Social Security benefits are indexed for inflation, but because inflation has been roughly zero for the past year, the adjustment formula implies no increase in benefits this year. Nevertheless,
President Obama on Wednesday attempted to preempt the announcement that Social Security recipients will not get an increase in their benefit checks for the first time in three decades, encouraging Congress to provide a one-time payment of $250 to help seniors and disabled Americans weather the recession.
Obama endorsed the idea, which is expected to cost at least $13 billion, as the administration gropes for ways to sustain an apparent economic rebound without the kind of massive spending package that critics could label a second stimulus act.
This is outrageous on four levels:
1. If the president thinks the economy needs more stimulus, he should say that explicitly and have an honest debate.
2. This is the wrong kind of stimulus. Any further stimulus should consist of reductions in marginal tax rates, such as a cut in the corporate income tax (or better yet, repeal).
3. All Social Security recipients already have a moderate guaranteed income, and many have significant income beyond their Social Security benefits. This kind of transfer has no plausible justification as redistribution for the needy.
4. Sending checks to seniors is a blatant attempt to buy their support for Obamacare, which promises to cut Medicare spending substantially.