October 15, 2009. It’s official, there will be no social security COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) increase in 2010, the first time this has happened since 1975. The reason is simple, this year there was no increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009, hence no need for a payment.
A press release from the Social Security Administration is advocating passage of a special 2nd round stimulus package for seniors, veterans, and the disabled (the same people who would have received a COLA). The amount of the payment in the Economic Recovery Act
Payment for 2010 would be $250, about a 2% increase to the average social security recipient. The press release has one of the great non-sequiturs of the season as its reason for recommending passage of the proposal: “Last year when consumer prices spiked, largely as a result of higher gas prices, beneficiaries received a 5.8 percent COLA, the largest increase since 1982. This year, in light of the human need, we need to support President Obama’s call for us to make another $250 recovery payment for 57 million Americans.”
So let’s see, prices went up in 2008 so we needed an increase, but in 2009 prices went down but the “human need” went up. Conservative critics are citing the special stimulus package as an end-run on social security system’s rules, building a slippery slope where annual increases come no matter what happens to prices. In our mind the criticism seems valid, particularly since the only recipients of this stimulus program would be social security recipients. If we really need another round of stimulus, let’s give it to everyone and preserve the integrity of the social security system rules.