We Won’t Give Up

March 23, 2011

Last week U.S. Representatives John “Jimmy” Duncan, Jr. (TN-2) and Daniel Lipinski (IL-3), along with six of their House colleagues introduced the CPI for Seniors Act, H.R. 1086. This critical House legislation, will finally end the use of the admittedly flawed Consumer Price Index (CPI) now used to set Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), and directs the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to create a “CPI for Seniors” that is accurate, honest, and beyond reproach. RetireSafe supports this important legislation and congratulates these heroes of older Americans.

This current legislation is a re-introduction of a bill that was submitted last year but didn’t get brought up for a vote. We are hoping that after a second year of no COLAs that the members of the House will finally fix this broken promise that the Government made with us – the promise that our Social Security check will maintain its purchasing power.

The Government’s decision to have a second year of no COLA flies in the face of reason. We all know health care costs have increased, but food, energy, and clothing costs have also climbed. Among those costs:

  • Food: In January, food consumed at home posted its largest cost increase in more than two years. Cash prices for corn, wheat, and soybeans have climbed 40% to 100% compared to price levels just one year ago. Beef prices are up more than 25%, year over year, and sugar prices are up 55% at year-end 2010 from last August.
  • Energy: Gasoline prices now average well above $3 dollars a gallon nationwide. In some places, pump prices over $4 dollars a gallon are being seen. On February 14 gasoline prices were up by 20% over prices one year ago. Many households depending on fuel oil to heat their homes have seen their heating oil costs increase by more than $1,000 since last year.
  • Clothing: Cotton prices have doubled to levels not seen since the Civil War. The prices of other fabrics have jumped by roughly 50 % as well. Some analysts expect clothing prices to rise by 10% in the coming months.

Almost a year ago when we asked seniors to tell us if their Social Security kept up with inflation we got thousands of replies. One older American’s reply reflected the overall tone and message of the responses when he said, “My story is no different than the millions of other senior citizens in the U. S. … I have reduced my driving (to save fuel) and limit my grocery shopping to bare essentials for daily survival. I no longer have the luxury of giving my grandchildren the little treats that create the memories that last a lifetime! What has President Obama or Members of Congress given up lately???? I doubt much!”

With a zero COLA again this year the plight of older Americans is only getting worse. Thanks to Representatives Duncan, Lipinski, and their outstanding cosponsors, Representatives Gregg Harper (MS-3), Paul Tonko (NY-21), Phil Roe (TN-1), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Sanford Bishop (GA-2), and Delegate Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan (MP-00), this glaring wrong can finally be righted. They have taken strong action to finally get the numbers right so that seniors are treated fairly.

We won’t give up! We will keep working in support of this bill until it gets passed. If your Representative in the U.S. House is not named above, then you need to tell him or her that you expect them to right this travesty. Tell them that they need to become a cosponsor of this bill and work to get it out on the floor for a vote. We need to see which Representatives truly qualify as “heroes of seniors.”