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The Home page of today's (April 11) New York Times carries an article titled ‘In the President’s Budget’ written by their Editorial Board, which is followed by the lead copy -

“The plan for 2014 includes a troubling cut to Social Security and other better ideas that put Republicans on the spot.”

Though this might be a primitive question, as usual, from a non native English speaker, if I replace the preposition ‘to’ in “a troubling cut to Social Security” with ‘of,’ what difference of meaning would come out from the original line?

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in would probably be more appropriate: "a cut in Social Security". – ElendilTheTall Apr 11 '13 at 8:31
The preposition to here implies action of one body (agency) against a thing. A cut in Social Security sounds arguably more benign than a cut to it, or at least less directly involving or specifying an agent that is to perform the cutting. "You have a wound in your chest" attributes no responsibility for the injury, whereas "Karl delivered a wound to your chest" does. – Robusto Apr 11 '13 at 11:58
up vote 8 down vote accepted

A cut of something generally refers to the portion of a thing that has been cut off or removed (e.g., "a cut of beef"). Thus, a cut of social security would refer to the part of social security that has been removed, whatever that might be.

A cut to something, meanwhile, refers to the cut (reduction) itself, not the entity that has been cut (sliced) off. Cut in would also make sense in this context.

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I should add that I can't think of a situation where a cut of social security would sound idiomatic, but I'm not ruling out the possibility. – onomatomaniak Apr 11 '13 at 9:14
Perhaps few are concerned about their cut of social security, but quite many about their cut of Social Security. – choster Apr 11 '13 at 21:32
@choster. Shouln't either of the above "their cut of social security" be "their cut to cocial security."? – Yoichi Oishi Apr 11 '13 at 23:32
@YoichiOishi What I mean is they may not care one whit about social security referring to safety against poverty and cohesion in civil society, but they will invariably care quite a bit about their "cut" from the U.S. Social Security system, meaning their claim to a payout from it — their share, their lot, their lucre, their piece of the action, slice of the pie, taste of the gravy... which by some calculations, absent reforms, would ironically lead to a rather insecure future and a rather disharmonious society. – choster Apr 12 '13 at 4:03

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