The "We can't afford it!" crowd of conservatives, Pub and Dem, have apparently won the first round in their War on Social Security. For the first time in 34 years, there will likely be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). With inflation currently in negative numbers, that may not sound like much of a hit but there are a couple of things to consider. First, food prices are going up above the inflation level, and energy prices, while lower than last year (the biggest reason the inflation level is considered low), are still pretty goddam high for people on a fixed income and projections are that energy prices won't stay depressed through the winter. Those are two of the biggest three expenses seniors face. The third, of course, is health care, and the biggest chunk of their health care expenses is drugs. Thanks to Medicare Part D, they're going to be paying more out of their pockets for those drugs.
By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.
Advocates say older people still face higher prices because they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care, where costs rise faster than inflation. Many also have suffered from declining home values and shrinking stock portfolios just as they are relying on those assets for income.
"For many elderly, they don't feel that inflation is low because their expenses are still going up," said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. "Anyone who has savings and investments has seen some serious losses."
More than 32 million people are in the Medicare prescription drug program. Average monthly premiums are set to go from $28 this year to $30 next year, though they vary by plan. About 6 million people in the program have premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security payments, according to the Social Security Administration.
Anyone who doesn't have those things isn't exactly sitting pretty. Most if not all seniors are going to be hurt by this but at $2/month for the premiums, they won't be hurt by much. Just another nickle added to the nickel-and-diming they're constantly subjected to. By itself nothing, but add it up altogether and suddenly you're beyond broke.
But the most worrying aspect of this is the precedent it's going to set. There's no reason whatever not to do a COLA for one year let alone two. SocSec is not, repeat NOT in trouble and is not projected to be in trouble again for another 3 decades or thereabouts so why oh why are we acting like we have to do something RIGHT NOW as if a crisis were imminent?
The answer is kinda obvious, I would think, but then the last few years have taught me to be exceptionally pessimistic when it comes to shit like this: when something doesn't make sense for the stated reason, somebody's usually in the background trying to pull a fast one. Could there be some connection with this?
An independent senator counted on by Democrats in the health care debate showed signs of wavering Sunday when he urged President Barack Obama to postpone many of his initiatives because of the economic downturn.
"I'm afraid we've got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy's out of recession," said Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.
"I think it's a real mistake to try to jam through the total health insurance reform, health care reform plan that the public is either opposed to or of very, very passionate mixed minds about," Lieberman said.
Obfuscate and delay, delay, delay. Do it tomorrow or the day after but NOT TODAY. We don't have the money, the whacko nutjobs think it's a trick, FoxNews is against it, a few angry Beck fans tried to shut down the debate - you know, it's really not a good time. Maybe in a few more years. Yes, that's it, if we just wait a few more years, cut "entitlements" a bit more, chop a little more off Medicare, cut the SocSec COLA altogether, increase the premiums for Part D, mayube then we can talk about a (highly restricted) "public option". But not now. For Gawd's sake, NOT NOW!!
As we learned this week, there's nothing like a phony crisis to divert attention and allow wool to be pulled. After all, if we were serious, would we have put these six bozos in charge?