Are Seniors Being Targeted?

Richard Olivastro

9/11/2009 1:55:00 PM - Richard Olivastro
“A lot of seniors do not know what’s coming down the pike… When they hear (about it) they’re going to be upset,” said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Sander’s statement refers to last month’s projection by the Social Security trustees that there will not be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years.

While historically a small amount, each Social Security cost-of-living adjustment is a big deal for America’s senior citizens.

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As well it should be.

Seniors living on a limited, fixed income face multiple financial decisions several times each day. Most revolve around what food is available to eat that day and what household utility bill payments they have to juggle each month in order to have something to eat.

In a growing number of cases, “three squares” is a long-gone practice that’s no longer possible. Rent, taxes and personal health-care expenses are other living cost drivers.

Coming on the heals of the still-unfolding debacle called Health Care Reform, in which many of America’s seniors feel they have been targeted, this latest misstep singling out seniors will increase conviction on the part of those seniors that, perhaps, they are indeed in the administration’s crosshairs. That cannot be good for our senior citizens or for any of us.

But, rather than focus on the root causes and develop a comprehensive plan with complementary strategic and tactical elements, politicians and special interest groups lobby for partisan approaches that seem designed to fit only with their favored party’s typical political posturing.

Here’s an example:

Barbara Kennelly, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, wants Congress to ignore existing law and do either a 1 percent increase or issue a one-time payout of $150 to each Social Security recipient. That would cost over $7 billion.

Kennelly also wants to increase the wage amount on which all workers must pay Social Security taxes each year. That will further erode take-home pay for everyone.

Rather than help formulate real solutions, such proposals seem designed more to provide political cover for the administration and current congressional incumbents, many of whom are former colleagues of Ms. Kennelly, a longtime U.S. Rep. (D-CT), while placating members and financial supporters.

If implemented, such proposals would perpetuate the problems confronting both our senior citizens and all working Americans, who have been saddled with exploding government debt, out-of-control government spending and burgeoning taxes.

It’s time to set aside politics and develop a comprehensive plan with genuine complementary strategic and tactical elements - devoid of political tradeoffs so typical of Washington - that will serve the practical retirement interests of all Americans, seniors and active workers.

If we fail to do so, we will open the door to what Art Linkletter rightly called “Generational Conflict.”