Congress has lately made two additions to the brief list of certainties in American life. Social Security benefits will go up automatically in every year that there is significant inflation—and the Social Security taxes paid by many middle-and higher-income workers will rise in every year that there is no full-scale depression. Those are the effects of two little-noticed escalator clauses tucked into the Social Security bill that President Nixon grudgingly signed on July 1.

The clauses were overshadowed in public discussion by the immediate benefits and tax boosts written into the law. Beginning in September, benefits paid to the 27...

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