While Democrats on the super committee try to finagle tax hikes, a put upon taxpayer might well ask: What does the federal government do with all the money we send to the IRS anyway?

One big expenditure is SSI—Supplemental Social Security Insurance—which costs us $50 billion a year. SSI, which began in 1974, was designed for the disabled who can’t work.

Without getting into the merits of the underlying concept, let’s just say that the program would be a lot less objectionable if it were less easy to fake conditions that qualify for SSI. Unfortunately, SSI is a program that invites abuse.

Heather Mac Donald wrote a ground-breaking piece on SSI (“Welfare’s Next Vietnam”) in 1995, and judging from Christopher Orlet’s shocking piece (“The New Welfare Swindle”) in the current American Spectator, things have only gotten worse.

Orlet, who lives in an inner city, was puzzled about how his low-income neighbors, who never seemed to go to work, managed to get by. Even factoring in a patchwork of government programs and charities, Orlet couldn’t figure it out until a social worker clued him in:

Many of the poor also collect federal disability benefits in the form of Supplemental Security Insurance, or "crazy money" as it is known on the streets, since one must "act crazy" to receive it. Oftentimes several people in the same household — adults and children — collect checks. This surprised me, since I had never for a moment guessed that my neighbors were disabled. …

My friend visits one such family in which four members collect SSI checks, one adult and three children.

One child suffers from asthma, which would probably clear up if the mother — who is unemployed — bothered to clean her house. However, she has a monetary incentive not to clean or to seek treatment for her child, for if the asthma cleared up, and this was found out (an unlikely event since SSA workers routinely fail to conduct follow up visits), that could mean one less check.

Also, like the now defunct Aid to Families with Dependent Children, SSI encourages dependency and is cyclical in nature. More than half who go on SSI as a child, requalify as adults.

And the cycle continues.

It makes good economic sense for the poor to rely on SSI. In Missouri, where Orlet lives, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) nets a family $136 per person per month, while SSI would bring the same person $674 a month. A family of four could get $32,000 a year, not including other benefits.

It’s impossible to know how many of the 8 million SSI recipients in the U.S. are faking it but undoubtedly many of these recipients are able-bodied.

It is programs such as this that make progressives feel good about themselves at the expense of the public.

Take hike, ayone?