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Social Security Information Systems Near Collapse

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the not-unlike-social-security dept.

Government 279

matty619 writes "An Information Week article warns that the computer systems that run the Social Security Administration may collapse by 2012 due to increased workload, and a half-billion-dollar upgrade won't be ready until 2015. One of the biggest problems is the agency's transition to a new data center, according to a report (PDF) by the SSA's Inspector General. The IG has characterized the replacement of the SSA's National Computer Center — built in 1979 — as the SSA's 'primary IT investment' in the next few years."

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279 comments

2012 (3, Funny)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813208)

So the world will end in 2012!

Re:2012 (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813234)

So the world will end in 2012!

Only if you are on Social Security, For the rest of the folks, just keep on paying those Social Security taxes . . .

. . . and stay in your homes; there is no danger.

Re:2012 (-1, Flamebait)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814690)

So the world will end in 2012!

Only if you are on Social Security, For the rest of the folks, just keep on paying those Social Security taxes . . .

. . . and stay in your homes; there is no danger.

This is why, ultimately, Ponzi schemes fail. The reason why this one hasn't is due to its longevity, other similar schemes never make it this far since the criminals get busted long before the end scenario.

Re:2012 (2, Informative)

garompeta (1068578) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813236)

I am still amazed when I see people who think that the US is the world.
Isn't it amazing that whenever there is an alien invasion, they seem to invade the US first (or some times ONLY in the US). Bleh.

Re:2012 (0)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813250)

If I was an alien, I'd invade the US first, and only the US.

Re:2012 (3, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813352)

And if I were an invasion, I would alien Britain first.

Re:2012 (2)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813410)

And if I were an invasion, I would alien Britain first.

Don't. The Doctor will kick your ass.

Re:2012 (1)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813438)

Nah, microbes will. Also, watch out for the torpedo rams.

Re:2012 (2)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813454)

Or crazy drunk crop-duster pilots with armed missiles on a jammed release.

Re:2012 (5, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813382)

If I was an alien, I'd invade the US first, and only the US.

And I'd invade China and only China. Your planet would owe its ass to my planet.

Re:2012 (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813778)

I'm pretty sure debt isn't transferrable like that...

Re:2012 (2)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813994)

I'm pretty sure debt isn't transferrable like that...

Huh? WTF?

Tell me, have you heard of any recent abduction stories in the US?

No, I don't think so. That's because the aliens who invaded the US had to cut their science budget to pay their debt. No more human anatomy studies for them.

Re:2012 (1)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814364)

Are you kidding? Debt is transferred all the time. Have you never sold a savings bond?

Also, sovereign debt isn't revolving like a credit card. It has fixed terms and needs to be refinanced all the time. Just China stopping buying new debt would have significant repercussions.

Re:2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813872)

China works it's ass off polluting itself and treating its people so that U.S. merchants can sell really cheap crap. U.S. does not even pay for this crap, they just print more money, U.S. has 1/5 of the worlds debt, and has 1/4 of the worlds energy consumption (Oil costs whatever dollar bills cost printing, and having some monkey adding zeros to bank accounts). Not to talk about wars, being a bully and disliked, if I was an alien and wanted to have their gratitude i'd attack U.S. and only U.S. The planet Earth would be so grateful to us.

Re:2012 (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814100)

The relationship between the US and China is a relationship between two parties. Both nations are equally complicit in this particular fraud scheme.

Re:2012 (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814226)

Yep for the same reason you go after the root account on a computer...

Re:2012 (5, Funny)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814718)

If I was an alien, I'd invade the US first, and only the US.

If I was an alien, I'd invade France, always do the easy problems first.

Re:2012 (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813254)

Look on the bright side. If they come to destroy us the USA will be the first to go.

Re:2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813264)

Only New York City or Washington DC will be invaded.

Re:2012 (4, Funny)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813326)

They already were. Nobody noticed.

Re:2012 (2)

Nialin (570647) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813696)

Where's the "Morbidly Funny" mod?

Re:2012 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813456)

Look on the bright side. If they come to destroy us the USA will be the first to go.

And nothing of value was lost...

Re:2012 (1, Troll)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813262)

Good point. They should invade some other country that nobody cares about and would never notice.

Re:2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813272)

Ironically you are only sampling US films.

Re:2012 (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813316)

That's marketing. Apparently Americans don't like movies and games where the important people aren't American, I recall a story about a game that was supposed to be about rebels in some Soviet bloc state trying to get the SU out of their country getting a rewrite so it plays in a Soviet-occupied America for that reason.

Re:2012 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813552)

That's marketing. Apparently Americans don't like movies and games where the important people aren't American

Ya that whole Harry Potter thing, it was a complete flop here in the 'states.

Re:2012 (2)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813730)

Red herring alert -- it's because Harry Potter appeals to yuppie Anglophiles who want their kids to be "classy".

Re:2012 (3, Interesting)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813612)

Ads depress me for a similar reason. Announcer voices are male or female depending on what's being sold; homemaker-type products use white upper middle class-style actresses; life insurance commercials use old male announcers, unless it's the Gerber Life commercial (ironically showing right now) in which case it uses a young (but not too young) woman. Of course, these are generalizations and not strict rules, but the correlation is strong. Incidentally, I hate marketing. It seems to be a necessary evil, but I wish their manipulations were as transparent to everyone as they are to me. Maybe then ads would contain more actual content and less flash.

(Yes, this is off topic, but discussing the social security system's IT infrastructure isn't exactly thrilling conversation.)

Re:2012 (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814666)

It's advertising, obviously they are going to use the type of voice that their research (or just the anecdotes they happen to have heard) says is most effective for the demographics they are selling to.

Re:2012 (4, Insightful)

Angostura (703910) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813548)

You're wrong. In most disaster movies, there is usually the obligatory 'interference-laden quick-cut TV new reports from around the world section'.

By law this must feature:

The Eiffel Tower, the UK Houses of Parliament, the Taj Mahal and optionally the Sidney Opera House.

Re:2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814466)

optionally the Sidney Opera House.

Is that close to the Sydney Opera House by any chance?

Re:2012 (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814736)

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs did that well with the news announcer commenting that it was an unusual weather pattern to hit major landmarks first and then the rest of the world.

Re:2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813582)

It is the world, and we tolerate the rest of you only so long as you amuse us. When you no longer provide for our amusement, we invade your shitty country, kill your women and rape your livestock. Now, get back to producing cheap merchandise for our use.

Re:2012 (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813418)

Only in the US. The Hungarian systems are working fine. Except for the political system, but that's another topic...

Re:2012 (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813640)

So the world will end in 2012!

Of course it will, a movie said so! This obviously has a government cover up spin, when they say "may collapse due to increased workload" they mean " will collapse due to another planet crashing into it"

Re:2012 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814050)

Only if Palin is elected. God has a warped sense of humor. He told Pat Robertson to run for president then didn't tell anyone to vote for him. Palin will be elected but the world will end before she can take office. I'd love to see the look on her face when it happens.

pathetic (1, Interesting)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813248)

this is a very light system. (no, it doesn't have millions of users.)

*HOW* Much?! (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813256)

Half a billion dollars? Are you fucking kidding me?! No wonder the program has failed and is such a joke. And we're looking to find a way to keep this program afloat well into the future, to "protect" us in our retirement by siphoning off extra taxation from every paycheck for our entire life? The same guys who are spending $500,000,000.00 to upgrade the system that maintains it? You could buy a million iPads at retail price for that. I don't know why you would, but you could. Holy fuck.

Then again, a lot of it is written in COBOL, as the article states. And as our unqualified, ignorant, idiotic National CIO stated last year -- something like this, anyway -- "we need to improve the computer human interface with skip-logic, because a lot of things are in COBOL binary interface". Or something.

Oh, and note that the article said that half a billion dollars is just what has been allocated for the project. So far. How much longer are these guys going to get away with these twenty million dollar Drupal *.gov website projects and other scams?!

Re:*HOW* Much?! (5, Insightful)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813288)

I know that it sounds like a lot of money, but it may not actually be that bad, depending on what, exactly, is included in that budget.

If, say, they're including upgrading all IT infrastructure for the agency (all desktops, laptops, network etc), and they're including things such as training of users and rollout costs, then it really isn't such a crazy figure at all.

That's also the problem with these projects. They include everything under the sun in one project budget, instead of splitting it out into multiple smaller budgets.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813372)

Yay upgrades!

Win xp sp1 machines running on a pentium III chip with 512mb of ram right?

(I say this having just spent the night talking to a client who was b*tching over her website looking funny with the partially transparent .png files... because her work laptop for a pharmaceutic company was locked into IE 6)

Re:*HOW* Much?! (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813570)

Come on... you know it doesn't include any of that.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (5, Informative)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813592)

Now I've RTA I do.. it's just talking about hardware..

Re:*HOW* Much?! (2)

ohiovr (1859814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813628)

Just how many people work in the SS bureaucracy anyway? Do they all need alienware gaming laptops?

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814760)

Just how many people work in the SS bureaucracy anyway?

What a trip, unemployment people on unemployment, who will they get to screw them on their entitlements?

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814382)

...you forgot something. That's the costs of new personnel because of the ones that quit because they have to learn something new.

This might seem silly to some of you, but it's quite real. I worked on a rollout where a department in a certain U.S. state's government in the mid 90s. People resigned in many offices rather than learn about the new equipment even though it was going to help them out tremendously.

This is one of the problems in government agencies... people are there because it is cushy and when they're expect to perform they scat.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813370)

Scam Alert.

Moving to a new data centre should not be that expensive.
COBOL IS scalable - so you just wheel in a bigger more powerful box and it just all works.

So they are lying - probably doing something like redesigning it from scratch and re-writing it VB6 so it does not work with .Google in the year 2020.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (0)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813394)

$500M is about $1.40 per US citizen.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813800)

Yeah, and? A $50, 1 TB hard drive could hold 3 kilobytes of information for every citizen in the US. So, the real question is..

Just how much information are they storing here, and how frequently are they accessing it, anyway?

Re:*HOW* Much?! (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813850)

A $50, 1 TB hard drive could hold 3 kilobytes of information for every citizen in the US.

...if you didn't count the computer that would be needed to access it, if you didn't mind waiting a several minutes for *every single piece* of information you needed, and if you didn't care at all if the data was still going to be there when you needed it.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814062)

Paranoid much?

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813810)

In addition to the $180,000+ national debt per US citizen. Just keeps on piling up, don't it?

Re:*HOW* Much?! (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813838)

$500M is about $1.40 per US citizen.

From experience doing genealogical research, if SS is anything like the civil war era northern army pension system, this would still be a substantial cost savings over doing it manually, crazy as that might sound.

Also from having been involved in major data conversion projects over the decades, a cost of $2 per account converted would have been an incredible daydream. Just having a final step of a semi-intelligent semi-trained human being review the converted account will cost more. The only thing saving the SS is probably huge scale and frankly all the accounts are pretty much the same story other than personally identifiable information.

Finally from having been around for awhile I know that shock stories like this are based on rolling everything they possibly can into that figure, rounding up, passing along to the next guy whom adds some more (maybe even the same stuff) and rounds up again, repeat until a scary enough figure is generated. So this is probably like three annual department budgets plus training budget plus a lifetime supply of backup tapes plus a couple weeks salary for all front end personnel (assuming they're paid during training).

Re:*HOW* Much?! (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813854)

I see this type of argument before. If everyone pays an extra dollar for X then we can have so much more money for Y. The problem is there are so many ways to use money that they add up quickly. And you are paying a lot for taxes. That is why we need to keep viglalent on where all are our taxes are going.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814184)

I prefer the argument that if it weren't for the extraordinary taxes (especially when you consider all the taxes you are really gouged for, beyond just income tax - and the increase in the tax rate over, say, when your grandparents were around), think of all the things you could do. In my early thirties, I could have already put my brother and sister through private four year universities and bought our mom a nice house. Or, you know, have covered 1/900,000,000th of the 2010 budget.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814156)

More importantly, that's $5 per tax-payer. Anyway, that's not really relevant to the justification of the expense.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (5, Funny)

grimJester (890090) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813426)

Then again, a lot of it is written in COBOL, as the article states.

Yes, and upgrading legacy code to become a modern data center is hard. Why, I remember how I struggled to turn a simple Pascal Hello World into a cafeteria. Can you believe there's no open source tool to translate for loops into pretzels?

Hint: It's a building. With computers. And data.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (5, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813650)

I really find these OMG we have to get away from COBOL articles sort of silly. While I agree that doing new development in COBOL probably does not make a whole lot of sense most of the time using the existing code base is not a problem. IBM makes it real easy to not only run your forty year old COBOL applications but integrate them with Java, Ruby and other more modern languages. You can even do things like implement web services and the like pretty easily in COBOL these days, I have seen some pretty impressive copy books.

What we should remember is COBOL has run these business systems for 40 years with success. It might not be the most fun thing to write code in but its actually quite good for accounting and basic reporting processes. Oh sure you can do these things in C, C++, Java, or anything else just fine but in general its going to be more error prone because those languages are not really targeted at the task and in truth probably use more total lines of code to get it done, even if most of its warped up in some frame work or STL. Finally most of these business accounting type tasks really do make more sense thought about in structured programming terms or even just simply as control break processes, they can be forced on to an object model like anything else but the operative word there is forced.

There are lots of good reasons to replace systems and forklift old code. If you are tossing out you old COBOL process because its a mess of badly done spaghetti code fine, if you are getting rid of it just because OMGs COBOL is dying that is fixing what is not broken an asking for trouble.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814018)

Amen to this--decently written old programs are fine (Fortran in our case). Back in the bad old days they focused on the important things and made them work.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814084)

Right. Why fix what isn't broken in a panic. Sure, make it a long term goal to move away from it, as realistically someday it wont be supportable as the pool of people slowly shrink, but don't flip out and convert it into today's latest and greatest language.

COBOL is stable, and has been proven by the test of time. For projects like this you want its successor to do the same.

I still remember in school how 'pascal is the next thing and its all you ever need to learn..'. ya, that worked out real well and it wasn't exactly a new language either. Glad i refused to limit myself with it and learned other things too.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814344)

I'd feel more comfortable having my data in a time-tested COBOL based system maintained by a few good people who know what they are doing rather than some "modern" C# or Java based system hacked together on a budget by a bunch of stupid Indians.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814626)

My company does a few billion in business every year and 70% of that is executing in Cobol some of it has roots back to the early 70s and has moved from mainframes platform to mainframe platform finally settling on an As/400 in the mid 90s. That Cobol is accessed as if it was a typical DB2/SQL stored procedure via the .net/ Microsoft patterns and practices data access block as if it was any other peice of DB code on a SQL Server and serves an entire ecosystem of more modern platforms via a services interface. Cobol is not going anywhere. Our main problem though is finding people who want to maintain that big Iron and keeping them alive.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814696)

Similar arguments are being used about IE6. Doesn't stop ActiveX from being any less horrid and IE6 the bane of web development.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813728)

Oh, and note that the article said that half a billion dollars is just what has been allocated for the project. So far.

You can safely assume this project will overrun its budget just like many many many other government and defense programs.

OMG! $500,000,000.00 for a datacenter (5, Insightful)

theVarangian (1948970) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813916)

Half a billion dollars? Are you fucking kidding me?! No wonder the program has failed and is such a joke. And we're looking to find a way to keep this program afloat well into the future, to "protect" us in our retirement by siphoning off extra taxation from every paycheck for our entire life? The same guys who are spending $500,000,000.00 to upgrade the system that maintains it? You could buy a million iPads at retail price for that. I don't know why you would, but you could. Holy fuck.

I like bashing expensive government projects as much as the next guy, but if you are creating a nation wide IT system of any kind for a nation of 300+ million people $500,000,000.00 it doesn't sound too far off. Hell, Apple just sank $1 billion into a datacenter and Google sank $600 million into a datacenter in Berkeley, South Carolina and that one is just one of their many data centers. People love to take the total costs for a project like this and shout: "SCANDAL! $500,000,000.00 spent on failed IT project". Nobody mentions that the investment in a data center is largely recoverable since it and it's hardware can easily be repurposed. It's only development and training costs that are wasted which is bad enough but still only a fraction of the costs. The main scandal here is not so much the cost of, its the fact that they will run out of capacity before the new datacenter is ready. As for COBOL being a dying language COBOL is in good company on death row along with C, C++, OpenGL, BSD (and UNIX in general) plus a number of other things IT that have been labeled as "dying" almost as long as I have been in the IT business which is longer than I care to remember. The claim " is dying!" is a long time IT gutter-press favorite.

Re:OMG! $500,000,000.00 for a datacenter (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814196)

But look at what the expense is actually covering. And the fact that it's simply renovating an existing structure. Half a billion is absurd. It's not like they're starting out with any materials or employees and doing it all from scratch.

Re:OMG! $500,000,000.00 for a datacenter (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814316)

But look at what the expense is actually covering. And the fact that it's simply renovating an existing structure. Half a billion is absurd. It's not like they're starting out with any materials or employees and doing it all from scratch.

Is it? I didn't see anything about the whole $500 million being spent on the old NCC data center. Both the article and the report mention the funds going toward the construction of a new datacenter to replace the old NCC from 1979. The way I see it the real scandal is still the fact the project wasn't started sooner. With the old NCC is running out of capacity and the new facility only coming online three years after the old NCC reaches saturation point it should not be surprising that they have to put (read: waste) money into beefing up the old NCC facility. If this project had gotten off the ground sooner that would not be an issue and I don't see how the Social Security Administration can necessarily be blamed for this capability gap either since for all I know by the time they got the funding it was already too late to get the new facility online in time.

Re:*HOW* Much?! (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814614)

Half a billion dollars? Are you fucking kidding me?! No wonder the program has failed and is such a joke.

It is absurd to say that SS has failed or is a joke. Without it, millions of elderly would live in poverty, just as they did before the program was instituted, only moreso, since people live longer now.

When a nation's demographics skew older, it is overall less productive and so less wealthy. The effects of that are felt in many ways, including increased direct burden of supporting the elderly. Compared to other nations where the birth rate and immigration are lower, the US is actually in pretty good shape. Adjusting SS for the demographic changes is politically painful, but not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

much cheaper solution!? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813294)

Half a Billion? Years? a crack team of 2 dozen professional data thieves would pull and squeeze every ounce of data out of that system in matter of days and probably with out a single restart to the mainframe. and would sell it back to you for pennies a person. $10 million tops.

Re:much cheaper solution!? (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814298)

Yes, but those 2 dozen professional data thieves are attempting to build a system that will last another 10-20 years with increasing demands on it and a constantly changing database. Do get a sense of proportion.

obvious solution (4, Funny)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813310)

Just use facebook ID's instead.

Re:obvious solution (1)

Huntr (951770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814074)

I really can't decide whether to mod this funny, insightful or terrifyingly possible.

Not that it matters now...

2012 (0)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813346)

may collapse by 2012 due to

That's not news. The Mayan's, or whatever, told us that like 1500 years ago or somethin'.

Flash... (5, Funny)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813356)

In a related story, it has been reported that top officials at the Social Security Administration are prepared to reduced the entire Social Security System to a Web App and run it on the Amazon Cloud.

Re:Flash... (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813830)

It's appropriate, since the entire "social security trust fund" is nothing but IOUs from a government that's deeper in debt than any other government has ever been in all of recorded history.

-jcr

Re:Flash... (1)

wampus (1932) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814126)

I'm not worried. Those nukes are paid for, and will become remarkably liquid when we need them.

Re:Flash... (3, Insightful)

hrvatska (790627) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814222)

It's appropriate, since the entire "social security trust fund" is nothing but IOUs from a government that's deeper in debt than any other government has ever been in all of recorded history.

-jcr

But the US also has an economy that's larger than any other economy in recorded history. How large is the debt in proportion to the economy? How much of that debt is owed to the social security trust fund?

Re:Flash... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813880)

And having a web app is bad why?

sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813408)

Sigh, it seems that I have to do everything myself these days...

What better way to explain away... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813622)

Why there is no money in SS to distribute...

Going Bust (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34813756)

The whole thing is fixin' to puke anyway: [businessinsider.com]

According to the latest estimates, Social Security will take in less in revenue than it pays out each year by 2016. That's just a few years. And the program will go completely insolvent by 2037 if no serious changes are made. Medicare will be insolvent by 2017.

So, piss away another half billion. Who gives a shit?

Re:Going Bust (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813824)

When it takes in less revenue than it pays out, it will already be insolvent. The "surplus" was "invested" in treasure bonds. Who do you think pays those back..

A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (1, Interesting)

maraist (68387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813758)

This is sick. The three physical costs of S.S. as I can see it:
1) Data acquisition (who has incrementally paid into the system) - this is B.S. accounting because it's all going to come from the general tax fund soon anyway, so why the charade?
2) Call centers - (this is for old people after all)
3) Printing checks

The rest can be handled by less than a million dollars in hardware / software.
3 can be outsourced (paychex doesn't overburdern my company with overhead as far as I know).
2 can be outsourced and them some
1 as I already alluded to is the fault of congress, and is largely unnecessary. You have to double the efforts of the IRS to make sure payments are correct. You have to audit, you have to make multiple transfers of small orders of money. You need financial advisors (who purchase US treasuriers with the surpluses), bla bla bla.. All simplified by simply being part of the general tax fund and withdrawing directly from US treasury.

A hadoop system can trivially destroy 300 million pieces of data in less than an hour - I don't care what language it's written in. This incremental B.S. thinking is pervasive in all forms of government and just needs to be viserally reacted to by the voting public. A company that's not in the black that needs a $500M investment to 'keep afloat' for crap like this would go out of business and be replaced from scratch. Dead is a powerful natural tool. It needs to be applied here.

Re:A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813814)

It already is and that's the problem.
Instead they should try running it like a government. You need at least enough people to watch the contractors or they rob you blind.
Endless red tape is not a feature of government versus private enterprise. It's actually sometimes far worse in very large private enterprises and there is usually little or nothing to catch the inevitable petty or major corruption. Badly run private enterprise can look just as bad or far worse than badly run government, and on some levels they are indistinguishable. Look at Australia's Telstra under Trujillo as a shining example of a business that could not possibly fail due to it's monopoly status but that didn't stop it trying to fail in so many ways.

Re:A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813874)

1) Data acquisition (who has incrementally paid into the system) - this is B.S. accounting because it's all going to come from the general tax fund soon anyway, so why the charade?

They gather that data to verify eligibility and calculated benefit payout. Don't you get an annual statement listing what you earned for the past X years and if you were to become disabled you would get Y dollars per month, etc? I just got my annual statement on Friday.

They send this out annually because if the food store that I worked at in 1991 forgot to credit me with that income, its a heck of a lot easier to set the record straight in 1992 rather than waiting for me to retire or become disabled decades later and ooops I haven't paid in enough "fully qualified" years for whatever benefit.

Also if someone steals your SS number and works under it, you can trivially figure out how much money they earn, which is interesting.

Re:A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (4, Insightful)

maraist (68387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813928)

Because the difference in receiving $145 / year for life instead of $135 is so great a risk? The goal of S.S. was to make people 'feel' like it's something you have to work towards. (Maybe at the time the ponsi scheme looked like it might work indefinitely). But how would people survive up to age 65 if they didn't already work. So what's the charade all about then? Just give them a reasonable retirement amount from the general tax fund, and require a 10% min tax rate on every working citizen and you're done. Enough of this robbing peter to pay Paul crap.

Re:A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814854)

A 7% variance is OK? That's about $50B a year vs the entire SS administration budget of $12B and no matter what you'd still have to pay someone and have systems to make sure some jackass wasn't collecting for six fake people. Let's just ignore that it would take a major legislative effort that might cost more than the new systems.

Re:A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814144)

Social security is going to an all direct deposit system. So you can cross off printing checks.

The call centers could easily be outsourced to Zimbabwe or wherever English is spoken with the worst accent possible thereby eliminating the need to pay benefits.

The data thing is the hard part. It isn't 300 million records, it's 300 million times the number of paychecks you receive in your lifetime. But that could easily be handled the same way the people who receive the paychecks do. Shoeboxes. And anyway with the Great Recession who has a job anyway?

So what's the problem?

Re:A good place for Gov. to be run like a business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814916)

My dad signed up for payments a year or so ago and tried to call in. He was so amazed that he sent me the phone number. It is one of those horrible "How can I help you" voice recognition systems that does not recognize anything. So he was forced to go to an actual office and deal with an actual person. I would love to see what consulting company but this crap in and how much money that got paid for it. Fix this and make a fucking web page and we could cut the staff requirements. But then again, this is gov and they need to hand out jobs to citizens who can't get real jobs.

LOL, the irony is amazing (0)

argoff (142580) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813802)

.... a collapsing computer system for a collapsing ponzi scheme. All I can say is burn baby burn !!

Re:LOL, the irony is amazing (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 3 years ago | (#34813884)

I was thinking the same thing - and it would be funny if I wasn't one of the ones left holding the bag of crap

Re:LOL, the irony is amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814078)

Nonsense - all they have to do is drag Bernie Madoff out of prison and put him on the job, and SS will be in the green and earning 20% a year in *no time*!

Re:LOL, the irony is amazing (2)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814310)

It is only a ponzi scheme now because Congress continually increased the number of straws sucking money out of the system. All they need do is increase the age at which you can withdraw benefits. Unless of course you think a society should send all its blue hairs out to the desert to die away from everyone else.

Re:LOL, the irony is amazing (3, Insightful)

hrvatska (790627) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814318)

It's not a Ponzi scheme since there are viable alternatives for keeping the system solvent until the boomers are mostly dead. It's only a Ponzi scheme if it's impossible for it to be sustained. It isn't. You may not like the choices, but there are choices.

Reminds me of a Despair Poster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814094)

One of my favorites, actually:

http://www.despair.com/consulting.html

"Consulting: If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem."

Collapse? (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814168)

What does it look like for a computer system to "collapse?" Suddenly no longer able to process a single transaction?

This is a metaphor for the entire system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814174)

Social Security is a bankrupt Ponzi scheme. It was never intended to be a retirement account or a slush fund, and yet that's how it gets used. After the Great Depression, Social Security was created to keep elderly people who had worked their whole lives from living in squalor in their last years. But now people are living well past the age when they can begin collecting Social Security - many of them still perfectly capable of working. I say if you want to depend on Social Security to see you through in your old age, then the government needs to put you in public housing and put you on a meal plan - not just give you cash. Everyone collecting Social Security lives in the same kind of housing and eats the same food and gets the same medical care. Don't want to live like that? Then try thinking past tomorrow, you knuckleheads, and start investing in a 401(k) at the very least. The stock market over any 50-year period WAAAAY outperforms your returns on your Social Security payroll tax over the same period.

Re:This is a metaphor for the entire system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814216)

I generally max out on social security withdrawals from my paycheck around 7 to 8 months into the year - and I've been doing that for quite a while - it is very depressing to think about pitifully small portion that I myself will see of this money and even more depressing to think about how much money I COULD have made off of it - I agree the sooner the whole thing crashes and burns the better !

Re:This is a metaphor for the entire system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814250)

I'll be in that position soon myself, and it's a damn shame that so much money is going to be wasted. I generally contribute to charities quite a bit, and that money that I'm pissing away to the government could have been put to much better use if I was allowed to invest it and then spread around the returns at the local level as I saw fit. I think that no one who works their whole lives should die in the street of starvation and exposure. Beyond that, I have no obligations to you. Don't want to work? Then you don't get to eat, either.

Typical IT cognitive distortions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34814398)

These "modernization" projects never cease to amaze me. As noted above, COBOL has worked for 40 years. I believe the US population has more than doubled in 40 years. So why don't they just call IBM, order up another room full of equipment that quadruples processing capacity and call it a day?

I know big systems are hard. You can't just say "robocopy *.*" and come back on Monday and it works. But you CAN implement a new system in pieces. Design a system that contains all the new data, and seamlessly retrieves the records from the old system at some event- new claims go in the new system, and it copies the old data then. If there is an exception, then send it to a room full of experts to do it manually. Meanwhile, in the background, some other system is backfilling the old data. So what if it takes 5 years? Meanwhile, you can serve the clients.

I saw the opposite happen recently at an unemployment system- a new, web-based system was over-engineered, and flash-cut over a weekend. And there were lines out the doors for a month. Because all the data was moved over auto-magically and the new system auto-generated "please come into the office" letters for everyone. If the process was done in chunks, using the front line employees as their own data sanitizers, it wouldn't have happened.

I generally max out on social security withdrawals from my paycheck around 7 to 8 months into the year - and I've been doing that for quite a while - it is very depressing to think about pitifully small portion that I myself will see of this money and even more depressing to think about how much money I COULD have made off of it - I agree the sooner the whole thing crashes and burns the better !

Not with the other 140m workers out there doing the same thing. It doesn't scale. SS might not scale either, but investing in the productive capacity of the entire working population is going to return better than investing in a stock market flooded with easy money.

Re:Typical IT cognitive distortions... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34814914)

Not with the other 140m workers out there doing the same thing. It doesn't scale. SS might not scale either, but investing in the productive capacity of the entire working population is going to return better than investing in a stock market flooded with easy money.

But you aren't doing that. You're investing in special treasuries (with non-standard payout rules). 140 m workers investing in the productive capacity of the economy instead of loaning money to the government could very well have much better performance. Of course you could choose to buy treasuries anyway...

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