WASHINGTON – On its first day of business here the GOP-run House launched what could end up as the most serious attack yet on Social Security.
The House approved a rule that blocks what has for many decades been routine renewal of permission to use Social Security payroll taxes to fund disability programs.
The disability trust fund is slated to run dry next year, making today’s move particularly ominous. The rule the GOP rammed through yesterday will not allow reallocation of the tax income by Congress. That routine reallocation would permit the disability programs to continue as-is until 2033, giving Congress time to develop a long-term solution.
The rules change forced through by the Republicans yesterday requires that any reallocation be accompanied by across-the-board Social Security benefit cuts or payroll tax increases.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security issued a statement explaining that this, in effect, either slashes old-age Social Security benefits or can kill Social Security disability benefits altogether because the only way to implement the GOP mandate would be for Social Security backers to vote for benefit cuts or for Republicans to vote for payroll tax increases – both things being virtually politically impossible.
“It is hard to believe that there is any purpose to this unprecedented challenge to House rules,” said Max Richtman, president of the committee, yesterday, “other than to cut benefits for Americans who have worked hard all their lives, paid into Social Security and rely on their Social Security benefits, including Disability Insurance, in order to survive.”
Republicans have been attacking the Social Security system since its inception in the New Deal years but have reserved their sharpest attacks against it for its disability benefits component, claiming that it discourages work by lavishing benefits on lazy individuals.
Social Security advocates note that nothing could be further from the truth.
Eligibility for disability benefits requires that an individual must have worked for at least one fourth of his or her adult life and have been employed for at least five of the previous 10 years.
Disability must be so severe that an individual cannot earn $1,000 a month on his or her own steam and even after having met all those stringent pre-requirements only a quarter of applicants are approved.