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Letter: Republicans playing games with Social Security

By Carmen Schuld, Bigelow Social Security protection against the loss of wages in the event of death and old age was enacted in the 1930s. It's called the Old Age Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI) or, as, we know it, Social Security for retir...

By Carmen Schuld, Bigelow

Social Security protection against the loss of wages in the event of death and old age was enacted in the 1930s. It’s called the Old Age Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI) or, as, we know it, Social Security for retirement at age 65. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was enacted during the Eisenhower administration in 1956. Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. So, Social Security has been a bipartisan effort in the past. Those were the good old days.
When workers have Social Security contributions deducted from their wages, those deducted monies are premiums for Social Security’s insurance against the loss of wages in the even of death, disability or old age. Those deducted funds are sent by their employers to the U.S. Treasury Department. The money is then divided between two separate trust funds.
Not surprisingly, from time to time the percentage of the Social Security contributions going to each of the two funds must be adjusted to keep both funds in balance with each other.
You would think the managing trustee, who happens to be the secretary of the treasury, would have the authority to simply rebalance the funds. That is not how it works, though it would make even more sense to simply combine the two funds into one. Two separate trust funds remain, and the managing trustee does not have the authority to engage in simple rebalancing. Instead, it takes an act of Congress.
When Congress has been responsible and done its job, this was no problem. That’s unlike the Republican-led Congress we have now.
If Congress did not act before the end of 2016, benefits would have been cut at that time by 20 percent. The commissioner of Social Security said recently that if Congress did not act, the automatic cuts would be a death sentence for those beneficiaries receiving SSDI and resulted in much higher Medicare premiums, which would have had the effect of cutting Social Security benefits to the retirees. One reality bears pointing out here: these beneficiaries could be any of us. The healthiest among us can find ourselves stricken with a life-threatening disabling illness.
Fortunately, that disaster has been avoided by the new debt limit bill. So, when you hear Republicans say they should shut down the government because it won’t hurt anyone, remember this and vote Democrat.

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