Monday, April 25, 2005

On Means Being Justice-fied

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that would decide whether the federal government can garnish Social Security payments of folks who have not paid off their student loans.
U.S. justices voted to hear the case of James Lockhart, a Washington state man who went to four colleges in the 1980s with the help of federally guaranteed student loans. He became disabled from diabetes and heart disease and was unemployed in 1991 when he defaulted on nine student loans. ...

To repay his debts, the government took $93 a month from his disability benefits. A year later, Lockhart reached age 65 and began receiving old age benefits instead of disability benefits. Now, the government is taking $143 per month from his benefits.

Under the law, the government can seize 15% of a recipient's monthly benefits to repay the loans.

The Education Department said these seizures had "proven to be an effective means" of recovering unpaid student loans. In 2003, the collection effort brought in $400 million from reclaimed Social Security benefits.
That has to be one of the grimmest and most ominous statements I have read in a while. Though I have no doubts about the collection's efficacy, I do wonder about it's ethic-acy.

It seems so strikingly incongruous to be collecting college payments from social security recipients that I would say the government should just forgot about the $3.6 billion's worth of unpaid student loans that the government is concerned about. I know, I know, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon [we're] talking real money." But, it can't be that soon or pretty, yet!


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