COLA increase goes fast

Elderly Americans who depend on their Social Security income to make ends meet are facing another small cost-of-living (COLA) increase in 2014 – 1.5 percent, if government sources’ estimates are accurate.

Despite what the government says, seniors will be hard-pressed to keep up with increasing costs, if the current estimate comes to pass.

For example, a big chunk of the 1.5 percent – maybe all of it and more – probably will be eaten up by increasing medical costs and increases in seniors’ Medicare supplemental insurance premiums, as well as by the premium increases for Part D prescription coverage.

Then there are municipal and school tax increases, from which seniors are not generally exempt. Meanwhile, food prices routinely inch upward, and high gasoline prices, though in many cases not as much of a factor for seniors, still present a stiff challenge.

As most seniors can remind others, there was no COLA increase in 2010 or 2011 because the government said inflation was too low. Meanwhile, the increase for 2013 was only 1.7 percent – certainly not a true barometer of the challenges many seniors face.

It’s true that since 1975 annual Social Security raises have averaged 4.1 percent. But that’s little consolation for people now facing the prospect of just about $17 more a month while living with the effects of meager or non-existent COLAs since 2010.

Many of the seniors collecting Social Security benefits are people who worked all of their adult lives, never being a burden on government services as they paid into the Social Security system and accepted their responsibility to pay local, state and federal taxes.

It’s understandable that those same seniors now are dismayed when they observe what they perceive to be more governmental compassion for people who have no desire to work and pay their fair share – only take from the system rather than contribute to it.

That is not to imply that everyone collecting the various available federal and state assistance benefits are deadbeats. There are many whose circumstances allow them no other choice.

But at the same time there are families where assistance payments are a generational progression because of overly generous government benefits that discourage them from seeking employment. Pride in being contributing members of society is the farthest thing from their mind.

At the same time, government fails to apply enough pressure for them to get off the assistance rolls.

Many of today’s elderly and those soon to be retired would have been embarrassed in their younger years to be burdens on the government – but now they feel government is turning its back on them.

Politicians say Social Security is in financial trouble and it is – because politicians present and past haven’t had the backbone to address the problem in ways that would help fix some of what’s wrong.

With the uncertain economy still a big factor, seniors shouldn’t receive a 10 percent Social Security increase – perhaps not even a 5 percent increase – for 2014, but they shouldn’t be thrown “crumbs” while the policymakers find money for everyone else, including some U.S. foreign aid recipients who harbor hatreds for this country.

Nearly 58 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children currently depend on Social Security. Their needs merit compassion like the undeserving routinely get.