Let's thank Congressman Anthony Weiner, our single payer champ, for taking to the streets of New York again, this time to protest the Social Security Administration's policy decision to freeze the cost of living adjustment (COLA) on Social Security benefits. Unlike last year, when seniors and the disabled received a 5.8% increase in their monthly benefit checks, Social Security checks in 2010 and 2011 will remain stagnant.
The Arctic freeze, the first one in 35 years since the automatic COLA went into effect during the Nixon administration, comes at a politically bad time, when Wall Street executives, high off their no-strings-attached bank bail-out, are skipping around the conference room with $140-billion in salaries and bonuses, a three-year high in compensation.
Compare that to the average senior's Social Security check -- $1100 per month.
No belt-tightening for AIG, Goldman Sachs, or Bank of America.
Only for the old, the veterans, and the disabled.
Some, like the AARP, are supporting the House-approved one-time $250 bonus to Social Security recipients. Instead of getting last year's COLA boost of roughly $600, they're getting an additional $80 per year, or $7 per month, enough to buy scrambled eggs and toast at Denny's.
Not much comfort in that.
From the words of one senior quoted in an Associated Press report, "We were good citizens all of our lives. We went to work, we lived by the book, we weren't on welfare, we didn't ask the city for anything ""
Defenders of the COLA freeze argue the formula is tied to the Consumer Price Index and prices are down -- on oil. But utility costs are on the rise -- almost 30 percent. Medicare costs for hospitalization and doctor visits will be capped for most, though not all recipients, but prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D will increase because Part D is not tied to the COLA freeze.
Forget the formulas.
Remember the bigger picture. Ever since former President Roosevelt proudly handed the first social security check to another former president, Harry Truman, the right wing in this country has been driven to destroy the greatest safety net to emerge from the New Deal.
You hear it over and over. Social Security is facing a financial crisis. The Social Security trust fund will soon be bankrupt.
Social Security, with its monthly benefits to some 57 million seniors, widows, and disabled, is hardly bankrupt -- quite the contrary. In fact, the Social Security trust fund has an estimated $2-trillion dollars in it -- and, according to the Congressional Budget Office 2009 analysis of long term projections, this "rainy day" trust fund could last another 30-40 years before we have to dip into the other Social Security fund, the pay-as-you-go system, where this generation of workers pays for the benefits of current retirees, just as today's retirees paid for the benefits of the previous generation.
Let's look at the numbers. In 2008 Social Security collected 700 million dollars, and paid out only 500 million. The extra 200 million dollars went into the trust fund.