Monday night there were press reports that the budget deal recently being announced would include dramatic changes in Social Security disability. There would be $168 billion in cuts which would be around a 10% cut. Actually, the cuts were tiny. What happened? From what I've been able to piece together the $168 billion figure came from a fact sheet that Republican Congressional leaders released to their members. Conventionally, in preparing this sort of document, increases or decreases in spending are stated for a ten year time period. About $150 billion a year are paid in Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. A $168 billion cut over ten years would be a dramatic 10% cut in benefits. However, the $168 billion wasn't for ten years. It was for 75 years! A 75 year time frame is occasionally used in discussing Social Security's long term financing but I don't think I've ever seen such a time frame used in discussing budgets. Republican leaders released only the fact sheet until late Monday night when the actual bill was posted. I would call the Republican fact sheet deliberately misleading.
There may have been another deception. The bill awaiting Congressional approval transfers part of the FICA tax revenues from the Retirement and Survivors Trust Fund to the Disability Trust Fund for only three years. That means the Disability Trust Fund problems are solved for only three years, until 2019, when Republicans get another crack at the program, right? Take a look at today's New York Times. It says that the Disability Trust Fund problem is solved until 2022. How can that be? The bill will increase the portion of FICA that goes to the Disability Trust Fund from 1.8% to 2.37% for only three years. However, it appears that this reallocation for only three years will be enough to solve the problem for six years. If they had been trying to solve the problem for only three years, the reallocation would have been smaller. Of course, it would be better to solve the problem for the indefinite future but six years is a lot better than three years. Maybe there was some other reason for drafting the bill like this but it looks to me like Congressional Republican leaders wanted to make it appear that they'd get another crack at Social Security disability sooner than they will.