In the past few days, an AP story has been circulating among newspapers reporting that in 2012 there will be a small cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security benefits. But the kicker is that an increase in the Medicare Part B premium will probably be larger.
I doubt there is a TGB reader alive who does not know the COLA has not increased for the past two years. The reason given is that there was no inflation during 2009 and 2010. You and I know better, but that's how it goes.
Currently, the average Social Security benefit is $1,077. The Medicare Part B premium for about 75 percent of beneficiaries (people whose incomes are less than $85,000) $96.40, is deducted leaving an average payment of $980.60.
So far this year there has been a small uptick in inflation which, the Social Security trustees project, will result in a 1.2 percent COLA for 2012. Assuming inflation comes in at the trustees' guess, that average benefit would increase to $1090 ($13.00 per month or $156 for the year).
But wait. Don't start planning a European vacation with it yet.
The Medicare Part B premium for 2012 will be $113.80 – an increase of $17.40 per month, reducing the 2012 Social Security average benefit to $976.20. $4.40 less than the current average.
Fortunately, there is a “hold harmless” clause that prevents Medicare premium increases from reducing the Social Security benefit, so the 2012 average payment would remain at $980.60.
So much for a cost-of-living increase next year. That should please the Republicans who think elders are living too high on the hog sucking on what Alan Simpson calls the “government tit.”
In an attempt to forestall cuts to Social Security in Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on 15 March, introduced S.582 – The Social Security Protection Act of 2011.
In brief, the bill ( full text here ) would make it out of order in both the Senate and House of Representatives to consider any legislation that
• increases the retirement age or the early retirement age for individuals receiving benefits under title II (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) (OASDI) of the Social Security Act on or after the enactment of this Act;
• reduces cost-of-living increases for them;
• reduces benefit payment amounts for them; or
• creates private retirement accounts for any of the OSADI benefits they receive. Makes waiver or suspension of this Act out of order in the House or Senate.
According to opencongress.org , as of yesterday, there has been zero news coverage of this bill. There are nine co-sponsors, all Democrats, of course:
Senator Daniel Akaka [D, HI]
Senator. Mark Begich [D, AK]
Senator Richard Blumenthal [D, CT]
Senator Barbara Boxer [D, CA]
Senator Sherrod Brown [D, OH]
Senator Frank Lautenberg [D, NJ]
Senator Barbara Mikulski [D, MD]
Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI]
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]
You need to call your senators today to tell them to vote for this bill. Dave Johnson, writing at Campaign For America's Future , gives simple instructions:
“Call your Senators RIGHT NOW at 1-866-251-4044. You’ll be given a choice of which of your state’s two senators to be connected with. Call BOTH if you have the time. It only takes a minute each. Tell the person who answers the phone
• I am a voter/constituent living in [your state]. I am calling to tell the Senator
• I oppose all cuts to Social Security and
• I urge them to vote yes on the The Social Security Protection Act of 2011.
“Please take the time for this very important effort today. This is for all of us who depend on Social Security. Call today: 1-866-251-4044.”
Rep. Ted Deutch [D, FL-19]
Rep. Bob Filner [D, CA-51]
Rep. Alcee Hastings [D, FL-23]
Rep. Jesse Jackson [D, IL-2]
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18]
Rep. Frederica Wilson [D, FL-17]
Undoubtedly you are getting tired of hearing about all this from me, but we must remain alert and do everything we can to preserve Social Security not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren and beyond.
It may not seem right that a cost-of-living adjustment disappears into Medicare and then some, but without Social Security, many elders would have no income and destroying the program is high on the Republican agenda. Please pick up that phone again.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Retirement