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Senators protest as Social Security Administration seizes tax refunds

The poor support the wealthy.
By Unknown. The picture of the anonymous cartoon preserved at LC is attributed to Lewis Hine (1874-1940) based on provenance. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For the last three years the Social Security Administration has been seizing people's tax refunds to pay the alleged debts of their parents. There is no court action, no warning, and not even any proof offered as to who truly owns the debt. Victims merely receive a letter about where their refund was redirected.

There is little recourse in this situation. Once the money has changed hands it is much harder to get the government to give it back than if the charges could have been argued in advance. The only way out is if you can afford to hire a lawyer to sue for you, which is why the lower classes are the only ones who will be hurt by this, as usual.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) have written to Social Security’s acting commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, to ask that this practice be stopped.

"While this policy of seizing tax refunds to repay decades-old Social Security overpayments might be allowed under the law, it is entirely unjust," they wrote. "Garnishing taxpayers' refunds to pay for debts that are more than a decade old — and incurred through no fault of their own — is a policy that cannot be continued in good conscience."

The Senators were made aware of the practice when the story of Mary Grice made national news. Grice, 58, is the victim of a stolen tax refund due to alleged inherited debt. When she was four years old her father died. Social Security stepped in to offer survivors benefits to help Mary's widowed mother feed and clothe her five children.

Apparently, Social Security thinks they may have over-payed someone in the Grice family in 1977. Social Security claims to attempt collections by the birth order of the children, but Mary is the middle child in her family and the only one to have been robbed. But when the entire practice is morally objectionable it really doesn't matter what order they bill people in.

"Grice and other families like hers are unfairly being held responsible for decades-old errors at the Social Security Administration — even though many of these taxpayers were children at the time the error was made," Boxer and Mikulski wrote in their plea.

It seems as though everyone in the bureaucracy of government knows this to be indefensible behavior. Fingers are pointing all over the place with no person or agency taking credit for beginning this witch hunt. Just don't make the mistake of thinking it's going to stop.

Tax refunds are becoming the favorite method of governmental enforcement of something that might not hold up in court. If you are accused of debt of any kind, that is not a criminal accusation, therefore you are not innocent until proven guilty. Tax refunds are commonly taken, in transit, to satisfy alleged debt, with the victim rarely knowing about it till after it's gone.

Unless you can afford to hire a lawyer, which isn't likely if you just lost a four or five thousand dollar check you were counting on, then you are out of luck. Welcome to institutionalized class division. The low-hanging fruit can't afford to fight back, so that's who's going to suffer.

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