It's hard to instill confidence in the U.S. economy when Washington
keeps finding new and creative ways to spend money it doesn't have.
Take President Obama's proposal to send additional $250 checks to Social
Security recipients on top of the $250 checks they already received
as part of the president's $787 billion economic stimulus package.
Because seniors don't need a cost-of-living increase, the president
wants to give them a bonus. Don't even try to follow the logic. You
can't find it.
Last week, the Obama administration announced that for the first time
since automatic Social Security cost-of-living increases were instituted
in 1975, there will be no cost-of-living increase in 2010 because the
cost of living declined in the period used to calculate the payment.
As it turns out, seniors got a too-big cost-of-living adjustment 5.8
percent for 2009. So that January adjustment was like a raise of
about 4 percent above inflation. Hence, there is no justification for a
2010 cost-of-living increase.
Except: the D.C. Beltway abhors a spending vacuum at least for a
demographic with high voter turnout. So Obama proposed giving Social
Security and disability recipients, as well as veterans, an additional
$250 "to help them make it through these difficult times." The cost: $13
billion to $14 billion.
Where are Republicans on this? For all their talk of fiscal
responsibility, the GOP leaders have an uncanny affinity toward any plan
that throws tax dollars at elderly voters, whether they need the money
Of course, there's a twist that is supposed to show Republicans in a
cleaner light. GOP House leader John Boehner wants to fund the $250
checks for 57 million recipients by spooning the money out of the pot of
unused stimulus money. The Obama administration, Boehner explained in
the Washington Post, "supports borrowing the money needed to fund these
payments." For his part, Boehner would siphon the billions needed to
bankroll this bonanza from Obama's pot of borrowed money.
Now you know how the fiscal year that just ended produced a record $1.4
trillion federal deficit. Both parties overspend with abandon and
they'll keep on doing so as long as they can concoct the thinnest
pretext to blame the other party.
Of course the AARP is on board. A press release praised "$250 in
economic relief to millions of seniors who count on Social Security to
pay their bills" as if the COLA did not more than make up for any
Said Obama: "We must act on behalf of those hardest hit by this
recession." But that would be the unemployed, not the retired.
"In the midst of a recession, when we are appropriately worried about
unemployment and underemployment, we can't forget about seniors who are
also hurting," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told the Washington Post.
What does that even mean?
It means everyone has a hand out.