According to the White House Fact Sheet on "The American Jobs Act" (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-
Big questions about the wisdom, efficacy, and implications of a tax-based jobs strategy need to be debated. Even bigger questions about the consequences of the payroll tax holiday in particular need to be answered. These questions are not just about the relationship between payroll tax cuts and job growth. They are about the future of Social Security.
The FICA/payroll tax goes into the Social Security Trust Fund. This is a dedicated fund currently worth $2.6 trillion, which has been built up over time through employee and employer contributions, along with accrued interest. Current and future Social Security beneficiaries receive benefits from this fund. No general revenues are involved.
Under the payroll tax cut initiated in the 2010 lame duck tax deal, the revenue loss to the Trust Fund from the payroll tax holiday is made up through compensatory payments into the Trust Fund from general revenues. The President proposes to continue this scheme -- deepening a relationship between Social Security and general revenues (read deficit) that did not exist until the December 2010 tax deal. This will make Social Security increasingly vulnerable to demands for "reform."
In the worst case, Congress could choose to enact the payroll tax cut without actually appropriating revenue compensation for the Trust Fund. This would mean that the payroll tax cut directly depletes the Trust Fund, creating financial/actuarial problems far sooner than the currently anticipated shortfall date of 2036.
But even if the Trust Fund receives full revenue compensation -- for both employer and employee contributions -- Social Security will be jeopardized. That's because the resources in the Trust Fund will be increasingly comingled with general revenue funds -- and, hence, increasingly connected to the deficit.
The government has borrowed from Social Security to pay for other things (through IOUs, bonds, etc). It does need to use general revenues to make good on borrowed funds. But this is a debt owed TO Social Security, not a debt caused by Social Security. This is a debt owed to the millions of workers who have contributed to the Social Security system through the payroll tax. However, now that general revenues are contributed to the Trust Fund to offset the cost of the tax holiday, some people will undoubtedly claim that Social Security has become a drain on the national treasury.
Also worth worrying about here is contagious political cowardice about "raising taxes." The payroll tax holiday is framed as just that -- a holiday, ie, a short-lived break. But as we know from other tax cuts with built-in expiration dates, the planned end of a tax cut quickly becomes a "tax increase" in popular parlance. There hasn't been much resolve to allow the years-long tax holiday for the rich to end. When the time comes, will there be greater resolve to allow an end to the 2-year tax holiday for workers and 1-year tax holiday for employers? Even when billed as a "middle class tax increase" and a "job-killing tax on business"?
Once the payroll tax basis of Social Security financing has been corrupted the future of Social Security will no longer be in doubt. It won't have one.