$250 Social Security checks a bad ideaBecause the cost of living index has flattened, for the first time in decades Social Security recipients won’t get an increase in benefits next January.
By: Anne McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
Because the cost of living index has flattened, for the first time in decades Social Security recipients won’t get an increase in benefits next January.
Terrified of senior rage, the White House is proposing a one-time $250 check to every recipient. This is a mistake.
While an extra $250 would mean a great deal to thousands of seniors and disabled Americans, the cost would be at least $13 billion, according to the White House. Others think the cost would be $14 billion. (A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon we’re talking real money.)
A lot of families with small children could also use $250. What about them? There are many seniors with far more money than many families who can’t make it from paycheck to paycheck.
With everyone hit hard by the recession and the jobless rate hovering at 10 percent (and much higher in some states), this is no time for generational favoritism.
One problem (of many) with the bailout of trillions of dollars, especially to companies giving employees an average of three-quarters of a million dollars this year, is that now everyone expects something.
Accordingly, the White House is thinking of extending the $8,000 credit for first-time homebuyers, at a potential cost of nearly $17 billion. The administration also wants to extend unemployment insurance benefits again. There is another effort to funnel $50 billion to community banks to loan struggling small businesses. And we haven’t even mentioned health care.
Seniors, veterans and federal pensioners got $250 checks last spring as part of the stimulus package. That was in addition to a 5.8 percent increase in benefit checks, the largest since 1982, primarily because of higher energy costs.
The annual COLA increase, implemented in 1975, was designed to help seniors and disabled Americans when inflation was eroding their monthly benefits. That is not true now. The cost of living fell slightly in recent months. Technically, there is no legal reason for benefits to increase.
But seniors have gotten used to a regular increase in their checks each month. And they vote — in much higher percentages than the rest of Americans. With mid-term elections next year, when the entire House and a third of the Senate will be seeking re-election, politicians don’t want to anger 57 million seniors, veterans and disabled Americans.
House and Senate Democratic leaders quickly jumped up to stand with President Barack Obama in seeking the $250 checks, which would be available to all beneficiaries regardless of income next year. Because the new checks also would be supposed to stimulate the economy, there would be no offset in savings elsewhere in the federal budget.
Facing an election year, Congress is likely to agree to Obama’s request. Republicans may be chaffing at the mounting national debt, but they aren’t about to make much noise over more money for seniors. The GOP sees a chance to regain congressional seats and won’t alienate voters.
Once again we make the argument that the real problem facing this country is lack of new jobs. The rate is even higher than one out of 10 Americans needing a job not being able to find one because many are so disheartened they’ve stopped looking.
We’ve spent trillions to bail out banks and financial institutions. We’ve spent significantly less on programs proven to create jobs. The dismal forecast is that it could be a decade or more before good, well-paying jobs return in pre-recession numbers.
Despite the new report that the two-year, $787 billion stimulus or “recovery” money is helping the economy, the jury is still out on exactly how many jobs it will create.
We absolutely must help the neediest in America. But any idea that we have limitless pockets to help everyone is wrong.
Who among us would not welcome an extra $250? But if it comes, it will be attached to guilt. A lot of seniors, especially those with financially struggling children and grandchildren, feel in their bones it is wrong.
— Scripps Howard columnist McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail her at email@example.com.