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Will dysfunction in Congress cripple Social Security?

For years, Congress has put off dealing with questions of funding the Social Security program, but by next year, they will be forced to deal with one important aspect of the system. The trust fund that provides a portion of the payments made to Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) recipients will be exhausted.

This means that all payments for the SSDI program will have to be funded by current tax revenue. These tax revenues will only be able to pay for 81 percent of current needs, meaning if Congress refuses to increase those taxes, all SSD beneficiaries could see an across the board 19 percent cut in the payments.

Why is this happening? Because it has been decades since Congress has adjusted the funding formula. They have done this because there are only two options. One involves cutting benefits, and the other involves raising taxes. This is what politicians mean when they say they face "hard choices," when actually it is an easy choice.

Given the modest nature of the average benefit, any cuts would begin to make to program of questionable usefulness for many beneficiaries. If you received the current average payment, a 20 percent cut in your check would place you into poverty status.

It is laughable that some in Congress argue that we cannot afford to fund Social Security because of the nation's debt. The only reason the SSD trust fund is about to be exhausted is due to the unwillingness of Congress to properly fund the program.

They knew when they adopted the funding formula in 1994 that the would lead to the trust fund being exhausted in 2016, and some, like Sen. Orrin Hatch were in Congress at that time, so they have no excuse to pretend the problem is the result of recent trends or fraud and abuse.

Solutions are administratively simple and could probably be implemented before the end of this year if Congress acted responsibly. The beneficiaries of the program can only hope it will end its partisan bickering and do so.

Source:, "Social Security turns 80: Changes needed to save it," Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press, August 10, 2015

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