February 16, 2010
I asked and you responded. I've received almost 800 surveys and numerous phone calls and email concerning the current Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment or rather the cost-of-living NON-adjustment since everyone on Social Security got zero this year. I asked you whether your Social Security benefits have kept up with the actual cost-of-living over the last five years and 95% of those responding gave a resounding NO!!! I asked you to tell me what goods and services went up in price and what you did to try to counter the price increases. Boy, did you have some interesting things to say.
One of you listed what you thought had increased in price, and a great call to action. He said,
"MEDICINES HAVE INCREASED ALONG WITH INCREASE IN HEALTH INSURANCE, GAS, GROCERIES HAVE GONE UP, AND UTILITIES HAVE GONE UP. WHO CAN AFFORD A DENTIST? I KNOW MY TEMPER HAS SURE GONE UP! I JUST HOPE PEOPLE GO TO THE POLLS EN MASSE THIS NEXT ELECTION!"
You said your fuel bills, both those to heat your house and those to run your cars went up. Many of you said your food bills went up. One of our supporters made a humorous statement about a not so humorous situation when he said,
"I make up for it the old fashioned way ---
'We don't eat'."
One of our supporters made a very interesting point. She said,
"I will have to do without something. I haven't yet figured out what. The cost of groceries makes it impossible for me to eat anything healthy. No wonder older people get ill; we can't afford what we truly need."
One solution that has been discussed during the health care reform debate has been how to encourage, motivate, reward and help people keep themselves healthy. According to this supporter, just ensuring that the Social Security benefits keep up with the true inflation they face might allow seniors the option to purchase healthy food and stay healthier, thus lowering health care costs.
Taxes are another area that hits older Americans disproportionately hard. This is what one senior said,
"My energy costs have increased again, the car tags in CA were raised a lot, the gas is still high, insurances increased, healthcare is costly, dental is expensive--no insurance-and the homeowners' monthly insurance went up in 2010, and CA increased its sales tax again!"
And another who said,
"We're getting ready to sell our house because we can no longer afford the taxes and living expenses in this area. They've continued to rise, unlike our income."
Many older Americans have worked hard their whole life and own their home outright. While soaring house prices and easy home equity loans became a quick source of revenue for those who chose to live beyond their means, the increase in house values for many seniors only meant that the property taxes on their house was going to go up. Through no fault of their own they were suddenly facing higher taxes. I also think of all the seniors in Florida who saw their homeowner’s insurance sky rocket after the hurricanes. They don’t want to move, they're living in the house they wanted to retire in, yet their homeowners insurance took an ever increasing portion of their disposable income making it harder and harder to stay in their home.
Many of you expressed the opinion that you were being cheated, like this one older American who said,
"I worked until I was 78 years old, paid into S.S. all those years, now they're giving 'my' money away, instead of me receiving a cost of living increase, very fair, RIGHT????"
And another who said,
"How could this Gov. do this to us? Will the Congress have a raise in cost of living??????? This is why there is a loss in confidence in this country and there will be more and more anger until fairness is the rule in Washington."
You've said over the years that your Social Security checks just didn't seem like they were keeping up with expenses. And it seems from this last survey that it's not getting any better, and with the "zero" COLA you got this year, you say that it's going to get a lot worse. I hear you, and we’re going to do something about it. The first step is to get an accurate Consumer Price Index for Seniors, a CPI-S. Much of the problem with the present COLA is that it's based on a CPI for younger urban wage earners rather than older Americans. RetireSafe is working with U.S. Rep. John (Jimmy) Duncan Jr., (R-TN) to take this first step. Legislation will be presented shortly that will direct the government to calculate a CPI specifically for seniors. I'll keep you up-to-date on its progress. I'll be asking for your help to encourage your Representative to join as a co-sponsor on this bill. I’ll also be asking for your financial support as everyone at RetireSafe works on this expensive campaign. I pledge to you that RetireSafe will use all its power and resources to get this bill passed. We asked, you spoke, we listened, and now we're taking action!!!