Friday, April 19, 2002
Yesterday the House passed legislation that would make the tax cut passed last year permanent. The marriage penalty and the estate tax are among the items that will die a permanent death, and will not be resurrected in 2011.
Democrats sought to tie the vote to what they view as their most potent electoral issue, the future of Social Security. They said that allocating hundreds of billions of dollars a year to the tax cut in perpetuity would endanger the government's ability to pay Social Security benefits when the vast boomer generation retires.
"The issue is what's going to happen on Social Security," said Representative Richard A. Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, the minority leader. "Mark my words, it's going to be an issue in the election."
I've said it before, and Gephardt's comment reveals the truth of my earlier assertion that there is no lockbox. When Republicans (or the occasional Democrat) are accused of dipping into the "Social Security Trust Fund," it's one big lie.
Look at your paystub. I got mine yesterday (comparing the gross and the net is just depressing). There's a FICA and a FIT and a bunch of other things. That tax cut changed the amount in the FIT column, not the FICA column. Democrats are talking about the tax cut affecting the FICA -- the only way that can happen is if the money comes from the same pot.
It'd be nice if our elected representatives started talking straight. It's meaningless if the "trust fund" is dipped into now. It's already taking more money than it needs to pay out benefits. Once that dynamic changes, one of two things must happen; taxes will have to be raised or benefits cut. The only other option is to change how the system works -- but many Democrats don't like talking about that.