It's the Stupid Economy
This Week in Elder News: 18 October 2008

5.8% Social Security COLA Increase for 2009

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have written any blog posts on political issues this week, be sure to get links to me by the end of today for the Sunday Election Issues post. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, see this post.]

category_bug_politics.gif Before I get to the 2009 Social Security COLA, a random thought or two about the final debate of the presidential campaign:

1. If you reject the professional (and amateur) pundits' simplistic game of calling the debate as a horse race, it was the best of the three because the candidates discussed issues that matter and showed real differences between them - side by side.

2. Senator McCain said that Americans are angry, but I think he misreads the national mood. Anxiety is more like it. Anxiety tinged with fear over personal finances, jobs and homes along with how deep and enduring this recession will become. Senator Obama appears to understand that.

Perhaps a man who has lived high off his wife's wealth for decades and has the best health care coverage in America for life can't understand how the rest of us live.

3. Senator Obama went way out on a limb in his closing statement with something no candidate, in my memory, has ever said (emphasis is mine):

"But it's not going to be easy. It's not going to be quick. It is going to be requiring all of us - Democrats, Republicans, independents - to come together and to renew a spirit of sacrifice and service and responsibility."

You know that. I know that. And it's a relief to hear an honest assessment of our predicament rather than the discredited Republican refrain of lower taxes = better times for everyone.

4. During the discussion on abortion, I was offended by Senator McCain's mocking of the pregnant women's health, and heartened by Senator Obama's statement that abortion should remain (by upholding Roe v. Wade) a private matter among a woman, her family and her physician.

5. Regarding demeanor, Senator McCain's constant, rapid eye-blinking was painfully distracting. I'm sure psychologists can invest the behavior with some underlying meaning, but it made me feel jumpy, uncomfortable and distrustful.

The value of debates is in seeing and hearing the candidates together: weighing their words, assessing their overall behavior under pressure and watching their reactions to each other. In the future, I would like to see all debates broadcast in split screen throughout.

Social Security
The annual Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA), which was announced yesterday, is not made on whim by some bureaucrat rolling dice. There is an established formula related to the Consumer Price Index that, for 2009, results in a 5.8 percent increase, the largest in several years.

Although I believe the increase is way below what real inflation is (an explanation is too tedious for me to write and for you to read) and the average rise will not come close to covering increased expenses, it's better than losing ground and additionally, this year, it won't be negatively offset by an increase in the Medicare Part B premium which remains at $96.40.

I doubt, however, that the increase will make up for lower investment dividends many elders are facing, income they have depended on in the past to supplement Social Security.

If you want to know how much your Social Security payment will increase, track down your benefits statement from last November, take the "monthly benefit before deductions" number and multiply by .058. A letter confirming your increase will arrive from the Social Security Administration in mid-November.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek brings us his Memories of the Great Depression.]


Comments

I have to dissent. I was distracted by the split screen. And, as it turned out, the candidates reactions were exactly as I would have imagined them.

My preference for a debate setting would be for the candidates to sit down at a table together and answer questions, without using rhetoric. A buzzer would sound and the candidate would lose 'points' each time he uttered one of his campaign talking points.

Regarding the Social Security annual cost of living increase...hooray! Now just imagine what they would be telling us about our Social Security monthly annuity had GWB succeeded in privatizing SS in 2005 and turned the fund over to Wall Street. Those of us who have seen our Wall Street investments cut in half or more don't even have to guess what the news would be.

Regarding the most recent debate...it seems to me they used the split screen mostly whenever it was Obama's turn to speak so they could show McCain mugging. When it was McCain's turn to speak, all we saw was McCain.

I watched this last debate only as a favor to a friend, who wanted to watch it with me. Otherwise, seeing and hearing such blatant partisanship rather than a true debate of the issues would be hazardous to my blood pressure. With the latter in mind, we turned the TV off once the post-debate commentary started.

I was fortunate to attend a lecture given by the well-known political strategist, Donna Brazile, the evening before the third debate. She was informative, funny and “real.” Her emphasis at the close of her talk was about everyone, at the end of this most historic presidential campaign, coming together as one for one country. It was most encouraging to hear Senator Obama give the same message Wednesday evening.
Ronni, I was also distracted by Senator McCain’s eye-blinking/eye rolling. His overall demeanor made me tense. I was stunned by his “in-the-air” quotations in regard to the pregnant women’s health abortion issue.

I have to dissent on one point: McCain did not stick to the issues. He kept bringing up distractions, Ayers, ACORN, etc., and attacking Obama's character. I think McCain's blinking, squirming in his seat, etc., was due to physical discomfort (perhaps stemming from his wartime injuries) that make it difficult for him to sit still for extended periods of time. (Remember how in debate 2 he kept getting up and wandering around the stage while Obama was speaking? Same thing.) For me, the highlight was when McCain made the air quotes in speaking of women's health: while he was referring specifically to abortion, it demonstrated to me that while reproductive rights are just one part of the much broader issue of women's health, as he does with so many other things McCain just doesn't see issues in their overall context. (And that includes defense and foreign policy issues, which are supposed to be his strong suit.)

Obama is so cool and unflappable that even conservatives have to concede that he looks Presidential. He surrounds himself with the best and the brightest and his intellect is so obvious that I would think McCain would be embarrassed to make some of the inane statements that he does. I do wonder sometimes when I listen to McCain's answers (Down Syndrome becoming Autistic) if dementia is setting in.

McCain is my choice on the majority of the issues regarding the Presidency. I discount religion, abortion and gay rights as having no relevance to the political issues and I wish they were not such strong talking points. Do any of us actually believe the religious right can overcome our personal tolerances and beliefs? Can the progress and momentum gained by homosexuals be slowed or stopped by politics? Does anyone who remembers the times prior to Roe v Wade believe that we will ever return women to back alley abortions and coat hangers? That progress is here to stay and expand in this 21st Century and the time to come. Now we need to concentrate on issues that directly affect the position of President of The United States and what we see as needed to strengthen the safety and economy of our Nation.

At some point, after the election, I fully expect to hear that there is something seriously wrong with McCain - either physically or mentally. And, I hope he is not the president at that time, or, worse, our former president, as we discovered with Reagan.

I too found McCain's physical behavior to be very distracting. I agree with Betty regarding his health; war wounds aside, he is suffering from who knows what, including early signs of dementia. Unfortunately, as a resident of Florida, I can attest to the ability of the Republican party to ensure that their man gets the election -- no matter what it takes. Obama is the better man, but we will be stuck with McCain and then Palin in the White House.
Beam me up Scottie, I've got to get out of this place!

Yes, Granny Annie, McCain and the Republicans can take away our rights and choices even on issues some of us, including me, believe should not be politicized or legislated.

Their Supreme Court appointees share their misguided interpretation that our Constitution is static and not a living document that was written to be judiciously adapted with the times based on new knowledge and scientific fact. They will not hesitate to force their belief systems on all Americans as they have proven in other matters.

Anyone in doubt this is possible should review the instances of freedoms and rights stolen by this same political party's government officials the past eight years. Astute intelligent posts archived on this blog, a multitude of other print articles and books continue to provide well-documented specific examples of these occurrences.

I believe each individual is capable of exercising free will in determining what is best for themselves whether the issue be abortion, religion or gay rights. I believe in tolerating those who believe differently from me and that they should be free to practice their own beliefs.

The Republican Party practices would legally prevent me from practicing my beliefs. I'm certainly not willing to gamble away my rights by voting McCain and Palin into office, leaving those against whom they would discriminate to fight for what should be basic rights.

The Republican Party position has not changed, only the name of the candidates who will do their best to continue that divisive agenda. Palin has made her views quite plain and she would be only a heartbeat away from being President.

But I also find McCain much too erratic with overall policies that fall short of and fail to offer real change. This Republic desperately needs viable change if we hope to regain economic stability, respectable standing in the world and truly be a democracy seeking nation of, by and for the people.

Comment abv from Joared.

Ronni, was that your response to my comment? Thanks for it. Perhaps I am simply trying to justify my reasons for abandoning these issues in this election. I absolutely cannot believe in my heart of hearts that any group of Americans would reverse the progress made by so many minorities. Yes we all, especially women, still have a long way to go, but I can't put those issues in a Presidential election because it takes more than the President to cause that change. I am pro "drill baby drill" while seeking an alternative fuel source. I am pro holding or lowering taxes and believe in the free enterprise system for businesses while non-profit social service agencies and churches reach out to tackle poverty. (Don't punish people for success.) I am pro actually supporting our military and not just saying I support them. We must bring them home this time in victory. I also hear first hand stories of the wonderful, humanitarian and loving things our troops do on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is not a more loving group of young men and women than our military and they know the purpose of their mission.

Regardless, soon it will be said and done and I will do what my parents always taught me to do. Campaign for your choice but regardless of the outcome, once it is over, rally to support the President elected. And won't we all be glad when it is over?!!!

Granny Annie, if you can't believe that progress can be lost, please think about the Dark Ages...or Hitler. As to our military personnel knowing the purpose of their mission, I surely wish they would share it with me. Most of the operations that they are conducting are a complete mystery to me. At least, I see no valid mission in most of the operations their Commander-in-Chief has tasked them to conduct.

Granny Annie, that comment to which you responded was from me as I noted in a followup comment. Clearly John McCain's agenda as President does include overturning Roe vs Wade by setting up any new Supreme Court who would do so. Here's a YouTube link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Trbaufpok8
McCain has waffled around in the language he has since used on the topic. I believe his intent to protect women's rights to make knowledgeable judgments about their own bodies is not to be trusted -- shades of the Taliban.

History is replete with examples of ideologies forced by a few on the many with quite oppressive results and dire consequences.
Too many good men and women in numerous countries and civilizations stood by not defending their rights espousing exactly what you have said, "I absolutely cannot believe in my heart of hearts that any group of Americans would reverse the progress made by so many minorities." Loss of rights in a system such as ours is often a slow gradual process unlike sudden violent overthrowing of a system through revolution.

I believe the politicization of the three issues you mention which we both believe do not belong as part of the political agenda has been deliberately introduced into the Republican campaign beginning some years ago. The purpose was calculated to divide this country and distract us all from the real issues facing our system. We see now how that has contributed to the mess our country finds itself in.

I grew up in a Republican Party dominated household, community and state. I long ago realized through logic and reasoning that sadly the Republican Party has betrayed what they claim to stand for to their detriment and that of America.

Sorry, I did it again, forgot to fill in my name as author of comment above.

I liked the split screen when they used it. Obama's background prepares him to work with leaders of other countries. He has a world view. I was so impressed with his calm demeanor during the debate.

How delusional that McCain compared Obama's criticism of his health-care plan with his supporters' yelling invectives and threats about Obama.

If McCain is so confident and proud of Palin as a running mate, why won't he let her appear on the Sunday morning political shows and other venues that don't have a carefully chosen crowd? Good grief!

Regarding the COLA increase....Medicare Part D is jumping up in price....My Humana will go from $27 to $40+ a month....This was all formulated by Bush & his insurance cronies way before he was elected....

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