Obama's Stealth Attack on Social Security
INTERESTING STUFF: (Feline Edition) – 10 December 2010

Elder Inflation

Unless it happened overnight while I was sleeping, there has been no movement in Washington on the payroll tax holiday. The president was seen on television saying again that his tax cut deal is good for America, but that is demonstrably not so for today's and future elders.

The tax cut holiday which I wrote about yesterday, is a Social Security disaster, the first step in Republicans' decades-long desire to destroy the program. Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders is fighting the good fight against this proposal:

“Make no mistake about it,” he said...”this cut will only embolden Republican attempts to privatize the program and increase the age of retirement. Social Security is a vital safety net for all Americans and a cornerstone of our commitment to protect the middle class.”

There is a good story about the payroll holiday with input from a number of Washington legislators by Ryan Grim at Huffington Post.

If you have not contacted your Congressional representatives, please please do so today. There are some reports that a vote on the Obama/Republican tax cut proposal could come as early as today or tomorrow.

You can find instructions on how to write your representatives in yesterday's TGB post.


For the first time in the history of Social Security, there is no cost-of-living increase (COLA) for two years running. The proposal for a one-time payment of $250 in 2011 was shot down in the House and The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) reported yesterday that someone in Washington had said the $250 payment is too generous.

Really? The fact is that health care costs are soaring and they take up a larger share of income for elders than most younger people.

I've just finished an analysis my end-of-year/new year finances and it's not a pretty picture for 2011:

• Medicare Supplemental Coverage: 13.2 percent increase

• Part D Prescription Drug Coverage: 40.5 percent increase (and that's the least expensive coverage available in my state)

• Broadband internet access: 60.5(!) percent increase

• Homeowners association dues: .92 percent increase

The dollar increase for these items is slightly under $1000 annually on total fixed costs for 2011 of $13,874.

What is not included in this budget is gasoline which, where I live, has increased by 20 cents per gallon in the past month or two.

Nor have I counted food. According to the federal government, food prices are steady and some have dropped. Well, not at my markets. I eat only occasional, small amounts of meat and chicken, so the cost of produce is my prime interest.

Two days ago, the price of a pound of green beans, $3.99 a pound, gave me heartburn. Thank god I like Brussels sprouts; they're only $1.99 a pound.

Aside from Part D coverage, which I carry only because who knows what might happen to one's health in the future, I have little personal experience with prescription drug prices. I use one generic which I will stop soon and pay only $12 for a three-month supply at a local chain pharmacy.

But an AARP study released last August, shows retail prices for brand-name prescription drugs have far outstripped inflation for the years from 2005 through 2009. From AARP's story about their report:

”For those taking drugs for a chronic condition, the average retail cost of brand-name medications in 2005 — the year before Medicare Part D was implemented — was $1,049. By 2009, that had jumped about 32 percent to $1,382.

"'The coverage of drugs under Part D was supposed to help give access to people who could not afford them," Schondelmeyer says. 'But the drug prices have gone up since Part D began; they haven't gone down. We thought these plans would negotiate better prices, but they haven't.'”

Here is AARP's chart of prescription drug price increases compared to inflation:

AARP Prescription Drug Chart

Combine that with increases like my personal budget demonstrates and no one can argue there has been no inflation, especially for elders.

I don't have many needs beyond normal expenses and I will be fine in 2011, but not for many more years if I continue to see increases like those above.

How does next year look for you financially? (No money details necessary.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp - LONG-LOST NEWS: It's Official: Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


Thanks for (tirelessly, and necessarily) explaining what politicians are (or are not) doing, and for providing links to details and steps we must take to tell them what we want. Your instructions are crystal clear on how to contact the pols, aka representatives. Well, John Lewis is an exception in my Zip Code.

My income is poverty level --like so many elder women --and I do my best to manage it carefully.

Having it cut could be a death sentence. I have written my congress critters but I doubt that will help -- the response from my congressman was a 'canned' message that he was leaving office in a few week (because he was defeated) and that, my friends, annoys me because I worked on his re-election campaign. Senator George Voinovich is following the GOP line and doesn't care because he's retiring after enriching himself at the expense of Ohioans for decades as a 'public servant'. Sherrod Brown sent a canned message back, too.

All this is playing havoc with my anxiety disorder and I'm scared.

I'm so terribly sorry and ashamed about the cut in revenue for social security. It breaks my heart to be getting a "tax cut" at your present expense - and my future expense.

I'm livid with the media. From our local right-wing radio talk show to NPR, not one peep about cutting funds to social security.

Because my other half is still working, and I supplement my paltry 450 a month SS with dribbles from a small inheritance, We are doing very well. These last 14 months when he couldn't find a job were really hard. If I could stand, I would have taken any sort of job to help.

Even though I was just told yesterday that everyone at my work was going to have to endure "at least" four furlough days next year, the thought of the SS tax cut makes my stomach churn and my head hurt.

Joni, I just read your message a few posts back about my blog. Thank you so much for enjoying it. Contact me at possumlady@verizon.net and we'll connect via facebook!

The problem with the official inflation numbers is that they have been jiggered to create the illusion of low inflation. They exclude the costs of food, fuel, and medicine. I also read lately that many of the changes in marketing of food (i.e., smaller packages for the same price) never shows up in the inflation figures.

Your untiring work uncovering great information is being saluted!!!

Yesterday, for the first time, I sent the messages to my congressmen (note: all men) because I am totally fed up with the nonsense in Washington.

Keep up the great work.

I'm currently only working part-time at minimum wage -- can't find a "real job" in my field. And I rent a room in my house to help cover basic expenses, but it's still not enough.

I currently am thankful for my little job because it does provide benefits such as health care, although the premiums went up 12% last year and another 10% this. Basically I've taken pay cuts for the past two years since my take home has been less with no COLA last year and 3% this.

I'm not old enough to collect SS yet, but will get widow's benefits when I do since my late husband earned more than I ever did. So I'm struggling alone with little retirement savings and driving a 15-year old car (keeping my fingers crossed it can make it through another year or two).

I really appreciate your blog and the information it contains, although sometimes it makes my blood boil (not your fault, but those "serving the public- HA" legislators). Keep up the good work.

It's tight now, next year I will have to make some choices, like dipping into my IRA early, which slipped in value this month. Thank God there are still choices for me. I quite likely will live another 20+ years and was already concerned the money won't last. So at 68, I have started looking for a part-time job.

I almost don't believe I'm writing this, but, because I do trust Paul Krugman on matters economic, I want to point out that so-called "core inflation" (inflation calculated without the things we really spend money on -- gas, produce) is NOT used to set SS cost of living adjustments. See here. It's an economics concept, used by economists, well or badly depending on whether they think the function of the economy is to coddle the rich.

Meanwhile, department of ridiculous prices, my partner spent 24 hours in the trauma center at SF General several weeks ago subsequent to a bicycle accident. Mostly that means she lay on a gurney listening to people moan, tho she has no quarrel with the quality of her treatment whenever the over-worked staff could manage to deliver any attention her way.

San Francisco General billed $23000 for this. Now her insurance will almost certainly get that knocked way down and pay up so we're not very worried -- but what kind of a world do we live in that it would cost SF General $23000 to warehouse a patient on a gurney and to use already existing equipment twice to check that she didn't have a head bleed? It's not like they had to go out and buy the CT machine.

Yet another example of how medical costs have taken flight from reality.

Still working part time, not using any pharmaceuticals and still musing about how getting health care in other countries is much much cheaper, especially those parts of health care that Medicare does not cover, hearing aids, dental work and eyeglasses. Go figure about that.

Long term, still seems like moving out of US might work better. It's a mess out there.


I discovered a year ago that when you are diagnosed with something like cataracts, which I was, Medicare then pays for eye care.

I haven't worked out what it is yet, but there is something not quite logical about that.

Oh, well.

I'm one of the hostages...

My job ended in August '09, and before that I was on part time for a year. My SS is $1110 (my late husband's, not mine) and not enough to live on here in So Ca. UI provides an additional $1200 or so, including the $25/wk stimulus which ends this week.

And so I've been able to manage while I continue to look for work that, at my age (68) is probably never going to happen.

My UI is scheduled to end three weeks from now.

Am writing this late in the day, but wanted to add that, at least where I live, all prices have increased drastically, food especially. The CPI definitely does not cover the essentials. It not only appears the GOP has nixed the $250 supplemental payment to folks on SS as Ronni mentioned. Now, they are blocking the 9/11 health benefits plan to those who need it. I'm scared too at these developments all happening so quickly.

Recently laid off; 57 years old; no social security; no health coverage. I receive under 400.00 a week while I look for work until October. Then I'm on my own. There is no more money in the State to help with medications - even for chronic conditions like mine. I am told I'm on a list. I think I know what that list is called by those in the know...

I remain hopeful because the alternative is not sustainable. I write letters to Congress and try and enlighten people as I cross their paths (thanks to you, Ronni).

This situation is sure forcing me to live "in the moment", I'll give it that! The problem is the moment begs for opiates.

For now, as of this morning, the plan was rejected in the House. I don't know if they will stick to it but DeFazio, rep from Oregon, said it was unanimous in the caucus. Pelosi said she won't bring it to the floor but who knows. DeFazio leading the charge against it makes me soooo happy we donated to his campaign even though he's not in our congressional district. People like him and Bernie Sanders in the Senate are our hope to see this stopped. Some seniors, and i have only talked to a few, don't seem to understand how this will impact them. If it doesn't cause their check to go down this month, they seem unaware of the future of what this has to mean if they go forth with it. Sometimes it makes a person really wonder...

It's really difficult to know for sure what's the right thing to do v. the wrong thing. There just doesn't seem to be any good solution to our nation's economic problems. Several writers have observed in a variety of ways that it's a mess out there--a point upon which no sane person could possibly disagree. I want to protect Social Security; it's a vital part of our income. On the other hand, a lot of working people are really struggling, to say nothing of those who are unemployed. Would a payroll holiday help kick start the economy, which could benefit almost everyone in the long run? Who knows?

Then, there's the deficit. I think we've put ourselves in a terribly risky position by continuing to borrow from China (in my youth, it was known as Communist China!) The idea of owing trillions of dollars to China is scary to me. What might be the real costs of owing so much to a country that doesn't particularly like us?

Yet, it appears that our nation is essentially broke. So, what to do? Cut programs to the bone, raise taxes, borrow more or all three? If anyone has a better idea, I haven't heard it. Personally, I'd vote to let Iraq and Afghanistan fight their own wars, but maybe I don't have complete information. I think the superrich should definitely pay more taxes. But other than that, I honestly don't know what I should tell my legislators to do!

As far as finances: my husband and I are O.K. but that's partly because I'm still working part time. My job may well disappear next year if funding dries up for the nonprofit where I've worked for 35 years. We'd still make it (as long as we stay relatively healthy), but there wouldn't be any wiggle room, that's for sure. Ronni and others are right that the prices of items older Americans buy are definitely NOT going down. Inflation is alive and well as far as we're concerned.

Sorry for the long post!

My husband is still working and we collect SS both from the U.S. and from Switzerland. We are keeping kids afloat financially and lending large sums of money to friends and neighbors so they can make their mortgage payments.
What a world.

I am scared by the cut in FICA taxes. Sounds like part of the Greedy Old Party's plan to damage SS and Medicare so they can claim they're broke and then if they can't get rid of them, at least way downsize benefits. They act like we're getting "welfare" instead of insurance we all paid for.

My Medicare part D insurance co. is getting worse and worse to deal with. They drop brand-name medicines from their formulary, meaning they won't share costs and you either pay for it yourself or switch to a generic. One I absolutely have to buy myself, at least if I plan to keep on breathing. There is no generic substitute. it costs $66 a pop.

The only other brand-name med is on their list, also without any substitute. But now they are demanding the doctor authorize it every month, and it's hard getting them to do it. I keep running out. The older one gets the more medicine becomes an expensive hassle, with or without insurance.

Food costs more (yes, some packages are smaller, too) and gas is rapidly going up. There is no public transportation and we have to drive long distances to shop, so that hurts.

In short, I am worried about the way this country is going. Too many people are letting slick politicans pull the wool over their eyes, and voting against everything that would help the middle-class and the poor. By the way, we formerly middle-class are now pretty poor!

I am no economist or statistician so I realize I probably don't clearly understand everything about COLA and inflation. However, I work in commercial real estate. Annual increases in retail leases are usually tied to the Consumer Price Index not COLA and those rates have risen annually for about as long as the data has been measured. Landlords know where the increases are. Of course our costs are higher! Folks with the power sure do use what suits their needs.

I am glued to C-SPAN today!! Sen. Bernie Sanders is filibustering as I type (http://www.c-span.org/flvPop.aspx?src=cspan2&msg=You+are+watching+C-SPAN2+LIVE&start=107.808&end=-1). Call your senators!!!

After reading the previous responses, I was afraid to answer: next year looks good for us financially.

In the 1990s, knowing that retirement/buyouts were close, we worked extra part-time jobs to pay off our mortgage. A big burden off our backs.

We now each work part-time, covering day-to-day expenses.

Our investments are really conservative and my husband's buy-out included health coverage.

Not yet eligible for Social security.

I'm not quite old enuf. to be eligible for Social Security, but as I suggest in "Inflation: Lying Low, or a Big Lie" it just seems that the older you are, the higher your rate of inflation. Ah, to be young again and have all that disposable income to spend on electronics, computers, video games and music!

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