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SSDI as a political issue in the 2014 midterm elections

Social Security has long been the “third rail” of politics. Both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that the way in which the Social Security Administration currently functions is financially unsustainable in the long run. Yet most politicians fear to even make suggestions on how to change or improve the system. It is the “third rail” because unpopular proposals such as raising the retirement age could instantly end a person’s political career. Social Security Disability Insurance is an important part of the overall debate.

Unfortunately, both Democrats and Republicans seem to be locked in debates about what kinds of cuts to make to Social Security and how deep those cuts should be. In a recent column in the Washington Post, columnist Greg Sargent offers a different suggestion: Move the conversation toward expanding Social Security instead.

Sargent isn’t shy about the fact that his columns are written “from a liberal perspective.” As such, he is suggesting that Democrats could use the expansion of Social Security as a campaign issue in the midterm elections later this year. But because any of us could become disabled prior to reaching retirement age, SSDI is a program that should have strong bipartisan support.

But how do we go about fixing and expanding SSDI? Democratic politicians leading the charge on this issue have said that one of the most effective solutions would be to either change or remove the payroll tax cap. In short, this would mean that those who earn more money would contribute more into Social Security. It has also been suggested that benefits should be tied to inflation so that payments increase as the value of money decreases.

Obviously, these proposals are likely to prompt significant resistance and backlash. But Sargent’s larger point is an important one. Instead of trying to salvage Social Security as it is and avoid deeper cuts, we should be pushing for solutions to expand it and make it vital and effective for all who rely on these benefits.

Source: The Washington Post, "The next big fight over the safety net," Greg Sargent, May 20, 2014

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