Biden Lectures Businesses About Vaccines While Fully Vaccinated Feds Stay Home From Work
Now that one of the available COVID-19 vaccines has been officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), President Joe Biden is leaning on private sector businesses to mandate vaccination for employees and customers.
“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that. Require it,” Biden said Monday. “Do what I did last month and require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict [testing] requirements.”
It’s true that Biden is in some ways leading by example. In July, he issued an executive order requiring that the roughly 4 million federal employees (and many of the millions of federal contractors) get vaccinated or face weekly COVID testing and other inconveniences.
But vaccines are only a means to getting things back to normal, not an end unto themselves. And, right now, it seems fairly obvious that the federal bureaucracy is not even close to anything resembling normalcy. Until it is, Biden should lay off trying to tell private businesses what to do.
Take the Social Security Administration (SSA), for example. One of the biggest federal agencies—and one that most Americans can’t avoid encountering, at least occasionally—employs more than 60,000 people and runs more than 1,200 field offices around the country. And yet, more than four months after COVID-19 vaccines became widely available, many of those offices remain in the same state that they’ve been since March 2020: closed.
The SSA announced plans for a “partial” reopening of field offices in May, and began allowing beneficiaries to handle some things online that previously would have required an in-person visit. But, bureaucracy being bureaucracy, a lot of what the SSA does requires physical paperwork to be passed around. That means a lot of the work is being done via mail.
Or, rather, not being done.
A July report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration found massive backlogs at the 73 facilities visited by auditors. One service center “had more than 9,000 unprocessed original documents it had received as early as November 2020,” according to the report. At another field office, auditors found “667 unprocessed applications dated as early as July 2020” for new or replacement Social Security cards. In another location, they found “more than 20,000 pieces of returned mail, some of which were over one year old.” Half the field office managers interviewed by OIG staff reported being “overwhelmed” by the mail volume.
Auditors concluded that the “SSA has no performance metrics and does not maintain management information on the volume of incoming, outgoing, or pending mail” and, more ominously, that the administration “lacks comprehensive policies and procedures to track and return original documents—including driver’s licenses, birth certificates, passports, and naturalization documents—that customers provide as proof of eligibility for benefits” or to obtain a Social Security card.
What if you don’t trust the SSA—or, for that matter, the U.S. Postal Service, which has had plenty of
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