Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Social Security COLA For 2017 is A Shameful 0.3%

This chart was made using figures from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The green line shows the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for each year from 2000 to 2017. The red line shows the trend in COLA from 2000 to 2017 -- note that it's been decreasing since 2000.

After 2016, when no raise was given at all to Social Security recipients (COLA=0), the COLA raise for 2017 is only a pathetic 0.3%. That's less than half of one percent, and means someone getting a $1,000 monthly benefit in 2016, will get a $1,003 monthly benefit in 2017.

The SSA says it bases the COLA on the difference between the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the third quarter of last year and the third quarter of this year (September 2015 to September 2016). That can't be right though. The CPI in September of 2015 was 237.945, and the CPI in September of 2016 was 241.428. That's an increase of 1.46% -- significantly larger than the 0.3% COLA for 2017.

That means the COLA for 2017 should be about 1.5% (or a $15 raise for someone drawing a benefit of $1000 a month). That may not sound like much of a difference to someone making a lot of money, but to someone having to exist on their Social Security benefit it makes a big difference.

And it gets even worse. The inflation rate for the first nine months of 2016 (January through September) was even higher (2.07%).  This means seniors relying on a Social Security check for their income will fall further behind next year, whether you use the CPI for the last 12 months (1.46%) or for the nine months of 2016 (2.07%). It seems obvious to me that Social Security benefits need to be raised -- especially for those making less than the median Social Security benefit.

The Republicans will not do that. They want to reduce current benefits and raise the retirement age -- something that would hurt most seniors, and throw many of them into poverty. Anyone receiving Social Security benefits, or getting close to applying for those benefits, would be either stupid or crazy to vote Republican in November.

Hillary Clinton and the Democrats want to raise benefits (at least for those making the smallest amount). They would lift more seniors out of poverty. And they would pay for it by making the wealthy share more of the cost -- as should have been done long ago.

Social Security benefits need to be raised, and the wealthy need to pay their fair share. Only the Democrats will do that. Remember that when you go to the polls this year.

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