[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.]
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.
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.]