The current COLA-W is grossly unfair to the 54 million people getting Social Security benefits and should be changed to reflect how seniors spend. The COLA-W is calculated by using the third quarter inflation rates of this year compared with the third quarter of last year. Lower gasoline prices are driving the inflation rate down, but many seniors drive less frequently, or have given up driving altogether.
Seniors spend much more money on healthcare and drugs, and those prices have skyrocketed. My longterm healthcare premium just went up a whopping 48 percent for next year. In addition, my property taxes went up about 8 percent this year. With the current drought in California, we will undoubtedly see an increase in food prices at the grocery store.
Today, seniors are having a tough time making ends meet and are constantly feeling the squeeze. While they worked, many seniors parked money in CD’s and savings accounts for later years, but the paltry 1 percent interest rate paid on those accounts have made them bad investments for today.
In addition to taking the meager interest payments, seniors are now tapping the principal in those accounts just to get by.
Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program we have. It’s estimated that 8.3 percent, or about 25 million Americans, would fall below the poverty threshold without it. Many Americans don’t have pensions or enough savings put aside to live on because they counted on Social Security to be there for them in a big way in later years.
The sad reality is it’s not enough to pay the bills. Yet, there are many forces in Congress, like the majority of Republicans, who want to further decrease Social Security benefits or get rid of it altogether. They see us as “takers” and undeserving of the money accrued.
Is Social Security really broken and needs to be fixed? No. With just a few easy changes, such as raising the contribution wage cap and the contribution level to 7 percent from 6.2, it’s good for another 100 years. Let Medicare bargain for drug prices like the VA does.
To help seniors, change the COLA-W to the senior COLA-E, which more accurately measures the consumer choices of seniors. This legislation has been sitting in subcommittee since April 2013. It would be more helpful to just give seniors an automatic 5 percent raise every year and make Social Security tax-free.
We seniors represent a huge growing segment of the population and we need to stand up and demand that these changes be made. We are by far the biggest special interest group in the nation, and we should start acting that way.
Tyler Cassell is a resident of Flushing.