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The war on SSDI

Congress has begin it new session with what can only be seen as an opening salvo in the coming war on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The program, which provides benefits to disabled worker in Pennsylvania and across the U.S., is expected to run short of money to pay the current benefit levels in 2016.

On the first day of the new Congress, Republicans in the House of Representatives engineered a rule change that forecloses one of the options to deal with the shortfall of SSDI funds. 

The rule change prohibits the reallocation of revenue from the FICA tax. This reallocation has been how Congress has dealt with these funding imbalances for the SSDI and retirement programs 11 times in the past 40 years.

The fact that they used a "technical" rule change and continue to use rhetoric like "broken" and "failed," demonstrates they either do not understand the issue, or are merely engaging in misinformation in the hope of being able to fool the American people into damaging Social Security forever.

The program is not broken; what is broken is the willingness of Congress to face the reality that the needs of the program have grown during the last 20 years and it, as an institution, has failed to supply it with adequate funding through tax increases.

The "fix" is not difficult; by extending the payroll tax to 90 percent of income would take care of 48 percent of the shortfall. Increasing the tax from 12.4 to 15.5 percent would solve all of the funding problems.

Some members like to pretend that eliminating "fraud" will solve the problem. Since the SSDI program is estimated to have a very low (1 percent or less) fraud rate, this is a bogus suggestion.

Increasing the FICA tax by a few percent would solve Social Security's financial problems until 2085, but the current Congress simply lacks the will to do the right thing.

Latimes.com, "On Day One, the new Congress launches an attack on Social Security," Michael Hiltzik, January 6, 2015

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