Social Security Reliably Provides Income to Disabled

Professor of Law Merton Bernstein writes today: “Social Security has proven to be the one program we can rely on to provide income when other income sources dry up because of job loss, age, disability or death. Most people probably didn’t know or notice, but Social Security was the first program to deliver cash benefits to families who lost a wage earner in the 9/11 attack. It also is the most readily available income source to those aged 62 and over when they lose a job. It is the most readily available income source to families who lose a wage earner to death and retirement.

“Some seek to trim Social Security as part of an effort to tame federal deficits and the federal debt. But Social Security has not contributed a dime, not a nickel, not a penny to them. Social Security’s three income sources pay the program’s way in full. Since 1937, working people and their employers have paid a modest monthly amount of their earnings to the program pursuant to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

“Since 1983, the program has derived ample support from those contributions and two other dedicated sources of revenue — income tax on the Social Security benefits of high earners and interest credited to the Social Security Trust Fund for tens of billions of dollars that Social Security lends to the Treasury. Treasury issues interest-bearing debt obligations in return.

“Some disparage those obligations as ‘worthless IOUs.’ But they are regarded as among the most dependable and valued bonds in the world. Some decry the bonds in the hand of China as a source of U.S. vulnerability. That’s absurd because, as a large creditor, China has a huge stake in maintaining our ability to pay interest on those bonds and repay their principal. Moreover, the Social Security surplus makes huge amounts readily available for Treasury borrowing and thereby lowers the cost of borrowing for business, consumers and state and local government.” See his comments here: