The proposed denial of any Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for 2011 by the Social Security Administration, for the second year in a row, represents nothing less than the betrayal of America's elderly by the very agency charged with protecting them. The alleged reason for that denial, the lack of any significant rise in the consumer price index, is specious at best and dishonest at worst. The elderly are not able to spend their very limited incomes in the same way younger people do, but rather must use their funds to purchase items whose cost has been rising much faster than the general inflation rate.
For example, the average senior spends over $4,000 annually, out of pocket, on health care, the cost of which has been rising at double digit annual rates for decades, continuing to increase currently. Yet, the elderly spend less than the American average on gasoline, since they drive far fewer miles -- but one major factor holding down inflation as measured by the consumer price index has been temporarily-restrained energy costs. Thus, seniors are spending considerably more of their incomes on items whose costs have in fact risen during 2010, such as medical care and higher property taxes and fees in many places. For the elderly, 2010 was one more year of inflation, continuing into 2011.
Speaking as an economist, it is very clear that the real income and purchasing power of America's elderly have been damaged by severe current economic problems, such as drops in retirement plan values and payouts, losses of jobs which many seniors held, and the effects of the drastic problems with housing and the housing market. Speaking as the former operator of an old age home in Vermont, as well as board member of a Meals on Wheels program there, I have seen firsthand the struggle of so many seniors to just survive financially. Speaking as a senior myself, I find it absolutely unconscionable and intolerable to freeze our limited social security payments while our government bails out the banks, giant corporations, and other recipients of well over a trillion dollars of government largesse. America, as a humane nation, should not show more concern for the wealthy than it does for those who have spent their lives helping to build our country.
While the Obama Administration once proposed another round of stimulus checks which, if and when passed by Congress, would alleviate the social security freeze a bit, such payments, which now appear to be dropped, would only be about one-third to one-half of the average annual cost of living adjustment to social security. They would also be only one-shot payments. Cost of living adjustments, on the other hand, become a permanent part of our seniors' social security base.
It is vital that Americans of all ages object immediately to this unfair and unwise cost- of- living increase denial by the Social Security Administration, petition Congress to reverse this unjustified decision, and ask the White House to exercise its leadership on behalf of America's elderly, who fully deserve and need -- their 2011 increase. Skipping any such increase in 2010, for the first time in 35 years, is bad enough. Skipping such a fair and needed social security adjustment again would be a disaster!