This is what happens when bureaucrats are given unchecked powers.
A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.That is an amazing story. Good luck to Mary Grice in her efforts to get her money back and perhaps overturn this little-known provision of the law that no one admits that they wanted in the first place, yet somehow the power for the Treasury Department to do this got stuck into the farm bill.
When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.
Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.
Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check....
Grice filed suit against the Social Security Administration in federal court in Greenbelt this week, alleging that the government violated her right to due process by holding her responsible for a $2,996 debt supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number.
Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.
The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred....
Grice, who works for the Food and Drug Administration and lives in Takoma Park, in the same apartment she’s resided in since 1984, never got any notice about a debt.
Social Security officials told her they had sent their notice to her post office box in Roxboro, N.C. Grice rented that box from 1977 to 1979 and never since. And Social Security has Grice’s current address: Every year, it sends her a statement about her benefits.
“Their record-keeping seems to be very spotty,” she said.
Treasury officials say that before they will take someone’s refund, the agency owed the money must certify the debt, meaning there must be evidence of the overpayment. But Social Security officials told Grice they had no records explaining the debt.
“The craziest part of this whole thing is the way the government seizes a child’s money to satisfy a debt that child never even knew about,” says Robert Vogel, Grice’s attorney. “They’ll say that somebody got paid for that child’s benefit, but the child had no control over the money and there’s no way to know if the parent ever used the money for the benefit of that kid.”
Grice, the middle of five children, said neither of her surviving siblings — one older, one younger — has had any money taken by the government. When Grice asked why she had been selected to pay the debt, she was told it was because she had an income and her address popped up — the correct one this time.
Grice found a lawyer willing to take her case without charge. Vogel is exercised about the constitutional violations he sees in the retroactive lifting of the 10-year limit on debt collection. “Can the government really bring back to life a case that was long dead?” the lawyer asked. “Can it really be right to seize a child’s money to satisfy a parent’s debt?”
But many other taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records.
In Glenarm, Ill., Brenda and Mike Samonds have spent the past year trying to figure out how to get back the $189.10 tax refund the government seized, claiming that Mike’s mother, who died 33 years ago, had been overpaid on survivor’s benefits after Mike’s father died in 1969.
Typical, the Democratic candidate to replace Mitch McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes, blasts Mitch McConnell for opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act yet refuses to criticize a Kentucky Democratic politician accused of sexual harassment.
Oh, what is a little Senate rule when Harry Reid wants to attack the Koch brothers?
Even liberal Ruth Marcus is disgusted by the Democrats' demagoguery on equal pay.
Michael Barone reminds us of a lot of assumptions that were made in the 1970s that were never borne out. So, he wonders, what conventional wisdom from today will be proven wrong in time.
Eric Holder thinks he's been treated worse than any other attorney general of the United States. Peter Wehner reminds us of other attorneys generals whom the Democrats were happy to attack personally. Wehner reminds us of the ugly, partisan tone of Obama's administration.
Mr. Obama has accused Republicans of being social Darwinists and members of the “flat earth society,” of putting their party ahead of their country, and of wanting dirty air and dirty water. He says Republicans want autistic and Down syndrome children to “fend for themselves.” He accuses his opponents of not simply being wrong but of being his “enemies.” During the 2012 election, Obama’s vice president said Republicans want to put African-Americans “back in chains” while Obama’s top aides and allies implied Governor Romney was a felon and flat-out stated that he was responsible for the cancer-death of a steelworker’s wife. The list goes on and on. Mr. Obama is the most polarizing president in the history of polling.His advice is to "Man up, Mr. Holder."
It’s bad enough that Eric Holder is incompetent, that he’s misled Congress on multiple occasions, that he considers America to be a “nation of cowards” on race, and that he’s engaged in covering up for the administration (including the current IRS scandal). But can the Attorney General of the United States please quit feeling so sorry for himself? So put upon?
Jim Geraghty looks at all the phony issues that the Democrats have latched on to in order to avoid talking about Obamacare and the dreary state of the economy.
See what you know about the Democrats' Paycheck Fairness Act.
Kimberley Strassel explains what we know now about the IRS scandal with the release of documents from the House Ways and Means Committee. We can see now how closely tied the IRS targeting of conservative groups was to calls from Democrats to do just that.
The final merit of Mr. Camp's letter is that he's called out Justice and Democrats. Mr. Camp was careful in laying out the ways Ms. Lerner may have broken the law, with powerful details. Democrats can't refute the facts, so instead they are howling about all manner of trivia—the release of names, the "secret" vote to release taxpayer information. But it remains that they are putting themselves on record in support of IRS officials who target groups, circumvent rules, and potentially break the law. That ought to go down well with voters.