The love of liberals for National Public Radio is one of those things that I am never going to understand. That NPR seal of approval is even stronger than the New York Times seal of approval in that no amount of terribleness will dent that love, even when it is NPR interviewing John Bolton about Afghanistan today.
Well, for decades no one was more associated with public radio than Garrison Keillor with his odious Prairie Home Companion (at least the music redeemed part of the show). As it has turned out, Keillor is a genuinely horrible human being, a creep and predator. So will it surprise you to know that Keillor also has awful politics that he expresses in ever more disgusting way as he ages? It should not! Michael Hiltzik:
So it’s conceivable that a recent column posted on his website in which he equates the Social Security Administration with the Nazi Schutzstaffel — that is, the SS — represents nothing more than his attempt to grasp at the public attention that has been slipping away. Even in those terms, however, it’s over-the-top and repugnant.
Describing his travails getting caught in Social Security phone message hell when he tried to obtain a replacement Medicare card, Keillor wrote of “Social Security, whose initials are the same as Hitler’s Schutzstaffel, which is no mere coincidence.”
Keillor wrote that he finally reached a customer service agent on the phone: “A woman came on the line who I could tell was wearing a brown uniform with a swastika on her cap.”
Hiltzik on why this sort of thing matters:
But leaving aside the strained allusions to Nazi Germany, let’s examine where Keillor’s slur went off the rails.
As we’ve written recently, equating the inconveniences of modern life, be they mandates to wear a mask or the travails of obtaining a replacement Medicare card, with the Nazi regime is disgusting. It’s not only overkill on an unimaginable scale, but minimizes—almost normalizes—the horrifically inhuman realities of Nazi behavior. This sort of rhetoric is the instrument of hypocrites and ignoramuses.
In any case, Keillor didn’t have to phone Social Security to obtain a replacement Medicare card. He could do that online, by accessing his Social Security account. He might have to create an account first, if he hasn’t done so yet, but the process is not especially burdensome, especially for someone writing a weekly column and other posts for the web. From the account, it’s a few steps to a prompt to have a replacement card mailed out.
More to Bethell’s point, it’s true that the Social Security Administration has been systematically underfunded for years, leading inexorably to a decline in customer service.
This looks like an attempt by Social Security’s enemies to undermine the public’s faith in the program, because there’s no earthly reason to squeeze its administrative budget; that money comes out of payroll taxes and the system’s other revenue, not from the general Treasury. And it’s spent with care: The Social Security Administration is one of the government’s most efficient agencies, with a core administrative budget of 0.7% of benefits.