When people are elected to Congress, they should be issued a top hat, a black cape and a magic wand. This way the general public will at least know that a trick is being played on them.

Any good magician has the audience looking at one thing while doing another. This is the same subterfuge that Congress played with the so-called “fiscal cliff” while the working public was being sucker-punched.

After the smoke cleared, John and Jane Q. Public found out that their pay check had shrunk as of Jan. 1, because the Social Security withholding (essentially a tax) was punched back up to 6.2 percent after two years at 4.2 percent. The increase also hits small businesses since half of the increase is paid by employers while the other half is paid by workers.

All the talk about increasing taxes for the rich was a diversion so middle-class working stiffs wouldn’t realize that their paycheck was going to be attacked as soon as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

During the presidential campaign neither President Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney spoke about the possibility of the Social Security withholding tax being increased.

In fact, Obama pushed for the tax cut in late 2010 as a way to increase a worker’s take-home pay. However, he didn’t include the tax cut in his 2013 budget proposal since he had already won the election and no longer needed to court the middle-class worker vote.

The whole concept of the Social Security program since it was made a law in 1935 has been debated by those who believe in the program and those who don’t.

The program is a uniquely American solution to the problem of old-age pensions. Unlike many European nations that fund pension plans with government funds, U.S. social security “insurance” has been supported from “contributions” in the form of taxes on individuals’ wages and employers’ payrolls. Prior to Social Security, the elderly routinely faced the prospect of poverty upon retirement or became dependent on their family for care. For the most part, that fear has now dissipated.

The program is filled with myths and concerns which include the ideas that “the ratio of workers to retirees is out of balance and the program will go bankrupt,” “the program is unworkable in the face of an aging population,” “it won’t be around when younger workers retire” or “social-security is out-of-date, made for the Depression, and in need of modernization.”

While many residents are dependent on their Social Security checks to live out a comfortable retirement, some of these ideas may be rooted in truth, and the American public deserved to hear-and needed to demand-the candidates’ ideas for providing a comprehensive solution to Social Security rather than increasing the withholding contribution while no one was looking. Once again, the magicians in Washington fooled everyone with their usual razzle-dazzle.

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