For the second year in a row, the nearly 54 million retirees and other Americans who receive Social Security benefits will not get any cost-of-living increase in 2011 in their monthly checks, government officials announced Friday, renewing debate over whether the system offers enough help in a weak economy.
The absence of any growth in Social Security checks for consecutive years is unprecedented in the 31/2 decades that payments have been adjusted automatically based on the nation’s inflation rate….
In the White House and on Capitol Hill, Democrats immediately responded with fresh calls to give extra money to older Americans, a potent voting bloc, and other people who depend on Social Security. Republicans disparaged the idea, contending that it would deepen the deficit and skirt a more fundamental need to put the retirement system on solid financial footing for the long term.
The Republicans are absolutely right about that. There is no legitimate reason to increase payments to Social Security recipients in an era of low or non-existent inflation. The proposal to do so — the plan is apparently to send Social Security recipients a check for $250, at a cost of $14 billion — is sheer politics and pandering.
“Many seniors are struggling in the face of the economic downturn, having seen their savings fall,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement quoted by the Post. “Today’s news that the Social Security Administration will for a second year not provide a cost of living adjustment for Social Security benefits highlights these struggles.”
Again, no. Some seniors may indeed be struggling, but a lot of Americans — people with kids to raise, for example, and people without health insurance — are struggling even worse in this economy and don’t have Social Security to fall back upon.
This is the kind of proposal gives legitimacy to the caricature of Democrats as free-spenders, and it ought to be dropped.