow me to begin receiving some benefits from the money which I had contributed to Social Security Trust Fund since 1964 when as a young boy I earned the minimum wage of $1.15 from my job stoking furnaces at a local greenhouse.
Well, as with any good story about the government, I quickly learned that the Social Security website application process had a default setting which automatically signed me off of my application approximately every 30 seconds or so of inactivity (at least it seemed like 30 seconds). Finally, after several hours of signing on and being automatically signed off, the moment finally arrived, and I joyously hit the send button. Within a matter of minutes, I received a no-reply email from the Social Security Administration which let me know that my application had been received, and you guessed it, my application had been placed in a queue behind all of the other applications (not sure if that meant all 50 million recipients, or just those who had also recently finished the application process).
Well, as we all know, a couple of weeks ago, the government ran out of money and the government was partially shut down. A couple of days ago, I received another no-reply email from the Social Security Administration that in essence advised me that my application was pending, which I guess means that until non-essential employees return to the Social Security office which is processing my application, my application would be on hold.
This morning as I was sitting at my computer thinking about my birthday, and my pending Social Security benefit application, I got to thinking that maybe Al Gore was right when made that now famous campaign promise that, “I will keep Social Security in a lockbox, and that pays down the national debt.” Although at the time Al Gore made that campaign promise, I was somewhat confused at how you could keep Social Security in a lockbox, yet at the same time pay down the national debt.
After all these years, I now think I finally understand what Al Gore meant. In actuality, I honestly think what Al Gore meant was that we have to keep Americans out of the lockbox, because if we let them look in the lockbox, they will actually discover that the lockbox is empty.
Although I may be wrong, I am now convinced that over the next weeks, months and possibly years, I will continue to receive no-reply emails from Social Security with messages assuring me that my application is being processed, when in reality, the true meaning of these no-reply emails is that government needs to delay my application, and every other application in order to continue to hide the fact that there isn’t any money left in Al Gore’s lockbox, or for that matter the Social Security Trust Fund.
Now, I want everyone to know that I am not complaining. I honestly never believed that Congress would ever get spending under control and stop feeding at the trough of the Social Security lockbox. In any event, if the day ever arrives that I actually begin getting my Social Security benefits that would be great, but I am not holding my breath. What would actually be the silver lining or the glass half-full moment for me would be to see the day arrive when Congress actually decides to end the out of control spending which is being paid for with money from Al Gore’s Social Security lockbox.
In the end, I know what you each of might be thinking when it comes to our chances of Congress ending the out of control spending are probably not very good. In fact, in my opinion any chance that Congress will stop spending money like there is no tomorrow has about as much chance as the day “hell freezes over.”
So, after contemplating life this morning and considering life with an eye toward every rain cloud having a silver lining or every glass in my life being half-full, as a birthday present to myself, I have decided that today I am going to buy a lottery ticket for tonight’s Powerball drawing. That way, if I win the jackpot, I won’t need my Social Security benefits.
And very candidly, I personally like my odds of winning tonight’s Powerball jackpot which I understand is approximately 1 in 175 million, much better than the odds that Congress will actually begin acting like adults, instead of acting like pigs feeding at the trough of the Social Security lockbox.
Mark Wohlander, former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington, Kentucky.
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