The underground trains on many city subways have three rails. The wheels
roll along on two of them while the third rail supplies the electrical
energy that powers the trains.
Social Security is often referred to as the “third rail” of
American politics; because the President, Senator or Representative who
proposes meddling with this popular retirement, survivors and disability
program is seen as having touched the third rail for which he will likely
suffer serious political consequences.
Advocates of small government in the recently elected U.S. House of Representatives
have taken aim at the disability insurance program part of Social Security.
Since the mid-nineties, vast numbers of baby boomers have been passing
through their fifties and early sixties. As they did, naturally, greater
numbers of them have applied, and been approved for Social Security disability
insurance benefits because they have been injured, taken ill, or suffer
from a chronic medical condition that prevents them from working.
As more people have received disability benefits the trust fund reserves
for the program have dwindled and will likely be depleted by December
2016, unless Congress acts. In the past when similar situations have arisen
in either the disability program or the retirement program, Congress has
authorized the transfer of funds from one trust fund to the other to avoid
reductions in benefits.
The anti-Social Security forces in the House are currently threatening
to block this transfer of funds which, if it actually came to pass, would
force reductions in disability benefits of about 19%.
Hopefully this will never occur, first, because it can be avoided by allowing
a temporary transfer of
funds from the old age trust fund to the disability trust fund, and, second,
because these same
House members who oppose Social Security also know how dangerous it can
be to touch the third rail.
In the case of Social Security, big government has been effective and beneficial.
Its programs have helped millions to remain economically viable in spite
of the death or disability of a wage earner.
They have helped millions of elderly persons to remain financially independent.
Congress should combine the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust
Fund with the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund in order to eliminate
the need for periodic Congressional transfers of funds from one to the
other. This change would do much to permanently protect the monthly income
of all beneficiaries of the Social Security Act while at the same time
further removing the programs from politics.
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