Put simply, it's like choosing to not fund your retirement program so you have a few extra bucks to spend at Xmas time.
Worse, it's like borrowing from your 401K to buy a new car. (And anyone who knows even a little about finance can tell you why that's insane.)
Let me explain.
Most everyone would like to pay less taxes. Some of us—the more socially evolved of us—see the need to contribute and do so, willingly. Others of us are willing to go to the mat so those of us with the most contribute the least. (But that's an entirely different argument.)
My point is, everyone hears the words, "Tax Cut," and says, "yes, more please," and few consider the impact.
Fewer still consider the purpose.
This "cut" is to the amount of money a worker contributes to the Social Security fund. That's the money that's used to pay out benefits. Those are the benefits most workers are depending on when they retire. That's the system that's going to be destroyed when it's made insolvent by allowing this defunding to continue.
In a nutshell, Social Security works. It's been working just fine for over 70 years, and will continue to work the way it was intended until I'm ready to retire. Anyone who tells you different is lying or grossly misinformed. The program is solvent. It will be solvent for decades to come if left untouched. With one minor tweak, it will be solvent for decades more after that. It does not contribute to our deficit, nor our national debt (and yes, to my Tea Party readers, the two are different), as it is funded by its own tax.
Remember that last point for later.
So times are tough, and our Beneficent Gov't™ offers us a bone—a break, if you will. "We're going to reduce the amount of taxes that come out of your check every week, so you have a few extra bucks to spend," they say.
If you're paying attention, you ask, "from where?
"From my Federal Income Taxes? I know I'm paying more there, proportionally, than people wealthier than me, as I've been picking up the slack left by tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. It would be great if that balance was shifted back."
"No," they say, "not from there."
"From my State Taxes? Or Local? My state is slashing programs and gutting aid they used to provide to those in need, all to meet their new budgets, and my community is firing Police and teachers, closing schools and not fixing roads because the just don't have the money any more. I could use a few extra dollars, but I also enjoy living in an economically stable and sustainable community, so I'm not sure that's the best place to give me a break."
"Relax, not from there," they tell you.
"From unemployment insurance? I like knowing that the 'insurance' I've been paying my whole working life will be there if I lose my job."
"Yeah, about that..."
"From where, then? Not Medicare."
"We can discuss that at a later time."
"Wait, you're not defunding Social Security, are you? Where will the money come from when I'm ready to retire?"
"Don't worry," Beneficent Gov't™ says, "we'll cover it."
"Oh, thank goodness," as we all breathe a sigh of relief. "Oh, wait a minute... cover it how?"
And therein lies the real problem—and the real reason for the charade, the fallacy of "Providing Relief to the Middle Class™."
The Feds are going to "cover" the shortfall in funding from the general fund.
Which is funded (partly) by federal income taxes.
Which you and I already pay.
They paying out of which will increase our deficit. And our national debt.
Which will give the Right Wing blowhards even more fuel to rally for its continued defunding and eventual dissolution.
Hopefully now you see where all this is going.
If you've heard one economic mantra from right wing politicians and pundits, after "taxes are too high (now that they're the lowest they've been in nearly a century, right when our economy crashed the last time)," it's "we have too much debt—cut the deficit." It's as if they have Talking Point Tourett Syndrome.
"What's your position on environmental legislation?"
"Cut the deficit!"
"What about women's rights? Or disadvantaged minorities?"
"Cut the deficit!"
"Maybe we could reduce military spending?"
"Hey, watch it, Comrade! Why do you hate America?
"No, what we need to do is slash the two largest entitlement programs—Social Security and Medicare—you know, the ones that don't actually contribute to the deficit. All those whiny people with their hands out, expecting the government to take care of them by doling out money from a fund they've paid into their whole lives. Yes, to cut the deficit, we need to cut those," they conclude.
"But those programs are funded by their own tax base," we say. "Cutting benefits and delaying payment won't reduce our deficit, nor lower our national debt. Your argument doesn't hold water."
"Hmm," they muse, thinking quickly. "But what if it were funded by the general fund? Then we'd have an argument for gutting it."
"I know," someone says, in hushed, conspiratorial tones. "We can shift the source of funding from the Social Security tax to the general fund. We can tell the plebeians they're getting a 'tax break.'"
"(snigger) Yeah, 'tax break.' They'll think they're more like us! Brilliant poison pill! They'll never see it coming! Haw haw haw haw!"
"Wait, it gets better.
"After we've completely gutted benefits, under the guise of 'responsible spending,' there'll be more money left in the fund to borrow from."
"Hold on, I thought we're not allowed to borrow from the Social Security Trust Fund. Isn't that illegal?"
"'Allowed' and 'illegal' are such ambiguous words. Someone with enough clout would actually have to bring charges—and that's not going to happen. Besides, are you going to tell me we can't fund massive military expansion across the globe and slash the amount of taxes we pay, all when there's a big pile of money sitting right there, just collecting interest? You actually expect us to hand all that money back to the peons? Why? Because it's 'their money,' because 'they paid into it?'"
"But when you take that money out, what're you going to replace it with?"
"An I.O.U. We're good for it. Look at our credit rating."
"Besides, it's not like we're going to actually have to pay any of that money out. We just create this massive misinformation campaign. We'll keep repeating the meme, 'Social Security is bankrupt.' 'Social Security is unsustainable—it's in danger of imminent collapse.'"
"No. But you're missing my point. If we keep saying it, the idea that it's about to collapse will be in the backs of everybody's minds. Then we can say we 'need to protect it,' by not actually paying any of it back. That way, no one ever finds out that we've been siphoning off most of the fund for the past 30 years."
"But what if they raise the cap?"
"Yeah, like we're going to let that happen."
"Seriously, if they passed legislation to apply the Social Security tax to include income over $100,000—say, up to $250,000—then the program would be solvent through the 21st century."
"Just who's side are you on, anyway?"