The phrase third rail is a metaphor in politics to denote an idea or topic that is so “charged” and “untouchable” that any politician or public official who dares to broach the subject would invariably suffer politically.
The third rail in a railway is the exposed electrical conductor that carries high voltage power. Stepping on the high-voltage third rail usually results in electrocution. The use of the term in politics serves to emphasize the “shock” that results from raising the controversial idea, and the “political death” (or political suicide) that the unaware or provocative politician would encounter as a result.
- Why do you think that modifying our social security program, along with the accompanying benefits, is considered a “third rail” topic for politicians?
- Discuss some of the methods that might help to “reinforce” the program and make it last our lifetimes.
- What would you anticipate to be the “logical flaws” that might exist with arguments opposing your methods for shoring up social security?