million senior citizens could do their mustard seed bit in determining
the financial future of the Social Security system.
At the time of the media blitz, Washington authorities told us that
annually there were 357 million SSA payments (42%) being made by paper
check and 493 million payments (58%) made by EFT (electronic funds
In round figures, it cost the government .45c per payment, 12 times a
year, to handle the paper check and postage for a single SSA payment.
However, the EFT method cost only .04c for each direct bank deposit.
It was obvious that an increase in direct deposits would save more
than just a token of money for the beleaguered SSA, already targeted by
In 1998, the media blitz hinted that the SSA would make electronic
deposits mandatory for all recipients, requiring an involved "application
for exception" from anyone who would not accept the EFT system. The
target date for a mass switch away from the remaining paper check
accounts was January 1999.
By that deadline, the blitz ended because the Treasury Department
decided against offering more than just a strong invitation to make the
switch. (One could guess that such a mandate might seriously and legally
offend those challengers who feel that the government is taking away more
of our right to make our own decisions. The Treasury's decision was
Meanwhile, the percentage of those asking for the direct deposit
system has increased from 58% to 79%, meaning a 21% decrease in SSA
payment expenses from .45c to .04c, multiplied by 45.4 million monthly
These are just customary Social Security payments, and the figures do
not include millions of savings in the handling of Supplementary Security
Income, Veterans benefits, Civil Service Retirement, Railroad Retirement
and other similar government payouts.
The Treasury decision not to push heavily for mandatory electronic
deposits may have held down the increased percentage to 79%. However, a
California spokesman for the SSA points out that there is nothing to stop