Thursday, October 16, 2008

Justice for the Migrant Worker ... but what about our Seniors ??

OK ... I have to admit, I'm approaching that age where I'm looking at what is going to happen when I reach Social Security Retirement age. Not that I'm thinking about taking the early retirement at 62, but still with what's going on, with the economy, I'm looking at what I will be receiving at that time.

So I'm looking at this morning's (Oct 16th) paper, and there's an article on how inflation increases to Social Security payments (Cost of Living Allowance or COLA) do not help to offset the actual expenses that seniors experience on a day to day basis. This year's COLA will probably be in the neighborhood of 6%. That sounds kinda nice, but then, when the increase in home heating bills can range anywhere from 10 to 50%, this increase doesn't do much.

There was a chart showing that the cost of gas has increased 185% since 2000, eggs 147%, Medicate part B monthly cost 112%, Dental exam 52% and homeowner's insurance 36%. The flip side of this is that the average Social Security check has only increased 24% since 2000.

Doesn't make much sense does it? Well part of the problem is the way the SSA has to calculate the way the COLA is determined. Since 1975, the COLA was based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers or CPI-W, developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS later developed the CPI-E, CPI for Elderly Earners, which tracks the spending of elderly consumers and more accurately reflects the costs of health care. If this had been used from its inception in 1984, the average SS check would be $75 more per month. Hey, any little bit helps.

Of course, changing the CPI used to the CPI-E has no advocates in Congress, not to mention in the SSA or the BLS. Wouldn't this be a great measure for the PCUSA and especially its Washington office to pursue, considering the average age of Presbyterians in the PCUSA is approaching 60? Instead of the Washington office advocating positions not fully endorsed by a majority of people in the pews, and the office of the Stated Clerk and other PCUSA offices advocating for a living income for migrants; why not include advocating a change to help seniors who need help to get by.

Not everyone has a 401K or huge dividend income to live on. Then again, after the past few weeks, even those who thought they had a residual income to live on could use a boost, no matter how little.

And so it goes ...

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