I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael J. Astrue, who served as commissioner of the Social Security Administration from 2009 – 2013 during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Commissioner Astrue headed Social Security during the Great Recession, and I got his thoughts on Social Security's unique role and challenges during a time of crisis.
Commissioner Astrue has served in several public service capacities in a career spanning over 30 years, including:
– Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation (Human Services): 1985 – 1986
– Counselor to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration: 1986 – 1988
– Associate Counsel to the President: 1988 – 1989
– General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services: 1989 – 1992. During this time, he personally tried and won the first federal HIV discrimination enforcement suit.
– Commissioner of the Social Security Administration: 2007 – 2013
We also had a chance to talk about his poetic pursuits.
In this interview, we discuss:
4:38 – how Commissioner Astrue became the head of Social Security
7:08 – the unique role that Social Security plays for the American public during a time of crisis
8:34 – why it's so difficult for government agencies to communicate with each other
11:37 – the unique challenges that Social Security faces in a time of crisis and recession
15:11 – the lessons that Commissioner Astrue took away from his time as head of the Social Security Administration throughout the last financial crisis
19:22 – whether or not Social Security is “broken”
22:12 – the message that Commissioner Astrue has for those currently receiving benefits administered by the SSA
30:01 – other thoughts Commissioner Astrue has regarding the current situation
33:11 – what the Commissioner is doing these days
IMPORTANT: Commissioner Astrue's book of poetry, “Wonder and Wrath,” will be released by Paul Dry Books this September. Preorders should be available soon at https://www.pauldrybooks.com/
You can also find the Commissioner's poetry at:
http://www.amjuster.net/ (personal website)
https://www.firstthings.com/ (he is the poetry editor)