By Contributor on December 28, 2011

By Mike Ervin

Hold the applause: Extending the payroll tax cuts is a bad deal for nearly 9 million disabled Americans who rely on Social Security Disability Insurance for survival.

Like millions of Americans, my first paycheck of 2011 was slightly larger because of the tax relief provided by the one-year reduction in my Social Security payroll taxes. But I didn’t feel much of a sense of relief. As a person with a disability who will someday soon need Social Security Disability Insurance, I feared that raiding Social Security was a dangerous precedent that would continue far beyond one year.

American workers usually pay a tax of 6.2 percent on their earnings to build the Social Security Trust Fund. Employers pay the same percentage of tax on wages paid. Workers who are not of retirement age but have paid these taxes for a certain number of years can receive income through Social Security Disability Insurance if they become disabled for a year or longer and thus are unable to work and earn at their previous capacity.

But now I fear that this insurance pool is in jeopardy.

In 2011, workers contributed only 4.2 percent and employer contributions were unchanged. That tax cut was supposed to be for one year but President Obama has pushed hard to extend it for another year.

It’s true that transfers from general revenues have been used to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund to fill the gap from reduced payroll tax revenues.

But Social Security is funded by payroll taxes so as to make it an earned benefit, giving it stability by insulating it from the fickle funding whims of Congress.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare maintains that continuing the reduction in workers’ contributions poses a “grave threat” to the Social Security program because by financing it through general revenue, Social Security would “suddenly have to compete with other programs, such as funding for defense and education.”

The president’s insistence on continuing this reduction bears out the committee’s additional fear that the contribution level will never return to 6.2 percent because no politician will risk being accused of raising taxes on working people. Therefore, Social Security’s dependence on other revenue sources just to keep pace will be perpetual.

How long before the enemies of Social Security in Congress seize this as an excuse to reduce benefits and/or restrict eligibility?

Workers who became disabled and collect the Social Security Disability Insurance we earned are not responsible for the federal deficit or the dismal economy.

We, of all people, should not have to pay the price.

Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT (www.adapt.org). He can be reached at prmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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